McNeil legal brief argues Sipekne’katik band not a sovereign people, not entitled to duty to consult
November 9, 2016
HALIFAX – NDP Critic for Aboriginal Affairs Lenore Zann questioned Premier Stephen McNeil today on a position put forward in a government legal brief to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia on the ongoing concerns related to the Alton Gas project.
The brief argues that the duty to consult only applies in those circumstances where the relationship is between the Crown and “unconquered peoples.” The brief goes on to say that the “The [Sipekne’katik] band’s submission in 1760 negates a claim of sovereignty, and therefore negates a constitutional duty of consultation.”
“The position presented by the Liberal government in court is simply unacceptable,” said Zann. “Insinuating the term ‘conquered’ to describe any Indigenous community, particularly one that faced the trauma of the residential school system – and to argue that they do not have a voice that needs to be heard – is incredibly disrespectful.”
Last year, the government released its Policy and Guidelines for Consultation with the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia, which clearly states that Nova Scotia recognizes a 2004 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that governments have a duty to consult with Aboriginal peoples and accommodate their interests, and that this duty must be “understood generously.”
“Taking aim at the sovereignty of Aboriginal communities is not a path towards reconciliation,” said NDP Leader Gary Burrill. “The shameful history of the treatment of Aboriginal peoples in Nova Scotia and across the country calls on us to take our commitment to reconciliation very seriously and avoid actions that will further harm Aboriginal communities.”
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