Mi’gmaq in New Brunswick set the record straight on Taxation Agreements

PRESS RELEASE

METEPENAGIAG - The Mi’gmaq Chiefs can no longer sit back and listen to the “alternative facts” perpetrated by the Independent Gas Retailers of New Brunswick (IGRONB) regarding Taxation Agreements with First Nations in New Brunswick.

“It is clear the IGRONB do not have an understanding of how government funding is provided to First Nations, and why these tax agreements were implemented in the first place,” stated Chief Bill Ward of Metepenagiag First Nation.

First Nations are chronically underfunded and must find own-source and taxation revenues to provide services to their community members that are comparable to services found offreserve. However, this is extremely difficult especially when First Nation communities in New Brunswick are among the poorest communities in Canada.

“First Nation communities are not recipients of provincial government funding when it comes to building K to 12 schools, building small rural health centres, or building and maintaining roads,” said Chief Bill Ward. “If the independent retailers feel that First Nations should remit 100% of taxes collected on-reserve, then they must also consider that the provincial government would need to fund services for those who live on-reserve. Will they provide the capital project dollars? Will there be provincial dollars for health and education on-reserve?” asked Chief Bill Ward.

To imply that First Nations’ communities are receiving more than what’s fair and not contributing to the Province is misleading. Chief Ward states “A recent study showed that direct spending associated with the Atlantic Indigenous Economy totaled $458 million in New Brunswick alone. Spending by First Nations is a key economic contributor to numerous communities in our territory, including Campbellton, Dalhousie, Bathurst, Miramichi and Rexton, among others. Without the economic contribution from surrounding First Nations and their tax agreements, these communities would be in much worse shape.” The IGRONB has provided no proof for their claim that the closures of independent gas retailers are a result of the tax agreements with First Nations, despite requests from Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn to provide more details.

The IGRONB fails to consider other factors, including the overall decline of independent retailers across Canada, the relocation of highways, and the economic conditions in certain parts of New Brunswick. The number of retail fuel sites in Canada dropped from over 20,000 in 1989 to 11,916 in 2015. The increase in big box stores and large highway service centres selling gas are more likely the main contributing factor in the closures of independent gas retail stations.

The Government of New Brunswick and First Nations in New Brunswick originally signed these taxation agreements in recognition that First Nations in this province are a government that has the right to share in the revenue that is generated in New Brunswick and in their communities. Contrary to the assertions of the IGRONB, recent court decisions actually support the idea that First Nations and government should reach co-operative arrangements regarding collection of tax revenue on reserve.

There are tax agreements between provincial, federal and First Nations governments across Canada, not to mention revenue sharing for resource projects, something Mi’gmaq First Nations in New Brunswick do not currently enjoy. Chief Ward stated: “We are constantly looking for ways to create opportunities for our communities and neighboring municipalities in this province. We look forward to further discussions with the public and private sectors on how we can continue to contribute to New Brunswick’s overall economic well-being.”

 

For inquires contact:


Jennifer Coleman, Director of Policy and Operations

Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn

(506) 455 1881

jennifer@migmawel.org

Indian Status Cards: ‘We Do Not Expire' Campaign Says Costly Renewal Process Must Change

An online petition is calling on the federal government to scrap the renewal process for Indian Status cards.

“The renewal process is too lengthy and unnecessary and un-accommodating,” says Edward Martin’s petition on Change.org. After two months, the petition has collected more than 6,200 signatures.

A status card is government ID that gives "registered Indians" access to some benefits, such as tax exemption for certain purchases made on-reserve and for the PST segment of the HST in Ontario.

“Imagine having to renew your SIN number,” Martin said in an email to The Huffington Post Canada. “It’s the same thing.”

Originally from the Listuguj Mi'gmaq First Nation on the Quebec-New Brunswick border, Martin was in the middle of moving to Victoria, B.C. in August when his status expired.

Edward Martin, a Mi'gmaq man in Victoria, says that the renewal process for certificates of Indian Status is 'unnecessary' and 'redundant.'

Two months earlier, he drove more than 350 kilometres from North Bay, Ont. to Gatineau, Que. to renew his status card at the Indigenous and Northern Affairs office. When he got there, Martin said he was told he needed to provide a passport photo, scan of his birth certificate, and a declaration signed by a lawyer to prove his identity.

