New Brunswickers turn to social media to defy provincial directive around Indigenous land titles
'I still can't understand why they said what they did,' says former lieutenant-governor
People across New Brunswick are taking to Twitter, Facebook and several other social media platforms to say they are on the unceded and unsurrendered territory of the Wolastoqiyik, Mi'kmaq or Peskotomuhkati.
It follows a directive in a memo by Attorney General Ted Flemming for provincial employees to stop acknowledging Indigenous land titles.
Say it loud:<br><br>I would like to acknowledge that the lands on which New Brunswick is situated are the unceded and unsurrendered territories of the Wǝlastǝkewiyik/Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet), Mi’kmaq/Mi’kmaw and Peskotomuhkati (Passamaquoddy).<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/landback?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#landback</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/endsystemicracism?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#endsystemicracism</a> <a href="https://t.co/kkvubp72f5">pic.twitter.com/kkvubp72f5</a>—@WolastoqeyNNB
Seems like a good day for us to acknowledge that the Garden is situated on the unceded and unsurrendered territories of the Wǝlastǝkewiyik/Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet). <br><br>Actually, any day is a good day to acknowledge that.—@FredBotGarden
I acknowledge that I am on the unceded and unsurrendered lands of the Wolastoqey, Mi'gmaw, and Peskotomuhkati peoples of so-called "<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NewBrunswick?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NewBrunswick</a>" I look forward to the day when we live up to our obligations and promises set forth in the Peace and Friendship Treaties. <a href="https://t.co/obr3TeXTzH">pic.twitter.com/obr3TeXTzH</a>—@The_KingBee
Please acknowledge the land as unceded and unsurrendered in every speech. Listen carefully at events, meetings, gatherings, etc. (beyond the frilly words that mean nothing). Thank you for passing this info on. 💛 We should all remain aware. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/newbrunswick?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#newbrunswick</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/unceded?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#unceded</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/unsurrendered?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#unsurrendered</a> <a href="https://t.co/1NL5Tw1Fgm">pic.twitter.com/1NL5Tw1Fgm</a>—@lissyirl
It's not just individuals. Various groups and organizations have heeded the call for proper land acknowledgement as well, including the New Brunswick Association of Social Workers, Community Forests International and CUPE New Brunswick.
Union prepared to file grievances
"It's our position that if any of our members are disciplined for the use of land acknowledgement that we will fight this as far as we need to, and we will be filing grievances and using any legal tools we may have to protect our members should they choose to use land acknowledgement," CUPE New Brunswick president Stephen Drost said on the new directive.
Drost also expressed concern about how the directive would impact Indigenous workers.
"To come out with such a statement and policy for public service workers, we just think it flies in the face of reconciliation," Drost said. "It's an insult and, at the very least, our members also should be protected by freedom of speech."
On Saturday, the New Brunswick RCMP also posted a statement of land acknowledgement.
In an interview, RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Hans Ouellette said he was unable to comment on whether the province or First Nations leaders had reached out to the force regarding the directive, but said the statement was intended to strengthen relations with First Nations.
The existence of RCMP in this colonial project we call “Canada” is antithetical to Indigenous sovereignty & liberation <br><br>Resigning from your fake jobs does more good for humanity than anything anyone in your organization has ever done since its violent inception <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AbolishTheRCMP?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AbolishTheRCMP</a>—@VictorSzymanski
"Here in our province … our Indigenous community engagement strategy obligates and empowers our employees here as federal public servants, and Canadians, to really play a role in really ensuring we are working toward an improved relationship with Indigenous peoples in Canada," Ouellette said.
Graydon Nicholas, the former lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick, said he is shocked by the directive.
"I still can't understand why they said what they did," Nicholas said.
He said land acknowledgement is a basic principle that acknowledges that Indigenous peoples were here before the arrival of Europeans.
He is encouraged by the show of support from the public.
"A lot of people are ridiculing the government ... because we're supposed to be in a time of trying to proceed in reconciliation with all that's happened in this country."
But he said the government, led by the premier, doesn't seem to understand. "I can't explain why their particular mindset does not accept that fact."
With files from Hadeel Ibrahim, Aidan Cox