The Mi’kmaq First Nations extend Aboriginal title claims to almost all of NB
The Mi’kmaq communities of New Brunswick are re-claiming Aboriginal land in the province – and it’s a lot more land than in the previous claim.
According to a map released Wednesday, the latest claim covers almost the entire province and even extends into offshore waters.
Along with a previously made claim on Wolastoqey, the entire province now falls under the title claim, according to a government spokesman.
Eight Mi’kmaq communities in New Brunswick, represented by Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Inc. “formally claim ownership of land and water in New Brunswick,” according to an MTI news release Wednesday.
The group said the move was “another step in the process of restoring jurisdiction over land and sea within our territory.” This is a step towards self-determination and full recognition of our rights.”
The claim builds on a 2016 action by Elsipogtog First Nation, a Mi’kmaq community formerly known as Big Cove.
The new entitlement represents the other eight Mi’kmaq communities in the province, said Dean Vicaire, executive director of MTI.
According to the press release, MTI says the Mi’kmaq never ceded the land and waters under treaties signed by their ancestors.
“The Peace and Friendship Treaties were signed by our ancestors with the intent that we have a say and a role in the stewardship of our lands and waters. We can no longer sit back and be spectators in our homeland. It is now time to govern land for the protection and benefit of future generations,” said Chief Rebecca Knockwood of Amlamgog First Nation.
Although the Mi’kmaq claim the entire province, MTI said, “We do not seek the return of private lands to the Mi’gmaq, only crown lands and industrial owned lands.”
Natoaganeg Chief George Ginnish said private landowners in New Brunswick need not worry.
“We do not intend to take over your houses, cabins or land. Our ownership claims are against the Crown and a small number of companies using industrial property land in which the Crown still claims an interest. We will seek compensation from the Crown for loss of use of private land,” Ginnish said, according to the press release.
The release also confirms an “overlap” of territory claimed by the Mi’kmaq with that claimed by the Wolastoqiyik.
“Overlap talks with the Wolastoqiyik have already begun,” the press release said.
“We also shared this map with Elsipogtog and the Migmawei Mawiomi Secretariat. The title belongs to the Mi’gmaq Nation and will work with other Mi’gmaq organizations to coordinate our efforts to have the Mi’gmaq title recognized.”
“For thousands of years, our nations and communities have worked together to identify lands used and shared for hunting, fishing and development. Any overlaps between claiming titles will be resolved between nations,” Ugpi’ Ganjig Chief Sacha Labillois said, according to the press release.
Metepenagiag Chief Bill Ward said that if the New Brunswick government “is unwilling to engage in meaningful discussions about our Mi’gmaq title, MTI will explore other options for recognition, including going to court.”
Vicaire said MTI will only go to court if the province “is unwilling to sit down and negotiate, in good, good faith, for the recognition and implementation of the Mi’gmaq Title.” Canada has already signaled its willingness to negotiate recognition of our title.”
He said MTI has already asked the province to negotiate.
“The Government of Canada has signaled its willingness to discuss the title,” Vicaire said. “Going to court is always an option, but we hope that the New Brunswick government is willing to negotiate in good faith, and those negotiations can begin soon.” We’ll see how the process develops.”
The claims now cover the entire province
The New Brunswick Department of Aboriginal Affairs said it had just been briefed on the allegation.
“The province will review this development over the coming days and weeks,” said department spokesman David Kelly.
“The province will address the Mi’gmaq position in due course and as part of that process must consider how it implies the current Wolastoqey claim to land in the Mi’gmaq map area.
“As a result of the Mi’gmaq position, there are First Nation claims against all of the land in New Brunswick. First Nations lay claim to the entire province of New Brunswick, including most of the Bay of Fundy and the Northumberland Straits.”
Earlier claims in NB
In 2016, the Elsipogtog First Nation applied for the Aboriginal title for nearly a third of New Brunswick on behalf of all Mi’kmaq in the province.
Extending the claim to almost the entire province would give the Mi’kmaq a greater say in almost all of the province’s natural resources.
At the time, Elsipogtog members said the action was motivated by fears of clashes at shale gas exploration sites like the one that took place in October 2013 between protesters and police in Rexton, near Elsipogtog. More than 40 people were arrested during the protests.
In 2019, the federal government and the Elsipogtog First Nation signed a memorandum of understanding that would initiate discussions on the Mi’kmaq’s claim to the Aboriginal title of one-third of New Brunswick.
The Wolastoqey Nations filed a similar title claim in 2020.
This claim alleges that the province does not honor the Peace and Friendship Treaties signed in present-day Maine, New Hampshire, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia between 1725 and 1779. Peoples did not relinquish any rights to land or resources in those treaties.
The six chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation of New Brunswick issued a statement in response to the newly released map.
It states: “The overlap between the title claimed by MTI and the title claimed by the Wolastoqey Nation has been the subject of discussions between the respective leadership groups and we are working towards a wampum agreement regarding the overlap area with our neighbors.”
The statement said the discussions “were frank, friendly and productive, like our collaboration on many matters.”
It also states, “We wish to amplify today’s call from Mi’gmaq chiefs: It is time for the New Brunswick government to recognize the importance of negotiating the recognition and implementation of Indigenous title.”