The tiny Cape Breton community of Isle Madame is in shock as RCMP divers are searching the waters for a man who is missing and presumed dead, and three lobster fishermen sit in jail charged with second-degree murder.
Phillip Boudreau, 43, went missing on June 1. His body has not been found despite nearly two weeks of searching by the police divers. Well-known in the community as a petty criminal, Mr. Boudreau was working with his brother, who has a lobster licence.
James Joseph Landry, 65, Dwayne Matthew Samson, 43, and Craig Landry, 40, are charged in connection with Mr. Boudreau’s death. They were the crew on a lobster boat, the Twin Maggies, and are to appear in court on June 24. Mr. Samson is James Landry’s son-in-law.
According to an RCMP report, police were alerted at 7:30 a.m. on June 1 that an overturned boat was found in the mouth of the Petit-de-Grat harbour and are investigating “an altercation that may have involved Boudreau’s boat.”
About 4,000 people live in the Acadian communities – Arichat, West Arichat, D’Ecousse and Petit-de-Grat – that comprise Isle Madame on the southern tip of Cape Breton. The most recent such incident was more than 30 years ago, a killing resulting from a domestic dispute.
“People are absolutely shocked,” said Jake Boudrot, editor of The Reporter, a weekly newspaper based in nearby Port Hawkesbury. “There’s no two ways around it. People are gobsmacked, I guess, if you want to go that far. This type of thing … it is cliché to say that, it doesn’t happen here.”
But there have been incidents in the past on the water, he said. Lobster fishermen carry guns, mostly to shoot seals that knock off the traps. Lobster fishing is a competitive business, especially this spring, when prices have dropped significantly. Relations can become tense as fishermen look for the best spots to set their traps.
“There have been some shots fired across bows … and there have been some skirmishes on the water, there have been fistfights,” said Mr. Boudrot, who has lived and worked in the community his whole life. “Not necessarily charges have resulted. … It’s well known in the community that things have happened.”
He calls this an “environment of lawlessness” that authorities such as the Department of Fisheries have allowed. The department would not comment on the allegation.
The four fishermen were in an area that has 52 lobster licences. Each license holder can set 250 traps. Although nothing dictates where the fishermen can put their traps in the area, there are usually gentleman’s agreements.
Victor David, the councillor for the area, cautions against speculation. Right now, he said, there is a lot of tension and uncertainty in the community. “Everybody is talking about it everywhere,” he says. “I have heard so many stories over the last week and a half that it is incredible and I don’t think I have heard the same one twice.”