This past weekend, the executive director of the Nova Scotia Craft Breweries Association took to social media to voice his opinion about lobsters and the folks who fish them.
Kirk Cox tweeted on Saturday afternoon saying that it was unfair to “lump a whole industry into one incident,” referring to the many incidents where Mi’kmaq lobster fishers on Nova Scotia’s south shore were trapped inside a lobster pound, physically assaulted, and had their property vandalized.
At first, Cox doubled down on his statements, replying to several accounts who were condemning the racism by saying, "From your den in HRM if you think all fishermen in LFA 34 are racists you should be ashamed."
On Tuesday, October 20, Cox apologized for his statements, tweeting “In no way do I support violence and intimidation toward Indigenous fishers in SWNova Scotia,” and that he was sorry if his previous comments made people believe otherwise.
Cox also removed any official ties to CBANS from his account. According to social media, Cox has been in the position since 2015.
But the apology came too late—at least two breweries vowed to withdraw their membership from CBANS over the weekend.
In an emailed statement to The Coast, Peter Burbidge, president of North Brewing in Dartmouth, says CBANS no longer reflects their values as a business.
Do CBANS members really feel like their best representative as Exec Director is a #notallfishermen apologist for domestic terrorism? @NorthBrewing @TataBrew @BigSpruceBrew @BarStillwell is this acceptable to you? pic.twitter.com/NiTh5nZVRq— Bobby O'Keefe (@Bobby_OK) October 18, 2020
“At this time we should all be calling for an end to the violence, intimidation and destruction of property that has been directed towards Mi'kmaw fishers,” reads the statement. “Systemic racism is very real and alive in Nova Scotia. This is the time to reflect on these uncomfortable realities and to learn and work towards change. Let's not focus on CBANS at this time. Let's focus on writing to our political leaders and demanding safety and security for Mi'kmaw fishers.”
On Twitter, Cape Breton-based Big Spruce Brewing also expressed it’d be cancelling its CBANS membership, saying “We condemn apologist attitudes and denounce all forms of racism and discrimination.”
Reached by phone, Big Spruce founder Jeremy White confirms the brewery did in fact leave CBANS this week. “[I] feel strongly that he misspoke and that he deflected from the core issue, of a discussion needing to occur about what is going on in Southwest Nova Scotia,” he says.
The Mi'kmaw fishers' constitutional right to a moderate livelihood fishery must be upheld, and we demand that public safety of these communities be immediately prioritized.— Big Spruce Brewing (@BigSpruceBrew) October 19, 2020
Halifax’s Bar Stillwell also chimed in online, saying “Treaty rights are being violated and violence is happening while the RCMP and our federal government are standing by idly.”
North Brewing and Big Spruce have been removed from the list of CBANS members, but Stillwell still appears to be a member. There are 42 member breweries listed on its site.
In recent months, other breweries including Tidehouse Brewing Company, 2 Crows Brewing and Lazy Bear Brewing near Digby have also left CBANS.
Last year, a letter from 40 employees at 17 breweries asked CBANS to condemn a sexist marketing campaign for Nine Locks' Dirty Blonde ale, but the association failed to meet the requests of the letter.
White says that for Big Spruce and others, this isn’t the first time CBANS has failed to speak up for what the industry wants.
“It’s important to note that had it been an isolated incident, I am certain we would have decided to encourage the association to do something about discipline,” he says. “However, we have felt for some time because of how the association has handled a number of issues, that we frankly just don’t feel well-represented by CBANS. And we feel more and more that opportunities to properly reflect similar values to ours are passed up frequently at CBANS.”
Although White is open to reconciliation with the CBANS board, he also says there’s been talk about coming together with the other breweries who have left to create a new group.
“We want to just have the opportunity to ensure that our values system is something that’s reflected in our business and not mistakenly reflected by someone else we’re associated with,” White says.
In addition to the breweries who have made their stance clear, there are now several restaurants who have taken lobster off their menu in support of Mi'kmaq fishing rights.
The Craft Brewery Association of Nova Scotia did not respond to multiple requests for comment.