“I was upset and realized something needs to be done,” he said. “The renewal process is just another attempt to keep us jumping through hoops.”

The requirement to renew status cards “is consistent with other official identification documents, such as passports and drivers licenses," according to the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada website. Renewal can be done in person or by mail, but the applicant must pay for all document printing and mailing costs.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada did not respond to HuffPost Canada’s request for comment about Martin’s petition.

“Imagine having to renew your SIN number ... It's the same thing."

“The status card is NOT a passport,” Martin wrote in his petition. A person’s registration number never changes, so to renew it is “redundant,” he told HuffPost.

The federal government started defining who is legally “Indian” with the Indian Act in 1876. At the time, anyone who went to university would lose their status, as would any woman who married a non-status person.

'A form of apartheid law'

“The Assembly of First Nations as well as other leaders and academics have described the Indian Act as a form of apartheid law,” according to the University of British Columbia's Indigenous Foundations website.

The concept is based on the assumption that indigenous people are “‘children’ requiring control and direction to bring them into more ‘civilized’ colonial ways of life," it explains.

In 1969, then prime minister Pierre Trudeau tried to abolish the Indian Act and dismantle the Department of Indian Affairs.

While many indigenous people agreed that the act was problematic, the move wasn’t supported. The policy was “overwhelmingly rejected” by indigenous people who said that assimilating into mainstream society would not create meaningful equality.

 

Credit | Emma Paling | Huffington Post Canada

Mactaquac dam to be kept going until 2068, NB Power says

NB Power wants to maintain the Mactaquac dam for its intended lifespan, until 2068, at an expected cost of $2.9 billion to $3.6 billion.

The utility made the announcement Tuesday at the Mactaquac Generating Station, saying it took into consideration environmental, technical, social and cost factors.

With the generating station approaching a premature end of its life in 2030 because of continuing chemical reaction in its concrete, the Crown corporation has been exploring a variety of options.

Keeping the station going until 2068 will require a modified approach to maintenance of the dam and replacing equipment over time, NB Power said in its announcement.

NB Power said the option it chose for dealing with Mactaquac's problems came with the lowest cost estimate compared with other options under consideration.

In coming months, NB Power will seek environmental approvals from the province and follow application and review processes for financial approvals to be defined by the Energy and Utilities Board.

"We believe we have made a sound decision about Mactaquac that makes good business sense, meets the present and future needs of New Brunswick's changing power grid and reflects the values of New Brunswickers," said Ed Barrett, chair of NB Power's board of directors said a release. "As a public utility, we clearly understand that any course of action regarding Mactaquac has deep and lasting consequences."

Options considered by NB Power also included:

  • Building a new generating station on the opposite side of the St. John River
  • Leaving the dam in place but without power generation
  • Removing the dam and generation station and allow the river to return to its natural state

The option to repower the Mactaquac dam would involve building a new powerhouse and spillways on the Kingsclear side of the St. John River. (NB Power)

George Porter, NB Power's project director on the Mactaquac project, said previously that the maintenance option would have a shorter lifespan and lower cost than building a new generating station and dam that would be expected to operate for 100 years.

NB Power's debt stands at about $5 billion while the province's debt is forecast to hit $14 billion by the end of the 2016-17 fiscal year.

The existing dam has a capacity to generate 660 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to supply about 12 percent of the province's homes and businesses with electricity, says NB Power.

This was a preliminary rendering of the St. John River at Mactaquac if all structures were decommissioned and removed. (NB Power)

The utility has been given direction by the provincial government to have 40 per cent of its in-province electricity sales provided by renewable resources by 2020. It attained 42 percent of energy sales from renewable resources in 2015-16.

In information released throughout the public discussion about the Mactaquac options, NB Power said if the decision is made not to retain power-generating capacity at Mactaquac, it will have to replace the power from Mactaquac with renewable energy.

Other sources of renewable energy include biomass, biogas, solar, hydro, ocean and enhanced geothermal.

The option to maintain the headpond but not generate power would have involved constructing new concrete spillways on the Kingsclear side of the St. John River. (NB Power)

The Mactaquac dam opened in 1968 and was expected to be in operation for 100 years.

