New Brunswick

Mi'kmaq group working to turn former RCI site into reserve land

Several New Brunswick Mi'kmaq communities are working to make a 90 hectare site near Sackville part of Fort Folly First Nation reserve land.

If successful, the 90-hectare property near Sackville will become part of Fort Folly First Nation

No decision has been made about what will happen there, but Tracy Anne Cloud said the plan is to use the site as a commercial development while respecting the surrounding environment. (Tori Weldon/CBC)

Several New Brunswick Mi'kmaq communities are working to make a 90-hectare site near Sackville part of the Fort Folly First Nation reserve.

The site is the former home of Radio Canada International's short-wave transmission site, but before that it was important land to Mi'kmaq people across the region.

Tracy Anne Cloud, director of trilateral negotiations with Mi'gmawe'l Tplu'taqnn said the area is the only land bridge for moose to pass between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and is a place where plants important to Mi'kmaq people grow.

The transmission site was put up for sale in 2012, but without a buyer, the towers that lit the marsh sky for 67 years were taken down. In 2017 the land was purchased by Mi'gmawe'l Tplu'taqnn, a group of New Brunswick Mi'kmaq First Nations with plans to create an economic generator for the non-profit group.

Cloud said the land is being converted to reserve land to increase Fort Folly First Nation's land base. (Submitted)

 The project is being led by Chief Rebecca Knockwood of Fort Folly First Nations, a Mi'kmaq band near Dorchester, and a member of Mi'gmawe'l Tplu'taqnn.

Cloud said the group is still deciding how it will develop the land, but an important step in the process is converting the area to reserve land.

"That certainly is one area where we've identified as a key and major interest is to increase the land base, and whether it be for economic or cultural purposes … we need land."

Cloud said without it, "we can't exercise our treaty rights and without our rights and without our culture to practise, we aren't who we are."

According to Cloud, the group is working on the addition to reserve process.

"As part as that process, lead by Indigenous Services Canada, one of the requirements is to contact local municipalities, the provincial government,  RCMP and the other indigenous communities in the provinces."

Jamie Burke, director of corporate affairs with the town of Sackville confirmed a request for comments on the proposal was received. The town's mayor, John Higham wrote a response on Dec. 14, 2018.

The transmission site was put up for sale in 2012, but without a buyer, the towers were taken down. In 2017 the land was purchased by Mi'gmawe'l Tplu'taqnn, a group of New Brunswick Mi'kmaq First Nations. (Google Street View)

He wrote that it is difficult to comment on any strengths or challenges that might come with the proposal, because there are few details known about the group's plans for the land.

But Higham added, "we do look forward to working with Fort Folly within a 'good neighbour' approach, where mutual good will, good faith, and reasonableness can shape our future and frame our cooperation on shared obligations and goals."

In the letter Higham asked that communications continue and offered advice and assistance, "whatever the proposal include."

Cloud said having the land added to Fort Folly First Nation is expected to take about two years. By that time, she said chiefs from the bands that make up Mi'gmawe'l Tplu'taqnn should have a better idea of what they intend to put on the site.