Maliseet First Nations 'dismayed' by Sisson Mine approval
New Brunswick needed to accommodate aboriginal rights before approving EIA, says lawyer
A lawyer representing the six Maliseet First Nations in New Brunswick says the communities are "dismayed" to hear the province has issued environmental impact assessment approval to the Sisson Mine project before concluding aboriginal accommodation discussions with them.
"It was sudden and in our view, it was premature," said Dominique Nouvet in an interview on Information Morning Fredericton on Wednesday.
"Honestly, based on this sudden and premature approval of the EIA, I don't think that right now New Brunswick understands what is required.Under its duty to accommodate and consult First Nations when the government contemplates actions or decisions that may affect aboriginal or treaty rights," she said.
"My sense, based on Sisson, is that they are not grappling with the bigger picture and the bigger reality that New Brunswick is subject to aboriginal title claims from the Maliseet, from the Mi'kmaq.
I don't think this province is grappling at all with the reality of aboriginal title claims in the province.- Dominique Nouvet
"I don't think this province is grappling at all with the reality of aboriginal title claims in the province."
On Dec. 3, the environment department announced it had given environmental impact assessment approval for the Sisson Mine project, subject to 40 conditions.
Northcliff Resources said it will cost $579 million to build the open-pit molybdenum and tungsten mine on 12.5. sq. km of land north of Fredericton near Napadogan.
"This mine is in Maliseet territory," said Nouvet. "As far as I know, no Maliseet community supports it."
Nouvet represents the six Maliseet First Nations of St. Mary's, Oromocto, Kingsclear, Woodstock, Tobique and Madawaska in their accommodations negotiations with the New Brunswick government.
She has also worked directly for St. Mary's First Nation since 2012, and said it has not had any direct negotiations or agreement with Northcliff about the proposed mine project.
"We were in the middle of those negotiations and suddenly the approval came," she said. "Those negotiations should have concluded before the province gave its main approval for the mine."
Nouvet indicated if the mine proceeds without aboriginal treaty rights being accommodated, litigation by the Maliseets is likely to follow.
"At that point the fate of the mine becomes very much uncertain," said Nouvet.
Green Party Leader David Coon agreed with Nouvet's assessment.
"Clearly, this and past governments have yet to take the issue of land title, for one thing, seriously," said Coon. "And secondly, have not taken the issue of consultation and accommodation seriously."
Energy Minister Donald Arseneault said the Liberals have consulted extensively with First Nations and will continue to do so.
"Since the first day of taking office, we have consulted with the First Nations. We continue to consult with First Nations and we will continue to consult with First Nations," said Arseneault.
"We have major energy and mines projects … that we're looking hopefully to see the light of day, but we can't make those projects happen if we don't include the First Nations."