Blair defends RCMP’s handling of acts of violence in Nova Scotia despite criticism

Canada’s Minister of Public Safety, Bill Blair, is defending the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), as the force receives criticism over its alleged inaction in Nova Scotia.

In an interview with The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson, Blair said police have been “on scene right from the outset,” and “in significant numbers.”

Blair’s comments come after multiple acts of violence against Indigenous fisheries in southwestern Nova Scotia were reported.

A lobster pound in Middle West Pubnico, N.S., was burned to the ground early Saturday, destroying the lobster catch of Mi’kmaq fishers.

Earlier in the week, two clashes involving hundreds of people took place outside lobster pounds that store Indigenous-caught lobster.

The RCMP have made two arrests in relation to the incidents, with one man charged with assault against Chief Mike Sack of the Sipekne’katik First Nation, and another man charged with arson.

However, the force has received criticism, with several Indigenous leaders and members of the public saying officers stood idly by and allowed the incidents to happen.

Blair said he was also “concerned” that RCMP officers in the province required more resources.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has called Friday’s fire an act of terror.

“This is terrorism,” he wrote in a tweet on Saturday, “The Mi’kmaq people desperately need help now.”

Asked on Sunday if the incident should be classified as an act of terror, Blair stopped short of his NDP colleague, saying it was clear “acts of criminality” have occurred.

“There’s been vandalism, arson, violence and assaults that have taken place,” he said. “And that’s completely unacceptable.”

He said it’s a “very complicated issue,” adding that people are “working very hard” to resolve it “as fairly and quickly as possible.”

In a tweet Saturday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “appalled” by the “acts of violence, intimidation, and destruction taking place in Nova Scotia.”

“The perpetrators will be held accountable,” he wrote. “We’ve approved a request to provide more support to the @RCMPNS, and we’re focused on keeping people safe.”

Chief Sack told the Canadian Press he is grateful for the additional policing and law enforcement resources.

But he said some of the “damage, destruction, racist behaviour, harassment and intimidation” could have been avoided had repeated requests for a greater police presence been addressed more promptly.

–With files from The Canadian Press

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