New Brunswick

Maliseet chiefs open to accommodation talks on Sisson mine

It will take more than just money to compensate the Maliseet people for the loss of land to a proposed mining operation, says the lawyer representing the six Maliseet First Nations in accommodation discussions with the New Brunswick government.

Dominique Nouvet says 'money would not solve the problem' Maliseet chiefs have with proposed mine

Dominque Nouvet represents the six Maliseet First Nations of St. Mary's, Oromocto, Kingslcear, Woodstock, Tobique and Madawaska in their negotiations with the New Brunswick government about the Sisson mine project. (CBC)

It will take more than just money to compensate the Maliseet people for the loss of land to a proposed mining operation, says the lawyer representing the six Maliseet First Nations in accommodation discussions with the New Brunswick government.

Dominique Nouvet told Information MorningFredericton the Maliseet chiefs have been willing to explore accommodation measures for the proposed Sisson mine project, but the discussions have been on hold.

"Money would not solve the problem," said Nouvet.

"The chiefs have been very clear there needs to be other measures put in place to address the impact to the culture — non-monetary measures. This is not a question of figuring out what price it would take to get the consent of all six Maliseet communities."

A report on the Sisson proposal by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency found the impact of the mine on the First Nations of St. Mary's, Tobique, Woodstock and Kingclear would be "significant."

The mine would be located Crown land about 60 kilometres northwest of Fredericton that has been used by Maliseet for hunting, fishing and gathering resources.

Aboriginal title

"The Maliseet have peace and friendship treaties with the Crown. Those were treaties that do not surrender their Aboriginal title to the land," said Nouvet.

"So the Maliseet do assert Aboriginal title to the area where the Sisson project would be located."

The lawyer hired to speak for New Brunswick's Maliseet First Nations says the chiefs of five Maliseet First Nations are calling for the proposed Sisson mine project to be rejected because of its impact on Maliseet people. 9:16

Nouvet said the mine would "permanently destroy" 12.5 hectares of land in one of the few remaining blocks of Crown land in Maliseet territory.

"This problem is a really serious one given how little Crown land remains in the Maliseet territory," she said.

"Most of the land has been alienated and developed. There's very little of their territory, which they never surrendered, left."

Economic impact

The open pit mining operation for molybdenum and tungsten would include one of the world's largest tailings ponds to hold mining waste.

The proponents of the Sisson mine say it would create 500 jobs during construction and 300 jobs when in operation. It is expected to cost $579-million.

Their culture and their identity can not be compensated for by money or dollars.- Dominique Nouvet, lawyer for Maliseet First Nations

​Nouvet said the five Maliseet chiefs who have stated opposition to the mine — Woodstock First National Chief Tim Paul has not opposed it — are aware the mine would have an economic impact in the area, although she believes the economic impact would not be a great as stated by the proponents.

"Their culture and their identity can not be compensated for by money or dollars," said Nouvet.

"They want employment for their members, just as the New Brunswick government does. But we have to make choices as a society about which kind of projects are worth the risks and the costs.

"This one just comes at too high a cost for Maliseet culture."

The Sisson mine project would be located 60 kilometres north of Fredericton, near the surrounding communities of Stanley, Millville, Juniper and Napadogan. (Northcliff Resources Ltd.)
Nouvet said as Canadian law stands today, Aboriginal groups to not have a veto over projects until Aboriginal title is recognized in court or by the Crown.

If the federal government approves the Sisson project, Nouvet said if the Maliseet chiefs still want to stop it, they would have to initiate a legal claim for Aboriginal title to the land.

"An Aboriginal title claim would take many years to litigate and to make its way through the courts," said Nouvet.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton