Nova Scotia

Stephen McNeil to apologize to Mi'kmaq for 'unconquered' people law brief

A group of Mi'kmaq chiefs will get an apology from Nova Scotia's premier Thursday for a government legal brief that implied members of a First Nation band are a conquered people.

'That brief didn't reflect who I am, doesn't reflect the belief of my government,' says premier

Premier Stephen McNeil says the legal brief that implied members of a First Nation band are a conquered people gets in the way of the progress the province has made in its relationships with First Nation communities across Nova Scotia. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

A group of Mi'kmaq chiefs will get an apology from Nova Scotia's premier Thursday for a government legal brief that implied members of a First Nation band are a conquered people.

"I will extend my apologies," Stephen McNeil said Wednesday ahead of a scheduled meeting Thursday at the Nova Scotia Archives.

"That brief didn't reflect who I am, doesn't reflect the belief of my government, and I certainly will express that to them."

McNeil had already distanced himself last week from the brief, after accusations the government had set back relations with First Nations people.

The brief said the Crown's obligation to consult extended only to "unconquered people," and that a band's submission to the Crown in 1760 negated its claim of sovereignty and negated government's constitutional duty to consult.

The Indian Brook band argued the province had a duty to consult it on Alton Gas's plan to store natural gas in salt caverns near the Shubenacadie River. The brief was presented as part of the government's case in an appeal of its approval of the Alton plan.

Treaties to be put on display

McNeil has said he believes the brief went too far and that the government's intent in court was to show that it had consulted on the project.

During Thursday's meeting, the provincial archives will put the original documents associated with the early peace and friendship treaties between the Mi'kmaq and the Crown on display to be photographed and videotaped.

McNeil said that was the plan all along, although the symbolism will stand out even more given the controversy.

"To have this kind of thing happen, which is unnecessary ... gets in the way of actually continuing to make the progress that we've made with communities across the province," he said.

The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs, which will be represented at Thursday's meeting, did not return a call seeking comment.

McNeil, who said he didn't see the brief before it was presented in court, said he is frustrated at how things turned out and he will convey that to the chiefs.

"The Supreme Court [of Canada] has settled this. We have a duty to consult and they have rights associated with their treaties," he said.

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