The Membertou First Nation is the latest Mi’kmaw community to withdrawn from the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs and the Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office.
In a news release issued on Wednesday, Membertou Chief Terry Paul announced he is stepping back from his role in the two political organizations “in light of the recent dealings as the Fisheries Lead for the Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq.”
“My confidence in the operations of the organization have weakened over time,” Chief Paul said in the news release. “While I understand there are many employees who work everyday for our communities, I have distrust in some of the issues at hand, primarily with the Fisheries files,” he said.
Chief Paul’s decision means the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs now represents 11 of the 13 Mi’kmaw First Nations in the province. Sipekne’katik withdrew from the ANSMC on Oct. 6.
It also means that the Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office, or KMKNO, now represents 10 of the 13 First Nations in Nova Scotia. Sipekne’katik and Millbrook had previously departed from this political body.
The Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office was established in 2004 as a table where Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq leaders could negotiate and discuss the recognition, definition, implementation and protection of Mi’kmaw rights and title with government and third parties.
KMKNO staff spoke with DFO officials without authorization – Chief Paul
When reached by phone, Chief Paul explained that some staff members at KMKNO were speaking with officials with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans without authorization from Mi’kmaw leaders.
“Anytime you talk to DFO officials, they, at times, use that discussion against us,” Chief Paul said. “They’ve done it before, even in the courts,” he added.
“What makes things worse is that staff were told not to do that yet they still went ahead,” he said.
Chief Paul said he did bring up the issue with KMKNO’s executive director and the negotiations team but never received a response.
He also said a lack of communication to between the two organizations and First Nation communities is another issue that needs to be addressed.
“The people in the communities are asking a lot of questions,” Chief Paul said. “People are getting tired. People want to go out and livelihood fish and we should be helping them do that.”
Membertou Chief to work alongside Sipekne’katik
In the news release, Chief Paul said he will work directly alongside other Mi’kmaw communities at the community level such as Sipekne’katik First Nation to help them implement a moderate livelihood fishery.
Chief Paul said that when he spoke with Sipekne’katik Chief Michael Sack, he felt bad that his fellow chief didn’t feel respected or supported by the ANSMC.
“I feel that the chiefs need to respect what Chief Sack and his community is doing and we should be supporting and backing him up,” he said.
In a news release issued Wednesday afternoon, Sipekne’katik Chief Michael Sack praised the Membertou leader’s decision to leave ANSMC and KMKNO.
“His recognition of our efforts in the Moderate Livelihood Fishery and his endeavouring to do the same for his community in leaving any structure that might limit his capacity to do more for his people, speaks to the depth of his commitment,” Chief Sack said in the news release.
“I know our Moderate Livelihood Fishery will improve the quality of life of my people over the short and medium terms and I am humbled and inspired by his support,” he added.
Chief Paul spoke with NS Chiefs about decision to withdraw
Chief Paul said he spoke with Nova Scotia chiefs on Wednesday about his decision to step back from the ANSMC and KMKNO and the circumstances surrounding it. He said they were generally shocked and unaware what was happening in regards to the fisheries portfolio.
He also said there seemed to be a willingness among the chiefs to address the outstanding issues so that he could rejoin the assembly.
Glooscap Chief Sidney Peters, who serves as co-chair of the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs, said in a news release that he was disappointed that both Membertou and Sipekne’katik have stepped away from the assembly.
“We are pleased to have worked alongside Chief Terrance Paul and Chief Mike Sack for many years, and we recognize that we are at a critical point in exercising and implementing our treaty rights, which can come with a range of thoughts and opinions. As a nation, we have and will continue to respect that,” Chief Peters said in the release.