Nova Scotia

Cape Breton First Nation to pursue land claim for nearby village

The newly elected chief of the Wek'oqm'ak First Nation said the band council will actively pursue a long-standing claim to land that is now home to the neighbouring village of Whycocomagh in Cape Breton.

We'koqma'q says the village of Whycocomagh is on land taken from the band in the 1800s

Annie Bernard-Daisley was elected chief of the We'koqma'q First Nation in October. (Brent Kelloway/CBC)

The newly elected chief of the We'koqma'q First Nation in Cape Breton said the band council will actively pursue a long-standing claim to land that is now home to the neighbouring village of Whycocomagh.

Annie Bernard-Daisley said the land claim was the top issue at the community's first public meeting Wednesday evening since she took over as chief in October.

The land has been a source of contention for many years, she told CBC Radio's Information Morning Cape Breton.

"Everybody knows in this local area, our land when we first settled onto reserve land back in the 1800s, the best pieces of our land were squatted on by squatters, and it was now called the village of Whycocomagh."

Bernard-Daisley said the band's lawyer attended the meeting to update community members.

She said the federal government has been stalling since the file was opened in 1982, in particular by changing negotiators four times from 2014 to 2016.

The land claim, which centres around the village of Whycocomagh, was the top issue during a recent meeting of the We'koqma'q First Nation, says Chief Annie Bernard-Daisley. (Robert Short/CBC)

A federal status report on land claims shows the We'koqma'q claim seeking "the return of reserve lands, most of which were alienated around 1862" was filed in October 2008 and Canada offered to negotiate in July 2017.

Negotiations are "active," according to the report, which is posted on the Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada website.

Bernard-Daisley said the band is seeking money and title to the land.

"We're looking for a really good healthy settlement," said the chief. "And not to surrender our land. It's still our land. We're not going to surrender it, no way."

Bernard-Daisley said the band also plans to launch its own moderate livelihood fishery, following the lead of several other First Nations across Nova Scotia.

She said that likely won't happen in 2020, given delays in ordering the moderate livelihood tags and developing a plan.

"But next season, we'll be ready," said Bernard-Daisley. "Our boats are going out there."

With files from Information Morning Cape Breton