April 27, 2021

Mi’gmaq Chiefs Ask The Higgs Government To Negotiate In A Fair Manner

MI’GMAG’I – Eight Mi’gmaq Chiefs in New Brunswick have written to the Minister of Finance and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and are calling on the Government of New Brunswick to rescind the ninety-day notice to cancel the taxation agreements with the affected Mi’gmaq communities so all First Nation communities in New Brunswick can have discussions on taxation and revenue sharing in the same time period.

For the past few years, Mi’gmaq communities have tried to sign a similar agreement to the Wolastoqiyik and Natoaganeg First Nation. Under the newer taxation agreement, those communities have been given around two years notice. Despite numerous attempts in meetings and through the letters, the Higgs government has refused to have any significant discussions on the matter with the Mi’gmaq communities. This makes comments made by Minister Dunn and the Premier about coming back to the negotiation table all the more confusing and incorrect.

“We have been trying to get this government to talk about the tax agreements and we have consistently been given the run around between Aboriginal Affairs, Finance and the Office of Premier. The Higgs government has refused to come to the table on this matter. Rather than have an open discussion or negotiation, they decided to cancel the agreements without any discussion on the matter. To cancel the agreements in ninety-days without prior notice, after we’ve been trying to meet and advance these talks since 2018, is a slap in the face,” said Chief Bill Ward of Metepenagiag.

“We are now being asked to renegotiate with a gun to our heads. If the Government of New Brunswick is truly committed to exploring our mutual interest in First Nations participation in the provincial economy, then discussions between our communities and the Province cannot take place with the pressure of a ninety-day notice period under the existing Agreements. In fact, if the Government of New Brunswick understood the broad economic impact of these Agreements, we believe they wouldn’t be so quick to cancel them,” said Chief Rebecca Knockwood of Tjipõgtõtjg (Fort Folly) First Nation.

Contrary to the perceptions of some individuals within the Government of New Brunswick, the Government’s own statistics show the Mi’gmaq communities are not getting “super-wealthy” from these Agreements. The modest amounts the Mi’gmaq communities are receiving from the Agreements are being used to: supplement chronically underfunded social programs; hire our community members and non-indigenous neighbours; invest in economic development initiatives; and to spend on goods and services in places like Miramichi, Campbellton and throughout Southeastern New Brunswick. These monies are not being taken offshore but reinvested back in New Brunswick.

The Government of New Brunswick entitled its press release on April 13th ‘First Nation chiefs invited to co-create a modern and sustainable economic partnership’ and has indicated they would want to discuss the possibility of a resource revenue sharing agreement. They have to realize a modern agreement on resource revenue sharing cannot be negotiated in ninety-days.

“We don’t want to see these agreements cancelled at all but if the government wants us to believe they want to negotiate a mutually beneficial agreement, they need to extend to us the same parameters as the other communities. This will allow us time to explore models of revenue sharing and obviously better inform the Province of the Peace and Friendship Treaties and the impacts our communities have in New Brunswick,” said Chief Sacha Labillois of Ugpi’ganjig (Eel River Bar) First Nation.

Eight of the Mi’gmaq Chiefs have decided to work together on this matter and have given the Government of New Brunswick until April 30th to respond. If the government does not give the these Mi’gmaq communities the same consideration as the First Nation communities under the new agreement, these Chiefs will explore all available options to ensure the Crown deals with their communities in a fair and honourable manner.