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OPINION: Minister snubs NCPEI

-	John Joe Sark is Keptin, Mi’kmaq Grand Council for Epekwitk (P.E.I.)
(Guardian File Photo)
- John Joe Sark is Keptin, Mi’kmaq Grand Council for Epekwitk (P.E.I.) (Guardian File Photo) - SaltWire Network

Government's obligations to the Indigenous people of Prince Edward Island must include all of the Mi'kmaq People

BY JOHN JOE SARK

GUEST OPINION

I would like to respond to your article of August 29, 2018, "Federal minister discusses ‘better alternative to the Indian Act’ with Mi’kmaq Confederacy leaders in P.E.I."

Your newspaper confirmed that Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, failed to meet with the Native Council of Prince Edward Island (NCPEI) on her recent visit because she thought her mandate to constitutional obligations to consult did not include the NCPEI which she considers "an urban indigenous group."
Minister Bennett is completely wrong in her understanding. Her government's obligations to the Indigenous people of Prince Edward Island must include all of the Mi'kmaq People and that includes the membership of the NCPEI.

RELATED: Federal minister discusses ‘better alternative to the Indian Act’ with Mi’kmaq Confederacy leaders in P.E.I.

P.E.I. is unique in this regard as the vast majority of Mi'kmaq People living on P.E.I. simply do not live on the reserves. This is not the case elsewhere in Canada. Only the NCPEI represents those people. As a result, the Minister should be talking to the Mi’kmaq People in Assembly at duly called and open meetings with full participation by the NCPEI.

For too long these important decisions have been made behind closed doors by administrators of a service agency, called the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. which represents only the on-reserve Indian Act governments.

The Confederacy is not a Mi’kmaq person nor does it have any treaty rights. It doesn’t represent all Mi’kmaq People of Epekwitk. The staff of the Confederacy are not leaders or spokespersons for the People. The chiefs are only our spokespersons - and they must take direction from the People - all the Mi'kmaq People of Epekwitk. They are also guided by the Grand Council of the Mi'kmaq, the traditional and highest level of government for Mi'kmaki throughout Atlantic Canada, Quebec and into Maine.

Each and every Mi’kmaq is a treaty beneficiary and entitled to be heard. The Mi’kmaq people in Epekwitk (P.E.I.) people need to have their say. And they should be the ones that the leadership should be consult with before speaking on behalf of the People.

These decisions have to be fully discussed with the Mi'kmaq People who live both on and off the reserves in P.E.I. as has always been our way. These decisions must only be made in reference to and on our treaty rights and title after these discussions are held and, direction given to the leadership on what action the people want taken in reference to our Treaties and Title - as these decisions will affect those future generations of our Mi’kmaq People who are yet unborn.

Minister Bennett completely rejects our traditional form of government when she fails to recognize the unique and important role of the NCPEI in our province. She failed to respect the role of the Grand Council as the government of the People. I expect better from a leading federal government official representing the interests of the Crown. We all should.

Yours in peace and friendship.

- John Joe Sark LLD, Keptin, Mi’kmaq Grand Council for the District of Epekwitk (P.E.I.)

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