LONG OVERDUE RECOGNITION UNDER INDIAN ACT WILL HELP BAND MEMBERS BUILD A BETTER FUTURE
November 30, 2007
ST. GEORGE’S, Newfoundland and Labrador
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, joined by Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, Chuck Strahl and Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI) President Brendan Sheppard, today announced an agreement that will enable the Mi’kmaq of Newfoundland and Labrador to obtain formal aboriginal status under the Indian Act.
”We’re here today to build on the history of the Mi’kmaq people, to finally resolve an issue that has been neglected since Newfoundland joined the Confederation 58 years ago, and to ensure a better future for the Mi’kmaq people of this great province. And what a future it can be,” said the Prime Minister.
Pending ratification of the agreement by a majority of the 7,800 members of the FNI, the Mi’kmaqs would be added to the federal Indian Registry and would then be able to access federal programs and services for status Indians as members live in communities spread across the province, no reserve would be created.
“This agreement was reached through negotiation – instead of lengthy, frustrating and expensive court action,” said the Prime Minister. “The agreement means that the Mi’kmaq of Newfoundland and Labrador will get the benefits and opportunities they deserve as First Peoples of Canada.”
When Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949, the terms of union contained no provision for extending the Indian Act to cover the aboriginal population of the province. Canada has provided ad-hoc funding support for social and health programs for Aboriginal communities in the province but formal recognition under the Indian Act will ensure the Mi’kmaq of Newfoundland and Labrador enjoy full access to the same programs and services available to status Indians across Canada.
November 30, 2007
ST. GEORGE’S, Newfoundland and Labrador
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Welcome chiefs and elders.
Chief Brazeau and Vice Chief Sheppard, thank-you for being here today and thank you Chuck, for your kind introduction, and for all the hard work you’ve done for this announcement today.
Chuck took charge of the Ministry of Indian Affairs just a few months ago, but he’s already made significant progress on a number of important aboriginal issues, including the one that brings us here to Newfoundland. The venue for this announcement is particularly appropriate.
The displays and artifacts here at the museum reflect the rich history of Newfoundland’s Mi’kmaq people. We’re here today to build on that history, to finally resolve an issue that has been neglected since Newfoundland joined the Confederation 58 years ago, and to ensure a better future for the Mi’kmaq people of this great province. And what a future it can be.
The Newfoundland Mi’kmaq embraces many talented people who are making tremendous contributions to their communities, to the province and to Canada. Erica Samms-Hurley of Mount Moriah, for example, was honoured with a Governor General’s award for her work as the youth director of the Native Women’s Association of Canada. A registered nurse, Erica works tirelessly in her spare time with Native youth, challenging them to realize their potential.
Then there’s Lynette Hickey, a graduate of the Ottawa Cardiology technology program, who now works at the Western Regional Integrated Health Authority, nearby in Stephenville and Neil Duggan, a fine young police officer serving with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. These are just a few of the high achievers from the Newfoundland Mi’kmaq community.
A community that works together and supports each other. It is that spirit of togetherness that made today’s announcement possible because for more than half a century the Mi’kmaq of Newfoundland were among the “Forgotten People” – as the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples calls its members but they never stopped fighting for recognition, and now, at last, that title can be cast aside.
Our Government has reached an agreement in principle with the Federation of Newfoundland Indians to extend official status under the Indian Act to the 7,800 Mi’kmaq who belong to its nine bands. Once ratified by the membership, these Mi’kmaq will finally be recognised under the Indian Act.
Today’s agreement means the Mi’kmaq of Newfoundland will receive the benefits and opportunities they deserve as First Peoples of Canada. One of the laudable aspects of this agreement is that it was reached through negotiation – instead of lengthy, frustrating and expensive court action.
Now funding to the band will be stable and predictable and programs will be consistent and more readily available. As a result we hope – and expect – to see even more Newfoundland Mi’kmaq success stories. This agreement reflects our Government’s commitment to resolving aboriginal issues across Canada. Since taking office, we have focussed on a five-point plan for aboriginal affairs:
- economic development,
- empowerment and protection of the vulnerable,
- the resolution of land claims, and
- reconciliation, governance and self-government.
The focus of this agenda is to build a record of real results through tangible, concrete actions with willing and able partners.
In closing, I’d like to again thank Minister Strahl for his leadership on this file and I’d like to thank the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, and the Federation of Newfoundland Indians for their vision and their support. It’s due, in large part, to the co-operation and commitment of community leaders like Chief Brazeau and Vice Chief Sheppard that we can announce this agreement today.
A day that heralds a better future for Newfoundland’s Mi’kmaq and a stronger, more united Canada.