Below is a letter sent by St. Mary’s First Nation Chief Candice Paul on behalf Chief Shelley Sabattis, Chief Gabby Atwin, Chief Ross Perley and Chief Patricia Bernard on June 29, 2017 explaining important details about the Sisson Mine Accommodation agreement.
To the editors of the CBC and reporter Robert Jones:
We are concerned with inaccuracies in the June 26, 2017 article “Sisson mine approval triggers $3M bonus for 6 Maliseet First Nations” by Robert Jones.
The articles states that the Maliseet obtained a “package of incentives” in relation to the Sisson Mine. Accommodation is not a “bonus”, “financial package” or any kind of gift. Accommodation is a legal obligation that the Crown holds when it makes decisions that adversely affect the established or reasonably asserted rights of Aboriginal people under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982: Haida Nation v. British Columbia (Minister of Forests), 2004 SCC 73. Hundreds of accommodation agreements have been concluded across Canada, and it is entirely standard for them to include an up-front payment to the Aboriginal group upon regulatory approval of the project that will infringe established and/or reasonably asserted rights. Contrary to what the article asserts, Maliseet opposition to the Sisson Mine has not “melted away”. The Sisson Mine Agreement does not provide Maliseet support for the Mine.
To this day, most of the Maliseet communities and our members oppose the Sisson Mine. But under current Canadian law, the courts allow New Brunswick and Canada to decide what happens on our Territory. New Brunswick gave its main approval for the Mine in December 2015. Fighting the mine would have involved very expensive litigation, and as with most litigation, the outcome would have been uncertain. The elected leadership of the Maliseet communities therefore consulted with the membership and advisors, and a few months ago, after lengthy negotiations, we ultimately made the hard decision to accept accommodation to try to offset the Mine’s adverse effects on our constitutional rights.
For most of the Maliseet communities, the Sisson Accommodation Agreement does not reflect comfort with or acceptance of the Mine. Rather, it reflects the hard reality of a Canadian legal system that, on its 150th birthday, remains fundamentally inadequate in respecting and meaningfully protecting our Treaty rights, Aboriginal rights, and Aboriginal title.
Woliwon for taking the time to hear our concerns with the CBC’s portrayal of our situation.
Chief Candice Paul/ on behalf
Chief Shelley Sabattis
Chief Gabby Atwin
Chief Ross Perley
Chief Patricia Bernard