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EDITORIAL: A historic appointment

Brian Francis will be sworn in Tuesday as Prince Edward Island’s newest senator.
Brian Francis will be sworn in Tuesday as Prince Edward Island’s newest senator. He resigned as Abegweit chief on Friday. - Jim Day

Mr. Francis becomes the first member of the Island’s Mi’kmaq community appointed to the Senate.

Brian Francis will do very well representing Prince Edward Island’s interests in the Senate of Canada. His successful career and proven ability as a community leader suggest he will be a strong voice in Parliament’s upper chamber of sober, second thought.

There are many positives to this historic announcement.

Mr. Francis becomes the first member of the Island’s Mi’kmaq community appointed to the Senate. It is well past time that a member of our First Nations community, who have been living on this Island for several thousands of years, finally gets this well-deserved honour.

This is not just a recognition for Mr. Francis – he faces a dual challenge ahead. Not only will he be judged by his ability to represent his province in the Senate, he will have the added pressure of being a strong ambassador for Mi’kmaq across P.E.I. He realizes this and welcomes the challenge. He believes that he can make an important contribution to the Senate by pursuing his vision of reconciliation.

The appointment fills P.E.I.’s four-person complement in the Senate, ending a vacancy left open for more than a year since the retirement of Libbe Hubley. This province needs every voice possible in Parliament to defend P.E.I.'s rights, raise concerns and state our position as a member of this confederation from sea to sea.

The announcement doesn’t come as a big surprise. Mr. Francis was certainly mentioned for some months as a good choice. Although it means that all four senators now come from Queens County, which might irk some Islanders in Prince or Kings, geographic factors seem to have less importance. The key is to have strong representatives in the Senate who can get the job done. This small province prospers within the concept of one strong community instead of perpetuating a divide between urban and rural, or county against county.

Mr. Francis, who was chief of the Abegweit First Nation for more than 11 years, before resigning Friday, brought stability and good government to his community. He displayed a willingness for compromise and to work co-operatively with government for the benefit of his constituents from Green Meadows, Scotchfort and Rocky Point bands.

He was able to negotiate agreements with several provincial governments and premiers, creating a positive social and economic climate. He was more interested in moving ahead, rather than looking back at dark chapters in the relationship between the Mi’kmaq and European settlers.

But when the occasion arose, where he felt that government was unreasonable and plainly wrong, he was a staunch defender of treaty rights and court decisions. The Mill River resort lawsuit is a good example. That case will proceed through the courts – with or without Mr. Francis.

His departure is a huge loss for the Abegweit band and the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. We’re sure Mr. Francis will relish the challenges ahead and execute his duties and responsibilities with respect and passion. We wish him well as our Island’s newest independent member of the Senate, confident he will do his province and community proud.

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