CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - A new agreement between the province, federal government and P.E.I.’s Mi’kmaq community is an important first step on the path to reconciliation, says Chief Matilda Ramjattan.
Ramjattan, who is chief of Lennox Island First Nation, was one of several representatives who signed the tripartite framework agreement at Founders’ Hall on Tuesday.
She said it was an important step in resolving outstanding Mi’kmaq treaty and Aboriginal rights issues in P.E.I.
“This agreement commits all our respective governments – the Mi’kmaq, Canada and Prince Edward Island – to respectful and co-operative negotiation process,” said Ramjattan. “While this framework represents a beginning, it is an extremely important beginning that respects Mik’maq.
“After many years of advocating for a co-operative government-to-government-to-government process, I’m very pleased.”
The framework was also signed by Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, Premier Wade MacLauchlan and Abegweit Mi’kmaw First Nation councillor Jacob Jadis.
With speakers describing the event as a positive and historic day, the tone was in stark contrast to some of the relations between the province and Mi’kmaq community in recent years, most notably the still ongoing legal battle over the 2017 sale of Mill River Resort.
MacLauchlan, who is also the province’s minister responsible for Aboriginal affairs, said the framework was a commitment to working together for a promising future, as well as provide a formal platform for achieving, implementing and ensuring Aboriginal rights.
It will also outline subject matters and areas of importance for the Mi’kmaq, establish a process to facilitate efficient and timely discussions and reaffirm parties’ commitment to a process for reconciling and respecting Aboriginal and treaty rights.
“This framework agreement is a major milestone in our province’s history,” said MacLauchlan. “We’re all proud and excited to be at this stage.”
Using the metaphor of a house, Bennett said the framework is not only the “foundation” but also the scaffolding that will hold future relations together.
“It’s the scaffolding that holds every piece of work we do together. It makes sure every piece of work that we do is based on respect, co-operation and a partnership,” said Bennett, adding that the new agreement would leave behind “colonial tendencies or actualities.”
Ramjattan said the framework was previously signed by P.E.I.’s Mi’kmaq community in August by former chief and now Senator Brian Francis.
“The fact the former chief has since been appointed to the Senate of Canada … it’s another reflection of the renewed relationship of our respective governments,” she said.