Mi'kmaq beginning move towards self-governance on P.E.I.
'Ultimately it is having power and control of our destiny'
The first executive director of the Mi'kmaq initiative L'nuey says the ultimate goal is self-government for Mi'kmaq on P.E.I.
Consultation with the community in terms of self-determination started during a gathering in late September, said Jenene Wooldridge, who leads the rights-based initiative.
"We want to ensure that we are getting rid of any imbalances that exist between the Mi'kmaq and non-Mi'kmaq people of P.E.I.," she said.
More meetings will happen this fall, and she hopes to have a visioning document finished in a year from now, Wooldridge said.
"We are starting with a visioning process with the Mi'kmaq people of P.E.I. to ensure that we have clear direction on where they want to go in regards of self governance and self determination," she said.
Until now, people with the Mi'kmaq Confederacy were responsible for consultations and negotiations with government, but those have now been turned over to a new organization called L'nuey.
L'nuey means "of the people" or "belonging to the people."
Wooldridge said she likes to use the term "nation rebuilding" when she talks about moving toward self governance, because the nations already exist.
"It's just that we need to be able to come to the table at a level playing field when we are going into negotiations government to government to government," she said.
Although a major activity for L'nuey is self-government negotiations Wooldridge warns the steps to self-government will take time.
She said a Mi'kmaq rights organization in Nova Scotia has been working toward self determination for ten years.
Moving beyond the Indian Act
L'nuey also provides analysis on requests that come in on things such as sales of land, signage or construction on land with Mi'kmaq rights, Wooldridge said.
"It's researching each of those requests and ensuring that the indigenous rights are being protected," she said.
Wooldridge said about 300 of those requests came in the last year.
"It's researching each of those requests and ensuring the indigenous rights are being respected in regards to each of those consultation letters," Wooldridge said.
When it comes to self-determination Wooldridge said L'nuey is "moving beyond the Indian Act."
"Really, ultimately it is having power and control of our destiny," she said.
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With files from Island Morning