Ending systemic racism and partnering with Indigenous people and businesses are key planks Wolastoqey leaders are seeking in provincial party platforms.

The six chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation dispatched a survey today to grade the political parties on their willingness to collaborate and partner with First Nations.

Twelve questions have been posed to the parties in an attempt to gauge their willingness to engage on First Nations’ priorities. The Wolastoqey Nation will review and grade the answers in the run up to the Sept. 14th provincial election. The range of questions stems from the challenges being
faced within First Nations communities.

“This year has been difficult for our people contending with the isolation and fear that came with the pandemic. And then, the tragic loss of life and the resulting cries for justice,” says Madawaska Chief Patricia Bernard. “These frustrations have been compounded by a government that treats us
with disrespect, and we hope to work cooperatively with a new government, sitting as equals to resolve our issues.”

The call for an Indigenous-led inquiry into systemic racism in New Brunswick has attracted tremendous public support, adds Chief Allan Polchies Jr. of St. Mary’s. “Lawyers, academics, politicians – and at one point, the minister of aboriginal affairs – have all voiced their support. But now, it appears we must convince the next premier to do the right thing. That we will do. Justice delayed, is justice denied.”

First Nations businesses have suffered under the weight of provincial regulation. The Wolastoqey Nation is looking for a governing party that will help those businesses prosper and thrive, says Chief Ross Perley of Tobique. “Our people are hard working and industrious, and just like anyone we require a level playing field. We have great ideas for business within our communities, and we need a provincial partner.”

Wolastoqey communities have signed tax sharing agreements with the province, most notably with regard to the gasoline tax, and they use that revenue to enhance social programs within communities. “We are looking for assurances that our signed agreements will be honoured and respected
by any incoming government. Unfortunately, signed agreements can’t be taken for granted,” says Kingsclear Chief Gabriel Atwin. “Our people need social programming. Lives are at stake when unnecessary cuts are made.”

Access to natural resources and Crown land has been a point of contention for many years. Woodstock Chief Tim Paul says the right to make a sustainable living from the land needs to be recognized by government.
“Whether it be sharing royalty revenue or recognizing our right to make a living for our families, we need a government that will be fair and reasonable. Access to the land must go hand-in-hand with access to its resources.”

Recognition of title is another unresolved matter. Lands on either side of the Wolastoq are the unceded territory of the Wolastoqey people. Oromocto Chief Shelley Sabattis says title to Wolastoqey lands, waters and resources has yet to be recognized. “We have spent a lot of time these past few
months defining systemic and institutional racism. Not recognizing our basic title rights fits neatly into that definition. We are looking for a government to be elected that will make history by recognizing title.”

Media Contact: Megan Fullarton, 506-476-4385, megan.fullarton@wolastoqey.ca

Political Party Survey – First Nations Priorities

  1. Is your party supportive of an Indigenous-led, New Brunswick inquiry into systemic racism?
  2. Is your party committed to implementing measures to end systemic racism?
  3. Is your party supportive of an equitable and fair sharing of natural resources with First Nations peoples?
  4. Does your party recognize First Nations title to unceded land in the province?
  5. Is your party supportive of a honouring and sustaining signed tax agreements with First Nations?
  6. Is your party committed to eliminating the barriers that prevent First Nations businesses from being able to thrive?
  7. What is your party’s position on First Nations participation in forest management?
  8. Does your party support revenue sharing with First Nations, particularly royalty revenue from Crown land?
  9. How does your party’s vision for prosperity engage and collaborate with First Nations communities?
  10. Does your party support returning the name of our ancestral river to the
    Wolastoq?
  11. If elected to govern, is your party ready to initiate a policy that implements Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report and calls to action?
  12. If elected to govern, is your party prepared to implement a renewed framework that follows the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?