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Maliseet chiefs feel pressured to accept open-pit mine & tailings pond north of Fredericton

The Council of Canadians campaigns against destructive mining projects and tar sands pipelines and in support of Indigenous rights, including the United Nations-recognized right to free, prior and informed consent.

We have previously noted in campaign blogs Sisson Brook, a proposed open-pit tungsten and molybdenum mine that would be built at the headwaters of the Nashwaak River on Maliseet territory about 100 kilometres north of Fredericton. The mine would also include a tailings pond and an ore processing plant.

St. Mary’s First Nation Chief Candice Paul has stated, “We assert Aboriginal title to the area where the mine is being proposed …The mine would destroy this part of our territory, it would never be the same again.”

Now CBC reports, “A Maliseet First Nations chief says the New Brunswick government threatened to cancel lucrative tax deals with her band and other Indigenous communities if they didn’t sign an agreement on the Sisson mine. Chief Patricia Bernard of the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation says she doesn’t support the proposed mine, but her band couldn’t risk losing the money it gets from provincial gas, tobacco and sales taxes collected at its Grey Rock commercial development [in Edmundston].”

That article adds, “On Friday, Premier Brian Gallant announced that the six Maliseet chiefs in the province had signed an ‘accommodation agreement’ on the proposed $579 million open-pit tungsten mine. That’s despite public opposition to the project by five of those chiefs as recently as last April, when they said the project would ‘destroy one of our last remaining areas to harvest and practise our culture’.”

Chief Bernard says, “We do not approve and at no point do we approve of that mine. But if they’re going to go ahead with the mine, we needed to take some sort of accommodation for that loss. The chiefs did not approve of this mine. This accommodation agreement is compensation for something the province is going to do.”

The CBC article also notes, “Dominique Nouvet, the lawyer who negotiated the Sisson deal for the chiefs, [called] saving the tax deals ‘a major factor’ for most chiefs who signed the Sisson agreement. …Nouvet said the Sisson agreement doesn’t extinguish Maliseet title to their traditional territories and would not affect indigenous rights to consultation on other projects such as the Energy East pipeline.”

Under the Peace and Friendship Treaties of 1760 and 1761 in the Maritimes, the Mi’kmaq and the Maliseet signatories did not surrender rights to lands or resources.

Further reading
Council of Canadians skeptical of task force promoting Energy East, fracking and Sisson Brook mine (May 2015)
Are large projects like Energy East putting drinking water protection on the chopping block in New Brunswick? (March 2016 blog by Mark D’Arcy)