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Deadline looms in Vautour family battle to remain on land in N.B. national park

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A showdown is looming between Parks Canada and the family of the late Jackie Vautour over the occupancy of land in Kouchibouguac National Park.

Parks Canada is sticking to a March 31 deadline for the family to vacate the property and remove their belongings from the land on the east coast of New Brunswick.

Vautour staged a 50-year battle against expropriation after the park was created in 1969, living in a cabin without electricity until his death in February 2021.

The Vautour family maintain they are Metis-Acadian and the land is unceded Mi’kmaw territory that is subject to an ongoing court challenge.

Read more: Family of Jackie Vautour to continue fight for land expropriated for national park

Edmond Vautour, Jackie’s son, said in an interview Thursday that Steven Augustine, a hereditary chief of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council, accepts the family’s presence in the park. “He accepts us on the Mi’kmaw territory,” he said.

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The family’s lawyer, Michael Swinwood, says he’s now waiting for the courts to set a date for a hearing, and there should be no evictions while the case remains before the courts.

“Rather than reconciliation, Parks Canada is acting adversarially,” Swinwood said in an interview Friday.

“The Mi’kmaq — specifically through Steven Augustine — are prepared to indicate that the Metis-Acadian are part of the traditional peoples of the Mi’kmaq,” Swinwood added.

Earlier in the week, Vautour and members of other families who once lived in the park wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs and Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Mark Miller calling for the threatened March 31 eviction to be postponed.

“The Kouchibouguac Metis-Acadian community have suffered enough,” the letter states. It asks that their request be considered in the spirit of truth and reconciliation.

Read more: Parks Canada tells family fighting expropriation to leave N.B. park by end of March

Edmond Vautour said the family has not heard from Parks Canada in recent weeks and has not received an official eviction notice from the courts.

In a statement sent to The Canadian Press in January, the federal Crown agency said an arrangement to allow Jackie Vautour to live in the park ended with his death last year.

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“Additionally, Mr. Vautour signed an agreement in 1987 with the province of New Brunswick to leave the property in the national park. The compensation included 110 acres of land outside of Kouchibouguac National Park and a payment of $228,000,” Parks Canada said in the statement.

“Mr. Vautour accepted the money and the land and signed the agreement, but refused to leave the park.”

Read more: Fight over land expropriated for national park in New Brunswick is heating up again

However, Edmond Vautour claims there were issues with that agreement that were never finalized. He has organized a protest march at the entrance to the park next Saturday.

Parks Canada said Friday no spokesperson was available for an interview, but Rola Salem of media relations said the agency’s previous statement is still valid. “March 31 remains the deadline,” Salem said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 19, 2022.

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