The Mi’kmaq Chiefs of New Brunswick, who represent nine of the province’s 15 First Nations communities, are speaking out against the Sisson Brook Mine project.
The group confirmed its opposition to CTV Atlantic, stating that it has not been properly consulted on the mining project by the province.
"Our relationship with this government has gone from bad to worse," said Chief George Ginnish, co-chair of the body representing the Mi’kmaq Chiefs of New Brunswick. “We haven’t been consulted to the same level that our brothers and sisters to the south have been.”
The company behind the tungsten and molybdenum mine slated for north of Fredericton has said the project will create more than 500 jobs during the construction phase and 300 through the mine’s 27-year lifetime.
Vancouver-based Northcliff Resources is working to develop the open-pit mine near Stanley, N.B.
“We’ve had the opportunity to raise that with government and we were told that, in their view, the Maliseet have a higher order of rights in that area than we do. We totally disagree with that,” said Chief Ginnish.
He said they have asked for a full indigenous knowledge study of the area, saying it will impact their rights.
Chief Ginnish said there’s no place within the Peace and Friendship Treaties that identify where the rights are divided between the Maliseet and Mi’kmaq.
“For a government to tell us that our rights stop somewhere between here and Fredericton is totally wrong, inconsistent with law, and is not something that our people will accept,” he said.
New Brunswick Energy and Mines Minister Donald Arseneault says that’s not the case.
“We have a senior team of deputy ministers within the government of New Brunswick has been meeting with the chiefs over the past year including the Sisson project," said Arsenault.
Arseneault says he has been regularly meeting with the First Nations over the past year about the project, but did not say whether they have been meeting specifically with the Mi’kmaq Chiefs.
“What I can tell you is that there’s been a very genuine effort to consult with First Nations,” said Arseneault.
In March, Northcliff Resources’ environmental impact assessment report was given the green light by the New Brunswick Department of Environment and Local Government. It is now in the public consultation phase.
The Chiefs have made a submission to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency expressing their views.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Laura Brown