FREDERICTON (Oct. 5, 2020) – The six Wolastoqey Communities in New Brunswick today announced they gave notice under the Proceedings Against the Crown Act to the Crown in right of New Brunswick and Canada that they will be filing a lawsuit seeking the Court’s recognition of the Wolastoqey Nation’s title to lands in New Brunswick.
The chiefs of all six Woloastoqey Communities – Matawaskiye
(Madawaska), Neqotkuk (Tobique), Wotstak (Woodstock), Pilick (Kingsclear), Sitansisk (St. Mary’s) and Welamukotuk (Oromocto) — gathered at St. Anne’s Point in Fredericton to announce the claim against the governments of New Brunswick and Canada.
“Our people have lived on and used these lands since time immemorial,” said Chief Patricia Bernard of Matawaskiye. “We signed treaties with the Crown agreeing to peace and friendship with settlers, but we never gave the land up. It is still legally ours.”
“While others have used our lands and rivers to create great wealth for
themselves, our people have been left struggling to feed and house their families in their own homeland. That’s not what we agreed to in the treaties,” added Chief Ross Perley of Neqotkuk.
Between 1725 and 1778, the Wolastoqey Nation negotiated and entered into
Treaties with the Crown, known as the Peace and Friendship Treaties. Not only did the Wolastoqey never cede ownership of their lands, the 1725/1726 Treaty explicitly recognized that if settlers were to come live on Wolastoqey lands, they needed to follow the legal process for settling on these lands. That never happened. The Wolastoqey Nation’s Aboriginal title was never extinguished and still exists today.
But the Crown did not honour the Treaties, and took Wolastoqey lands without consent, and pushed the Wolastoqey people into six small communities along the river. They have carved up the land and given it to private landowners, and kept for themselves all benefits in the form of taxes, royalties, leases and fees.
“They have acted as if they have sole jurisdiction over the land and this is simply legally not the case,” said Chief Tim Paul of Wotstak. “You cannot give away something that is not yours to give. Yet for nearly 300 years, ignoring agreements signed nation to nation in black and white, this is what the governments of that time and the succeeding governments of New Brunswick and Canada have done.”
“Meanwhile, many of our people live in poverty,” continued Chief Gabriel Atwin of Pilick. “Canada and New Brunswick and the preceding governments had a fiduciary duty to protect our lands. They did not honour those duties. And our people have suffered because of that breach. Even to
this day they refuse to recognize what they have done and we are filing this lawsuit to ask the courts to recognize what the Crown has done.”
On behalf of the Wolastoqey Nation, they are seeking acknowledgement that they have title to their traditional lands. They are also asking for the government to immediately stop giving away Wolastoqey land to private parties.
“We are not interested in kicking any regular folks out of their houses or off their farms. That’s not what this is about,” said Chief Shelley Sabattis of Welamukotuk. “But for three centuries the Crown has been selling off our land even though they don’t own it. They need to stop doing that and they need to compensate us for the parts of our land that they have given away
and that can’t be returned to us.”
“Going to court to fight to have our rights clearly acknowledged in the treaties recognized and implemented was never our first choice,” said Chief Allan Polchies, Jr. of Sitansisk. “We have attempted to resolve this through negotiation, but we have been rebuffed at every attempt and there is clearly no good faith desire to negotiate. This is unfortunate, but it appears to be the only option left to us.”
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