By: Quintina Northrup
We recognize and respectfully acknowledge that the operations of the University of New Brunswick’s student publication, The Brunswickan, take place on unsurrendered and unceded traditional territory of the Wolastoqiyik. The territory served by this magazine is covered by the Treaties of Peace and Friendship which the Wolastoqiyik, Mi’kmaq, and Passamaquoddy peoples first signed with the British Crown in 1725. The treaties did not deal with the surrender of lands and resources but in fact recognized the Wolastoqey, Mi’kmaq, and Passamoquoddy title and established the roles for what was to be an ongoing relationship between nations.
The British Crown proved, and continues in its settler-colonial form as the government of Canada to prove, incapable of respecting or honouring these treaties in good faith.
To honour the continuing sovereignty and independence of the Wolastoqiyik and Mi’kmaq, as well as the land and waterways on which The Brunswickan and all of its members and readers depend, we pledge to uplift Indigenous voices whenever and wherever possible. A simple territorial acknowledgement is not enough. We pledge our action, resources, and support, and readily give our space when it is wanted and needed. For more details, contact email@example.com
On October 14, New Brunswick’s Department of Justice and Public Safety released a new policy that forbids Government of New Brunswick employees from issuing territorial or title acknowledgments.
This includes a ban on verbal land acknowledgements made at events and meetings, and a ban on written land acknowledgements on documents and email signatures.
The six Wolastoqey chiefs, who include Chief Ross Perley of the Tobique First Nation, Chief Patricia Bernard of the Madawaska Maliseet First Nation, Chief Gabriel Atwin of the Kingsclear First Nation, Chief Shelly Sabattis of the Oromocto First Nation, Chief Tim Paul of the Woodstock First Nation, and Chief Alan Polchies of the St. Mary’s First Nation, responded in a statement: “The province seeks to further trample our rights and erase us from the history of this province.”
“We have unceded Aboriginal title in the province of New Brunswick. That 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 statement continued.
Minister of Justice Ted Flemming says they were “forced” to put out the memo due to “a number of legal actions which have been initiated by certain First Nations in the province.”
The Wolastoqey Chiefs assert that the provincial government must acknowledge the existence of Aboriginal title.
“We were forced to file a title claim because our rights continue to be ignored by GNB,” they said.
The Chiefs of Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Inc. also responded to the memo. “For starters, a land acknowledgment is largely a 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.”
They addressed GNB’s claim that First Nations are fighting for sixty percent of the province.
“We would like to take the opportunity to correct the misinformation in the memo…. While there may be litigation that claims title to sixty percent of the lands in the province, understand that if our ancestors never ceded or surrendered title, the Mi’gmaq, Wolastoqiyik, and Peskotomuhkatiyik claim one hundred percent of the province.”
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond (Aki-Kwe), a law professor at the University of British Columbia and director of UBC’s Residential School History and Dialogue Centre, believes the policy is not only questionable but entirely unnecessary.
“First of all, this is not an appropriate approach. What a public servant says or doesn’t say by way of a greeting at a meeting is not going to be evidence that’s going to sway and determine that,” she told CBC in an interview on October 15. “That [sounds] to me like something that could touch upon racial discrimination and be… quite harmful and not particularly culturally safe for the Indigenous employees in the government of New Brunswick.”
David Coon, Provincial Green Party leader and MLA for Fredericton South, has called on Attorney General Ted Flemming to withdraw his ban on public servants, teachers, and healthcare providers making land acknowledgements.
A statement from Coon on the Green Caucus website reads: “Acknowledging that the Wolastoqey, Mi’kmaq, and Peskotomuhkati peoples never surrendered or ceded their lands to the Crown is to state a historical fact. It is the truth. The first step towards reconciliation is to tell the truth.”
Coon also stated that despite the policy, he will open his reply to the Speech from the Throne in November with a full land acknowledgement.