The groundwork has been laid for discussions to nail down treaty rights, self-government and consultation in an agreement between several Chiefs of the Mi'gmag and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) First Nations of New Brunswick, and the federal and provincial governments, the parties announced.
The Mi'gmag Wolastoqiyik/New Brunswick/Canada Umbrella Agreement was signed by 10 chiefs as well as Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development John Duncan and New Brunswick Premier David Alward, who is also the minister responsible for the Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat of New Brunswick.
By signing, "We are following the vision of our ancestors in engaging as peoples with the Crown in wide ranging discussions,” said Chief Joanna Bernard, Wolastoqiyik co-Chair of the Assembly of New Brunswick Chiefs, in a statement at the signing ceremony on September 9. “Clearly there are many issues and problems that we must address as governments. This agreement provides one way that we can work together to protect and advance the rights of the Mi'gmag and the Wolastoqiyik in New Brunswick."
"Canada is pleased to be a signatory to this important agreement. It forges a strong partnership among the parties and establishes a solid foundation to help resolve mutual issues respecting aboriginal and treaty rights," Duncan said in a statement. "This agreement will also help achieve our collective goal of improving the quality of life of the Mi'gmag and Wolastoqiyik in New Brunswick.”
The Umbrella Agreement took a few years to hammer out. An expression of good faith and commitment, it sets out a plan to identify key priorities and negotiate a tri-party agreement for consultations with New Brunswick First Nations, the statement said. Much of the work will be done via a coordinating committee that will oversee the negotiation process.
Issues to be addressed include lands and resources, governance and jurisdiction, economic development and sustainability, health, education and social and cultural development, Canada East news service said.
“We are creating an environment built on trust and mutual respect,” said Alward in the joint statement. “With the Umbrella Agreement in place, we now have a clear process to build on for the future."