Maliseets, declare your pipeline stance

Written by Andrea Bear Nicholas on November 19, 2014

pipeline

TransCanada’s proposed Energy East pipeline route through unceded Maliseet territory in New Brunswick.

I am concerned about Frank McKenna’s comments that the Treaties of Peace and Friendship mean that First Nations would not have authority to impede development on land in the province. He is wrong, especially in light of the Supreme Court decision in the Tsilhqo’tin case. The treaties here were not land surrenders. In fact they did not speak about land.

I am equally concerned about Roger Augustine’s comments. The treaties did not establish “co-jurisdiction over the land.” First Nations did not surrender any jurisdiction over land in the treaties. They only acknowledged British sovereignty which did not give the Crown any rights to take our land without paying for it or seeking our consent.

I am also concerned about Augustine’s claim that all chiefs in the province could lay claim to profits or impact benefits from the TransCanada pipeline which will go exclusively through Maliseet territory.

There is no Mi’kmaq community or organization that has any legitimate claim to impact benefits or profits from the pipeline since it is Maliseets only who will suffer its damages. The Ganong line may have been set aside as a means of charging Maliseet and Mi’kmaq hunters and fishers when hunting or fishing in each other’s territory, but it does not mean that the Mi’kmaq can now claim title to Maliseet territory or vice versa.

This raises another matter. The Assembly of First Nations Chiefs of New Brunswick does not represent even half of the Maliseet communities in the province nor does it represent the Passamaquoddy First Nation or the largest Mi’kmaq community at Elsiboktok.

The Maliseet people, including not only Indian Act Chiefs and Councils, but also the Maliseet Grand Council, need to get together to stake a title claim and to declare a position on the pipeline as soon as possible.   

Andrea Bear Nicholas is a member of the Tobique First Nation and Professor Emeritus at St. Thomas University.

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