However, an alkali-aggregate chemical reaction in the dam's concrete caused the dam to expand over the years, reducing its expected life span to 62 years.

The building of the dam on the St. John River created a 96-kilometre long headpond above the dam, which has led to real estate development along its shores.

The headpond is also a popular fishing and boating venue.

 

Credit | Alan White, CBC News

Mi'gmag Chiefs of New Brunswick Reaffirm their Unity

The nine Mi'gmag Chiefs in New Brunswick gathered this week in Natoageneg (Eel Ground) to reaffirm their unanimous commitment to work together to protect and advance their Aboriginal and Treaty rights, the lands and waters of Mi'gmag Territory, and the well-being of the Mi'gmag People.

Chief George Ginnish of Eel Ground stated that the Chiefs met for a full day and had spoken of the vision of their ancestors and the need to continue to implement that vision, "In their wisdom, our ancestors looked forward and saw that our rights could be protected then, now, and far into the future, by entering into Treaties first with other Indigenous Peoples and later the French and British. They did that by working together in unity, as one People."

Chief Arren Sock of Elsipogtog said that the Chiefs had examined their collective past with great pride, "For thousands of years this place has nurtured us and provided for us. Our ancestors developed a complex society with laws, strong economies and healthy families. These realities of the Mi’gmag People were based on consensus and determination to work together. We must continue that cooperation and noble vision."

Elder Gordon LaBillois of Eel River Bar said, "I was proud and honoured to sit with the Chiefs in that circle and see their strong commitment to our People. I look forward to great success as we take our rightful place in Canada and New Brunswick.

The nine Mi'gmag Chiefs said that they were asking Premier Gallant to take up their offer to honour the Treaties, to uphold the constitution and law, and to work meaningfully for lasting benefit for all of New Brunswick. "By working together as Mi'gmag and reaching out to government and New Brunswickers we can change the status quo and make this a better, stronger and more diverse place."

Improving Government Consultation with First Nations

MONCTON – The Assembly of First Nations Chiefs in New Brunswick will continue to exist until the next fiscal year, says Mi’gmaq Chief George Ginnish.

Then, the Mi’gmaq chiefs will form their own group. This comes after New Brunswick’s Maliseet chiefs announced they would be forming their own representative body, leaving the Assembly.

“The Mi’gmaq First Nations have said it’s important for us to work together especially given the approach that government and business take in regards to the consultation,” Chief Ginnish said in an interview with Global News Monday.

Chief Ginnish stressed the split was peaceful, that it happened because of a difference of opinions, not out of malice.

“We still have an Atlantic Policy Congress that represents the entire Atlantic and we’ll work together with anybody that sees the benefit of doing that,” he said.

“As it is now, this group has decided that they’re better to represent themselves. That’s not an issue with us. We’re going to continue to work on behalf of our people to the best of our ability. That’s our responsibility.”

He said his disappointment lies with the provincial and federal governments, that they’re not completely adhering to their duty to consult aboriginal groups at a critical time.

Ginnish, chief of the Eel Ground First Nation, says his people have a right to be consulted and included in all discussions, including on major projects like the Energy East Pipeline and Sisson Brook Mine.

“This is not where we expected it would be. It’s not living up to the spirit of the agreement. We’ve had to do that with the previous two premiers and we’ll do that again with the current premier,” he said.

He said Mi’gmaq First Nations are not looking to stop all development but that their Aboriginal and Treaty Rights must be respected during the process.

In March, Premier Brian Gallant said at least one person in each government department would be trained on the duty to consult, which is the Crown’s obligation to consult aboriginal groups on decisions.

When asked, repeatedly, about progress, Global News received a statement from Ed Doherty, Minister Responsible for the Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat.

“Government will work with the First Nations community to look for opportunities in areas of partnership and co-operation,” it read. “We respect the heritage and culture of our First Nations community and our government remains committed to working with all First Nation Chiefs and councils.”

“One of our elders speaks to this. He says for too many years, we’ve stood by the side of the road and we’ve watched trucks drive by with our resources,” Ginnish said.

“We’ve had lip service from government saying we want to talk about revenue, resource-sharing, it’s important that First Nations be part of that. The talk has been great but it’s time to walk the talk now.”

 

Credit | GlobalNews.CA