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OPINION: Land ownership on P.E.I. is in question

Bloyce Thompson, left, recently appointed as provincial minister of agriculture, justice, public safety and attorney general, was among 10 rookie MLAs, including fellow Progressive Conservative MLA Ernie Hudson, to receive orientation Wednesday of the legislative assembly, which sits twice a year.
Agriculture Minister Bloyce Thompson recently tabled amendments to the Lands Protection Act. - Jim Day

John Joe Sark

Guest Opinion

P.E.I. Minister Bloyce Thompson, I wish to comment on a statement made by you when you tabled legislative changes to laws governing land ownership in P.E.I. as described in the Nov. 28 Journal Pioneer article (and Nov. 27 in The Guardian), "Province tables land changes."

You stated that the new laws you were bringing in would address land ownership in our province. Nowhere in your speech did you mention that all land ownership in P.E.I. is in question because the British Crown and the Crown in right of Canada have never followed the rule of law.

The law I am referring to is found in the Royal Instructions and also stated in the Royal Proclamation issued in 1763. Before that, the Mi’kmaq territory we called Epekwitk, which was later named Prince Edward Island by the British Crown, was sold without the consent of our Mi’kmaq ancestors – the true owners of the land.

Here on our beautiful P.E.I., our Mi’kmaq ancestors never surrendered any territory to the British Crown or the Crown in right of Canada. This means that under the provisions of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, we still own all of what is now called Prince Edward Island. The Royal Proclamation also stated that:

"… but that, if at any time any of the said Indians should be inclined to dispose of the said lands, the same shall be purchased only for us, in our name, at some public meeting or assembly of the said Indians, to be held for the purpose by the governor or commander in chief of our colony…"

The British placed this provision in the Royal Proclamation of 1763 because there was so much fraud on the part of the colonial powers related to the taking of the lands of Indigenous peoples.

This theft caused much friction between the British and the Mi’Kmaq throughout Atlantic Canada.

The Royal Proclamation also guarantees that one or two Mi’Kmaq people can’t make a deal with the government to sell any land. The sellers and the government must take any sale to the Assembly of Mi’Kmaq.

The 1763 Royal Proclamation also forbids British governors from granting the right to survey or settle any lands which had not already been sold to the Crown or might be sold by treaty in the future. British subjects later settled throughout our lands in violation of what we considered treaty right to keep them and their resources. The Crown and its ministers were then, and still are, subject to and not above the law.

As I understand, that law is still in force. Why did the British Crown get away with breaking this law? Did they turn because they thought we were not human?

We have heard both leaders of the federal and provincial governments publicly acknowledge that what is now called

Prince Edward Island is unceded Mi’kmaq land.

It is now time for the province, in the spirit of reconciliation, to address this wrong, to reimburse the Mi’kmaq who live off reserve for all the property taxes they paid with compound interest. Mi’kmaq should also be paid a fee to be discussed, for the use of our lands since the British occupied after the war with the French.

I ask you to consider what I have set out above as you consult with Islanders about the proposed changes to the LPA over the next few months. Yours in peace and friendship.

Keptin John Joe Sark of Johnston’s River is an elected member of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council for the District of Epekwitk.

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