The card on the cake says, “Wela’liek (thanks to all of you) to Kopit Lodge and Elsipogtog from the Kent County chapter of the Council of Canadians, No’kmaq (We are all related.)” From left-right: Kenneth Francis (Kopit Lodge), Serena Francis (Kopit Lodge), Debbie Hopper (Kent County chapter), Denise Melanson (Kent County chapter).
The Council of Canadians is in solidarity with the assertion of title by Mi’kmaq People to unceded territory in southeastern New Brunswick.
CBC reports, “Elsipogtog First Nation filed a major land claim Wednesday [November 9], asking the New Brunswick government for Aboriginal title to land covering about one-third of the province. The land, known as the Mi’kmaq district of Sikniktuk, essentially encompasses the entire southeastern part of New Brunswick.”
Mi’kmaq Territory – referred to as Mi’kma’ki – consists of all of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Edward Island, New Brunswick (north of the Saint John River), the Gaspe region in Quebec, and parts of Newfoundland and Maine. The Districts of Mi’kma’ki are Sikniktuk, Kespukwitk, Sipekne’katik, Eskikewa’kik, Unama’kik, Epekwitk Aqq Piktuk and Kespek. The Elsipogtog First Nation is located within the district of Sikniktuk.
CBC adds, “Members of the First Nation government based in Kent County said the claim was filed on behalf of all Mi’kmaq people in New Brunswick and was motivated by fears of shale gas exploration three years ago, and the clashes that ensued between protesters and police in Rexton. More than 40 people were arrested during the protests. If Aboriginal title were granted, it would have major implications for the province’s natural resource industries. It would give partial authority over this vast part of New Brunswick back to Aboriginal people.”
Global News reports it “reached out to the provincial government for reaction to the claim, but they say they cannot comment on matters before the courts.”
Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock says, “This claim is about protecting our lands and waters for our children and our future generations. We cannot stand by while the government ignores us and makes decisions that threaten the traditional lands of the Mi’kmaq people. It’s time for us to exercise our rights and responsibilities to protect our territory.”
Lawyer Bruce McIvor, who filed the claim on behalf of the Elsipogtog First Nation, says this title claim is historic and linked it to the Tsilhqot’in title claim that went to the Supreme Court of Canada in November 2013.
The Council of Canadians, along with its Williams Lake chapter, were interveners at the Supreme Court in support of that claim. Our submission argued for the recognition of title more broadly and liberally, rather than just for isolated pockets of land. Our lawyers noted that it was not appropriate to argue that a broad recognition of title would burden existing non-indigenous interests.
The Council of Canadians Kent County and Fredericton chapters supports the assertion of title in New Brunswick.
Kent County chapter activist Ann Pohl says, “Elsipogtog is not asking for title to be granted, it is asserting that as Mi’kmaq People in Mi’kma’ki, they have title, which they do. So it will be up to the province and feds to prove them wrong in that assertion. Indigenous Title cannot be granted by the Crown, as it was never surrendered.”
Council of Canadians supports Aboriginal title challenge in New Brunswick (January 1, 2015)