N.L. government seeks injunction against fishermen amid tense protest at Confederation Building

20 March 2024
N.L. government seeks injunction against fishermen amid tense protest at Confederation Building


The Newfoundland and Labrador government has gone to the Supreme Court to seek an injunction against fish harvesters who swarmed Confederation Building on Wednesday as part of an ongoing protest over fishery regulations that has led to the postponement of the provincial budget.

The government announced the postponement after protesters blocked entrances to the building, refused to let government workers inside and had physical confrontations with police officers and horses. A protester complaining of leg pain and a Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer have been taken from the scene in an ambulance.

In a press release issued shortly after 11 a.m., provincial government spokesperson Victoria Barbour announced the budget’s postponement, until further notice, “due to an unsafe environment in which fish harvesters are preventing public service employees from entering the Confederation Building complex.”

“Presently, the conditions are unsafe for employees and visitors to the complex, and there is a threat of violence,” says the statement.

CBC News reporters at the scene witnessed an intense exchange between a group of protesters and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary around 8:30 a.m. NT, with officers pushing them back from an entrance at the rear of the building.

Video from the scene shows public servants struggling to get through the melee and get to work. At one point, Meghan McCabe, director of communications for Premier Andrew Furey, tried to get through the crowd but was pushed back by a pair of irate protesters hurling expletives.

“Get back. Don’t be stupid,” one yelled as McCabe walked backward away from them.

Meghan McCabe, communications director for the premier’s office, comes face to face with protesters outside Confederation Building. (Terry Roberts/CBC)
Protesters pleaded with police to not let the public servants inside.

“If you’re going to let them in, you’re only going to cause trouble for yourselves. And that we will guarantee,” said one protester to an officer.

Meghan McCabe, the communications director for N.L. Premier Andrew Furey, tried to enter Confederation Building Wednesday amid dozens of angry protesters. She was yelled at and one protester led her away while police looked on.

In an earlier statement, Barbour said they are “respectfully” asking the fish harvesters to allow employees, media and guests into the building “so budget 2024 can be delivered as planned.”

The hundreds of protesters are fish harvesters and supporters, who have been lobbying government to open markets to outside buyers since early March.

As it stands, they can sell their catches only to buyers inside the province at a price agreed upon by the Fish, Food & Allied Workers union and the Association of Seafood Producers.

The chaotic scene began before sunrise, when Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officers on horseback pushed back protesters as they moved toward the building around 6:30 a.m. NT.

Police and fish harvesters got physical around 8:30 a.m. NT on Wednesday, as protesters moved toward an entrance to Confederation Building in St. John’s.
“Stay back!” police yelled at the group.

“Is this a public building?” one responded. “Don’t we pay for this building?”

‘We’re tired of being kept down’

Protesters have vowed to stay there all day.

“We just want the right to sell our product where we can,” sad Alfred Fitzpatrick, a fisherman from the Burin Peninsula. “They never go to Nova Scotia and tell the crowd up to the Annapolis Valley you can only sell apples in Nova Scotia. Why are they telling us we can only sell fish here in Newfoundland?”

Officers on horseback patrol outside Confederation Building in St. John’s on Wednesday morning as fish harvesters protest against the government on the day the provincial budget is set to be unveiled. (Terry Roberts/CBC)
Fisheries Minister Elvis Loveless says he’s willing to meet some of the demands tabled by harvesters and his department has issued an expression of interest for outside buyers for the 2024 snow crab fishery.

But harvesters say their protest is not just about crab — they want similar restrictions lifted on the sale of all species they catch.

Fitzpatrick said he felt Loveless’s statements were a “stall tactic” as crab season approaches.

“We’re tired of being kept down,” he said. “We’ve got a government that’s sitting by and letting it happen and a union that’s been too complacent over the years. And this is why we’re in the state we’re in. But we’re here and we ain’t going nowhere.”

WARNING: Explicit language | Police officers pushed back protesting fish harvesters outside Confederation Building on Wednesday, as fish harvesters attempted to block the entrances on what is supposed to be Budget Day 2024.

The protests have caused also commotion inside the House of Assembly during the current legislative session, as harvesters have taken to the public gallery and refused to heed warnings to sit down and be quiet, leading to Speaker Derek Bennett removing them from the chambers.

They’ve also blocked off a provincial fisheries building in St. John’s, preventing employees from going inside.

Source: cbc

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