New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs says a title claim by six chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation is serious and has far reaching implications.
“The land specified in this claim is not owned by politicians or even by the government in every case,” Higgs told reporters in Fredericton.
“It is land that belongs to New Brunswickers that people paid for and continue to pay for through their annual taxes.”
The title claim filed on Tuesday targets corporations such as NB Power and forestry giant J.D. Irving, which exploit resources on traditional lands.
A declaration of Aboriginal title focuses more on the fact that the land was occupied prior to the assertion of the Crown, by a national legally defined.
The peace and friendships treaties affirm the Wolastoqey are the original title holders of their territory – a land claim has more to do with breaching a treaty, such as reserve lands taken unlawfully.
The Wolastoqey did not file a land claim, they filed a title claim.
Madawaska Maliseet First Nation Chief Patricia Bernard said they want compensation from the Crown for allowing commercial operations on their land, land back that was given away for free, and a declaration of title for traditional territory.
“Our experience with negotiating with this current government has not been very positive, in fact, every time we try to negotiate any issue be it systemic racism, the tax agreements, it’s always been about here, this is what the province is proposing, take it or leave it.”
The claim, about sixty percent cent of the province, was filed in the New Brunswick’s Court of Queen’s Bench.
“We were backed in a corner. We had no choice. If it was not this particular government, I don’t think we’d be here right now. I think we’d be sitting down negotiating, dealing with our issues, dealing with jurisdiction, dealing with revenues on a partnership basis.”
Higgs said the claim could have a serious impact on the forestry industry and on the provincial economy.
The defendants listed in the claim include J.D. Irving Ltd. and 18 of its subsidiaries or related entities, NB Power, Acadian Timber, Twin Rivers Paper, H.J. Crabbe & Sons and A.V. Group. The companies are named in addition to the governments of New Brunswick and Canada.
“Never before has a claim of this nature attempted to take control of land that is privately owned,” Higgs said. “It lacks the clarity that New Brunswickers deserve.”
Higgs said if the province had to put a value on all the land identified in the document, it would be in the trillions of dollars. He said while some chiefs have assured they won’t displace New Brunswickers from their homes and farms, he said he doesn’t see that clearly defined in the court document.