Listuguj First Nation in Quebec appeals to New Brunswick to open its doors

A Mi’gmaq First Nation in Quebec is appealing to the province of New Brunswick to allow its members to cross a bridge and allow it to shop in a nearby town.

The bridge that links Listuguj and Campbellton, New Brunswick is closed to non-essential traffic.

The chief is hoping the province will make an exception for his community.

“To cut it off, arbitrarily without discussion to how do we work as a region I think is wrong,” said Listuguj Chief Darcy Gray. “It doesn’t reflect how we operate, it doesn’t reflect our reality.”

Much of Listuguj, population about 2,000, is located in eastern Quebec with Campbellton a quick five minute drive away.

The two communities are intertwined in a number of ways including groceries, schools and they both use Atlantic time instead of Eastern time that the rest of Quebec uses.

“Many of our community members live on that side, it’s almost an extension of Listuguj in a sense,” said Gray.

He says the next closest grocery market is 55 km away – in an area where cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed.

New Brunswick has made a compromise with Listuguj in the way of ten dashboard passes.

They allow members to cross over into Campbellton for two hours. The passes are shared amongst members on a first come first served basis.

Gray said there has been some social media backlash from the neighbouring Quebec community of Pointe-à-la-Croix regarding what is being viewed as a privilege.

“That didn’t go over well, we were concerned that people going into Campbellton with passes would almost be going with a target on their back,” said Gray.

The chief said he has reason to believe that there’s unrest brewing.

About 400 locals from both sides of the border gathered on the bridge to protest its continued closure.

On May 15, Gray wrote a letter to New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs requesting a meeting with himself and other local municipalities to look for a solution.

Almost a week later, at Wednesday’s news conference, Higgs said he hasn’t read the letter.

“There may be discussions going on with public safety, in relation to what they’re actually asking for, but to have wholesale movement back and forth, I think would be risky for us and risky for them as well at this stage,” Higgs said.

New Brunswick currently has 120 confirmed cases of COVID-19 – all recovered from the virus. They have had no new cases in two weeks.

No one in Listuguj has tested positive either.

“We need to work together, solutions that divide us aren’t helping anybody,” said Gray.

Quebec currently has 44,775 confirmed cases. Another 3,718 people have died. Of those, the Gaspésie-Îles-de-la-Madeleine region where Listuguj is located has had 175 confirmed cases and eight deaths.

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