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Kent County chapter in solidarity with Mi’kmaq Title claim to protect land and water

From left-right:  Kenneth Francis (Kopit Lodge), Serena Francis (Kopit Lodge), Debbie Hopper (Kent County chapter), Denise Melanson (Kent County chapter). 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.)”

The Council of Canadians Kent County chapter stands in solidarity with the assertion of title by Mi’kmaq People to unceded territory in southeastern New Brunswick.

They were at a media conference yesterday where a major title claim challenge was announced.

CBC reports, “Elsipogtog First Nation filed a major claim [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.”

The Elsipogtog First Nation is located within the district of Sikniktuk of Mi’kmaq Territory – referred to as Mi’kma’ki.

In the claim Elsipogtog asks the Court to confirm that the Mi’kmaq Nation continues to hold Aboriginal title and rights in Sikniktuk, and to confirm that it has the authority to order injunctions preventing the further destruction of the land, water, air and forest. 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.”

The Elsipogtog First Nation has mandated Kopit Lodge with the responsibility to speak for the community on industrial proposals and protection of the environment. “Kopit” means “beaver” and the mission of the Lodge is to protect the water.

Kopit Lodge Speaker Kenneth Francis says, “The federal government has promised a renewed relationship with Indigenous peoples based on partnership and respect and which is consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Unfortunately, we still see Canada and the Province disregarding our rights and making decisions that threaten the health of our people and our lands. By filing this claim we are asking both levels of government to step up and take our rights seriously.”

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.”

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.

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.”

Further reading
WIN! Supreme Court rules in favour of Tsilhqot’in title! (June 26, 2014)