The six chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation say the province has issued a “gag” order to New Brunswick public employees which bans them from issuing land acknowledgements.
“We are deeply disappointed by the Government of New Brunswick’s (GNB) new policy on territorial land acknowledgement,” says a statement released Friday by the nation.
“The policy, which forbids GNB staff from issuing territorial or title acknowledgements, is purported to be in partial response to the Wolastoqey title claim. We were forced to file a title claim because our rights continue to be ignored by GNB.
“Now in response to this, the Province seeks to further trample our rights and erase us from the history of this province.”
The letter is in response to a memo issued Thursday to all government employees in the province.
Justice Minister Hugh Flemming says the province is involved in a number of legal actions and land claims initiated by First Nations, and as a result, employees may not make territorial or title acknowledgments.
The memo says that includes making such acknowledgments at meetings and events, in documents and in email signatures.
The Wolastoqey Nation says the province needs to accept the historical fact of Aboriginal title.
“We have unceded Aboriginal title in the province of New Brunswick,” the statement says. “This is a historical fact that the provincial government is simply going to have to come to terms with as representatives of the Crown here in New Brunswick.
“The Wolastoqey Nation is not seeking the return of all of the land in its traditional territory through the title claim. We made it very clear when giving the Crown our claim in October 2020 that we were not looking to displace homeowners in New Brunswick.”
The claim, which covers half the province, says the Wolastoqey Nation never ceded land to the Crown. It calls on the provincial government to honour various revenue sharing agreements and to consult the nation on issues including resource extraction.
The Chiefs of Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Inc., also issued a statement Friday calling the government memo “a new low” in the relationship between nations and the province.
“For starters, a land acknowledgement is a largely symbolic gesture, but represents a starting point to build and improve a relationship with First Nations. It is hard to see how a government directive to employees to avoid taking even that bare minimum step has us moving forward on a path of reconciliation and partnership.”
Green Party Leader David Coon is calling on the minister to withdraw the policy and says he’ll provide a full land acknowledgment when he speaks in the legislature next month.
With files from the Canadian Press.