Editor’s note: On the evening of September 30 at the city of Fredericton’s engagement session on future plans for the NBEX lands, Wolastoq Grand Council Chief Ron Tremblay and Wolastoqey Grandmother Ramona Nicholas made the point that the NBEX lands are located on the unceded and unsurrendered lands of the Wolastoqewiyik and that they are not stakeholders to be engaged. They and their supporters then walked out of the session in a demonstration of opposition to the public engagement session.
Today, Oct. 1 at 4:30pm, there is a rally for affordable housing and tenant rights at the NBEX grounds (361 Smythe St). Chief Tremblay and Ramona Nicholas will speak.
We are Wolastoqewi Grandmothers of Wolastoqey Grand Council, the traditional government of
Wolastoqewiyik (People of the Beautiful and Bountiful River) who reside across our unceded and
unsurrendered homeland we call Wolastokuk. Our responsibility to all our relations of the past, present, and future generations is instilled in our people through the passing down of ancestral knowledge, heritage, and wisdom through our Wolastoqey language, ceremonies, and artifacts.
Our Treaty and inherent Aboriginal rights and title are enshrined in a series of Peace and Friendship Treaties –1725 & 1726, 1749, 1760 & 1761 and 1778 – and affirmed by Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution and by international law in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Nowhere in any of these Treaties with the Crown did we surrender our inherent Wolastoqey rights to this land. We are rights holders that have the right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent before any decisions are made on any and all developments that may impact our inherent Aboriginal Rights or our Treaty Rights.
We are very concerned about the announced plans to “re-develop” the NBEX land and the call inviting
“stakeholders” to have input into this re-development. We are not simply “stakeholders” to be “engaged,” precisely because we possess Aboriginal and Treaty Rights. Fredericton rests on an ancient shoreline and Wolastoqey artifacts have been found several times in the past during digging in the city’s downtown, most recently in Officer’s Square. We know our ancestors spent significant time in this area and our ancient burial ground is located between the NBEX site and Wolastoq (Beautiful and Bountiful River). According to our archaeologists, there is strong evidence that artifacts from our ancestors exist beneath the ground currently slated for the NBEX re-development. As per the province’s own Duty to Consult Policy (2011), government is obligated to consult and accommodate Indigenous Peoples when contemplating a decision or action that may infringe upon our proven or asserted rights. The Duty to Consult is triggered when our heritage may be impacted, such as through development that “disturb[s] or damag[es] culturally significant sites” (page 3). Likewise, as per Article 32.2 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we have a right to “free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting [our] lands or territories and other resources” and, we have the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of [our] cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, [and] artifacts…” (Article 11.1).
The Wolastoq Grand Council has not been approached as an equal Treaty partner to participate in the
archaeological assessment protocols associated with this project. Therefore, Fredericton is in violation of the Peace and Friendship Treaties, the Duty to Consult, and UNDRIP. We hereby call on the City of Fredericton to immediately engage with us in negotiations regarding the NBEX re-development.