N.B. Premier says it’s too soon to discuss new treaties with Maritime natives

National Post
Thursday, January 18, 2001

FREDERICTON. New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord says it may be premature to start talking about a new, modern treaty with the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet people of the Maritimes. Lord reacted Thursday to comments by federal Fisheries Minister Herb Dhaliwal who is becoming impatient with the reluctance of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island to take a more active role in tackling the issue of native access to natural resources. 

Lord acknowledged that many people, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, want the access question settled so everyone knows the rules for hunting, logging and fishing. 

But he said a new treaty will only work if all parties are at the table and willing to sign on the dotted line. 

“Basically, I don’t think we’re there yet,” he said. 

Dhaliwal said New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have been too willing to let Ottawa take the heat over native access to natural resources. 

He said only Nova Scotia has expressed a readiness to tackle treaty renegotiation as a means of averting the tensions and occasional violence that have surrounded native fishing and logging claims. 

“When there’s a problem in politics, people always want to put it on someone else’s plate,” Dhaliwal said in an interview on Wednesday. 

“They’re not interested in dealing with it themselves and I think they (New Brunswick and P.E.I.) have to pony up as well and get to the table and be part of the solution.” 

The federal government has developed a draft plan aimed at ending native and non-native tensions over natural resources in the Maritimes. 

The plan, developed jointly by the fisheries department and the Indian Affairs Ministry, proposes establishing treaty commissions with a goal of writing a new treaty that encompasses the treaties signed between the Mi’kmaq and Maliseet nations and the British Crown between 1725 and 1761. 

The federal proposal suggests that Ottawa negotiate with natives even if the provinces don’t participate. 

But Dhaliwal may have more of a problem than New Brunswick’s reluctance to get involved in the plan. 

Robert Levy, chief of the largest Mi’kmaq band in New Brunswick, has rejected Ottawa’s draft plan. 

Levy, of the Big Cove reserve, said the treaties already exist, so the only thing to discuss is how to implement them. 

“No new treaties,” he said Wednesday. “If anyone is talking about new treaties, I don’t want to listen.” 

The federal government is anxious to avoid a repeat of the ugly confrontations last year over lobster fishing rights at the Burnt Church reserve in New Brunswick. 

Faced with the growing militancy of native people in the Maritimes, Ottawa wants to hammer out a new treaty that would guarantee and clarify native access to natural resources.