An his­toric ap­point­ment

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL -

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 our rights, raise our 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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