© Guardian photo
Kindra Bernard and Dion Bernard dance prior to the official ceremony to commemorate the signing of a consultation agreement among the Government of Canada, The Government of Prince Edward Island and the Mi'kmaq of Prince Edward Island at Province House Monday.
First Nations and government now have a clearly defined process for consulting the Mi’kmaq on projects and actions that will affect P.E.I. Aboriginals.
An agreement was signed and celebrated Monday that spelled out the exact terms of consultation that should take place when the provincial and federal government are dealing with P.E.I. Mi’kmaq on issues of mutual concern and interest.
“We will have a process and protocol that we will follow when the government makes decisions that impact First Nations, especially our aboriginal treaty rights,” said Lennox Island First Nation Chief Darlene Bernard in an interview.
“If it works and if it does what it’s supposed to do, we will be working together open-mindedly and trying to find solutions rather than just a paternalistic approach that the government sometimes takes with First Nations.”
Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said the agreement ensures all levels of government and First Nations are on the same page when consultations are necessary.
“To get it done in a collaborative fashion is the best possible avenue and that’s what this document represents,” Duncan said.
The agreement essentially spells out certain obligations for both the provincial and federal governments to consult with Mi’kmaq officials on proposed actions or decisions that may adversely impact aboriginal treaty rights.
Duncan also made a commitment to meet with provincial and First Nations officials in P.E.I. at least once a year to ensure the issues that affect all parties will continue to have constructive and collaborative dialogue.
Premier Robert Ghiz said this agreement builds on the relationship between the provincial government and the Mi’Kmaq of P.E.I.
He committed to grant of $15,000 a year to the Mi’kmaq Confederacy for the next three years to participate in this enhanced consultation process.
“The goal of the agreement is to strengthen the Mi’kmaq of Prince Edward Island and to further solidify our partnerships,” Ghiz said.
“I welcome the opportunity to participate in these discussions. This will help to ensure that the agreement is relevant and effective.”
Abegweit First Nation Chief Brian Francis said he is pleased this contract will lead to further discussions and consultation with Aboriginals in P.E.I. on a variety of issues.
“It is a further demonstration of what we can achieve by working co-operatively,” Francis said.
This is the second agreement of its kind in eastern Canada, following the Nova Scotia Consultation Terms of Reference agreement signed by the Mi’kmaq of N.S. and provincial and federal officials in August 2010.