New Brunswick

Mount Carleton snowmobile plan remains secret after meeting

The details of a meeting among three First Nations chiefs and the province's tourism minister over plans for development at Mount Carleton Provincial Park remain secret, as a June court date for a judicial review of the proposal approaches.

Tourism Minister Bill Fraser meets with chiefs of 3 Maliseet First Nations

The provincial and federal governments announced 343 kilometres of new trails for northwestern New Brunswick in July. (CBC)

The details of a meeting among three First Nations chiefs and the tourism minister about plans for development at Mount Carleton Provincial Park remain secret, as a June court date for a judicial review of the proposal approaches.

The meeting, which occurred April 18 in Fredericton, involved the chiefs of the Kingsclear, Oromocto and Tobique First Nations and Tourism Minister Bill Fraser.

Tourism Minister Bill Fraser met with the chiefs of Tobique, Kingsclear and Oromocto First Nations about the government plan to create snowmobile trails in Mount Carleton Park. (CBC)
It was about a government announcement last July that the province will invest in a snowmobile grooming hub and open 343 kilometres of trails to snowmobiles in what its website calls the "pristine wilderness" of Mount Carleton Park.

Two parties opposed to the development — Maliseet Grand Council Chief Ron Tremblay and Jean-Louis Deveau, co-founder of The Friends of Carleton Park group and a former park manager — filed for a judicial review of the plans at the Court of Queens Bench in Moncton.

Deveau argues the government's plans reach beyond its authority, go against its own rules found in the Parks Act,  ignore Maliseet treaty rights in an area considered traditional land, and that no environmental assessment was done about the effects of the changes.

Tremblay and Deveau say they were not aware of the meeting.

Ron Tremblay, the grand chief of Wolastoq Grand Council, has filed for a judicial review of the government's plan to create snowmobiles in Mount Carleton Park. (CBC)
Jason Hoyt, communications officer for Fraser, told CBC News in an email that it was "a private meeting and out of respect for the consultation process minister Fraser cannot comment at this time."

None of the chiefs who attended the meeting responded to inquiries. 

Both Tremblay and Deveau expressed their concern that work will resume on the snowmobile hub before the June court date. They declined further comment on advice of their lawyer.

In an affidavit, Deveau writes that Kouchibouguac National Park has cut the number of snowmobile trails to five kilometres from 25 kilometres because of "significant damage" to park ecosystems. 

'Government has things completely backwards'

NDP Leader Dominic Cardy said Mount Carleton is intended to be a wilderness park.

"This provincial government has things completely backwards," said Cardy.

"There are two trail machines that sat idle in Mount Carleton all winter because the government signed deals with the refueling stations. They signed the deal, put the resources in place and then didn't actually do it, just stopped.

"We don't know why they stopped, just that we are waiting for the environmental report that should have been done before any decision was made."

Roberta Clowater, the executive director of Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, said she is also keeping an eye on the dispute. 

Roberta Clowater, the executive director of the New Brunswick chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, is to meet with Fraser about the Mount Carleton Park snowmobile plan. (CBC)
Clowater said she spoke with Andrew Foster, the director of operations at Tourism and Parks, in November.

"He told me an environmental report was being done, and that it should be ready in February," she said.

On hearing about the meeting, she contacted the department who replied they now want to set up a meeting this week for her with the minister and an environmental consultant.

Susan Mulherin, the president of The Friends of Mount Carleton Park, said her group received an email from Fraser's office to set up a meeting with her group.

Mulherin said the email stated the department had recently met with First Nations to share the findings of an archaeology study and an environmental study, and also provided updates on other efforts planned for the coming year.

The judicial review is slated for June 7 in Moncton.

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