‘COM­ING TO­GETHER’

New water­front devel­op­ment agree­ment ad­vances re­la­tion­ship be­tween province and First Na­tions

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY JIM DAY THE GUARDIAN

New water­front devel­op­ment agree­ment ad­vances re­la­tion­ship be­tween province and First Na­tions

Chief Brian Fran­cis of the Abeg­weit First Na­tion calls Wed­nes­day’s devel­op­ment agree­ment with the province a “ma­jor leap for­ward’’ in re­la­tions.

“I think what we have here is a re­ally good ex­am­ple of both par­ties com­ing to­gether, ne­go­ti­at­ing, com­mu­ni­cat­ing, work­ing to­gether and what we have is an end re­sult that all par­ties are pleased with,’’ says Fran­cis.

Un­der the agree­ment, the P.E.I. gov­ern­ment will in­vest $2.2 mil­lion to as­sist in the con­struc­tion of a $3.6 mil­lion fa­cil­ity along the Char­lot­te­town water­front to house Mi’kmaq Con­fed­er­acy of P.E.I. of­fice space, re­tail space for Mi’kmaq arts and crafts, a cul­tural space and learn­ing cen­tre, an urban Indige­nous cen­tre and ex­panded and en­hanced so­cial pro­gram­ming and ser­vices for the off-re­serve com­mu­nity.

P.E.I.’s Mi’kmaq peo­ple have the right to con­sul­ta­tion and ac­com­mo­da­tion, or some kind of com­pen­sa­tion, on all P.E.I. Crown land trans­ac­tions.

Chief Matilda Ram­jat­tan of Len­nox Is­land First Na­tion says the agree­ment is a sym­bol of re­spect and self-de­ter­mi­na­tion that re­sulted from ne­go­ti­a­tions held in good faith.

“This process is also a step­ping stone to­wards rec­on­cil­i­a­tion,’’ she says.

“Part of any agree­ment, there has to be some trust built. As far as gov­ern­ment and First Na­tion, that hasn’t al­ways been a pos­i­tive thing, but we are head­ing in the right di­rec­tion.’’

Pre­mier Wade MacLauch­lan says his gov­ern­ment aims for a spirit of part­ner­ship and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion when ne­go­ti­at­ing with the two First Na­tions on P.E.I.

“It helps to spend time to­gether, and on this one I’ve spent a lot of time di­rectly with the chiefs…and that has been an im­por­tant con­trib­u­tor to reach­ing the his­toric agree­ment that we’ve reached to­day,’’ he says.

The province’s con­tro­ver­sial Mill River Re­sort deal is in stark con­trast to the Char­lot­te­town water­front agree­ment.

P.E.I.’s Mi’kmaq chiefs and the Mi’kmaq Con­fed­er­acy of P.E.I. filed for an in­terim in­junc­tion against the new owner of the Mill River Re­sort. The chiefs and the con­fed­er­acy claim they were not prop­erly con­sulted on the deal, as re­quired by law, and filed for a ju­di­cial re­view of the sale of Mill River to McDougall in Fe­bru­ary.

Ram­jat­tan says there is al­ways room for im­prove­ment in deal­ings be­tween the province and First Na­tions.

“There’s go­ing to be dif­fer­ence of opin­ion as we go for­ward, whether it be Founders Hall or Mill River or what­ever,’’ she says.

“It’s a mat­ter of us ex­ert­ing our rights in terms of get­ting our ac­com­mo­da­tion…I am hope­ful that we are go­ing to be able to con­tinue to have good re­la­tions.’’

MacLauch­lan says the province is pleased to con­tinue to work in a co-op­er­a­tive man­ner to ad­vance the in­ter­ests of First Na­tions Is­lan­ders in a “pos­i­tive and re­spect­ful re­la­tion­ship.’’

Fran­cis says the agree­ment signed Wed­nes­day is a “huge, pos­i­tive an­nounce­ment’’ mov­ing for­ward.

He ex­pects con­struc­tion to be­gin soon with pro­grams and ser­vices hope­fully op­er­at­ing out of the new fa­cil­ity within one year.

He is op­ti­mistic of fed­eral funding fall­ing into place in ad­di­tion to the $2.2 mil­lion in­vest­ment from the province. MCPEI has also put money aside for the project.

“It’s a huge step for­ward ex­pand­ing our pro­grams and ser­vices to our off-re­serve pop­u­la­tion and that was a void we had be­fore,’’ he says.

Fran­cis also con­sid­ers the site for the build­ing, at the cor­ner of Hills­bor­ough and Wa­ter Streets, to be “ideal.’’

“This process is also a step­ping stone to­wards rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. Part of any agree­ment, there has to be some trust built. As far as gov­ern­ment and First Na­tion, that hasn’t al­ways been a pos­i­tive thing, but we are head­ing in the right di­rec­tion.’’ Chief Matilda Ram­jat­tan

JIM DAY/THE GUARDIAN

Pre­mier Wade MacLauch­lan, cen­tre, was joined by Chief Brian Fran­cis of the Abeg­weit First Na­tion and Chief Matilda Ram­jat­tan of Len­nox Is­land First Na­tion Wed­nes­day in sign­ing a devel­op­ment agree­ment be­tween the gov­ern­ment of P.E.I. and the Prince Ed­ward Is­land Mi’kmaq to pro­vide ad­vanced eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties for First Na­tions and the province

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