After peaceful split, Mi’gmaq chief says government should improve consultations

MONCTON – The Assembly of First Nations Chiefs in New Brunswick will continue to exist until the next fiscal year, says Mi’gmaq Chief George Ginnish.

Then, the Mi’gmaq chiefs will form their own group. This comes after New Brunswick’s Maliseet chiefs announced they would be forming their own representative body, leaving the Assembly.

“The Mi’gmaq First Nations have said it’s important for us to work together especially given the approach that government and business take in regards to the consultation,” Chief Ginnish said in an interview with Global News Monday.

Chief Ginnish stressed the split was peaceful, that it happened because of a difference of opinions, not out of malice.

“We still have an Atlantic Policy Congress that represents the entire Atlantic and we’ll work together with anybody that sees the benefit of doing that,” he said.

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“As it is now, this group has decided that they’re better to represent themselves. That’s not an issue with us. We’re going to continue to work on behalf of our people to the best of our ability. That’s our responsibility.”

He said his disappointment lies with the provincial and federal governments, that they’re not completely adhering to their duty to consult aboriginal groups at a critical time.

Ginnish, chief of the Eel Ground First Nation, says his people have a right to be consulted and included in all discussions, including on major projects like the Energy East Pipeline and Sisson Brook Mine.

“This is not where we expected it would be. It’s not living up to the spirit of the agreement. We’ve had to do that with the previous two premiers and we’ll do that again with the current premier,” he said.

He said Mi’gmaq First Nations are not looking to stop all development but that their Aboriginal and Treaty Rights must be respected during the process.

In March, Premier Brian Gallant said at least one person in each government department would be trained on the duty to consult, which is the Crown’s obligation to consult aboriginal groups on decisions.

When asked, repeatedly, about progress, Global News received a statement from Ed Doherty, Minister Responsible for the Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat.

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“Government will work with the First Nations community to look for opportunities in areas of partnership and co-operation,” it read. “We respect the heritage and culture of our First Nations community and our government remains committed to working with all First Nation Chiefs and councils.”

“One of our elders speaks to this. He says for too many years, we’ve stood by the side of the road and we’ve watched trucks drive by with our resources,” Ginnish said.

“We’ve had lip service from government saying we want to talk about revenue, resource-sharing, it’s important that First Nations be part of that. The talk has been great but it’s time to walk the talk now.”

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