The New Brunswick government has ordered its employees to cease making territorial or title acknowledgments in reference to Indigenous territory.
The order was included in a memo issued Thursday to all government employees by N.B. Justice Minister Hugh Flemming.
“As you may be aware, the Government of New Brunswick (GNB) is currently involved in a number of legal actions which have been initiated by certain First Nations against the province, including a claim to ownership and title to over 60% of the Province,” Justice Minister Hugh Flemming said in a memo released to CBC News .
“As a result of this litigation,” the memo said, “legal counsel for GNB (Government of New Brunswick) and the Office of the Attorney General has advised that GNB employees may not make or issue territorial or title acknowledgments.”
Employees will be allowed to make reference to ancestral territory but cannot use the terms “unceded” or “unsurrendered,” the memo said.
The six chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation in the province issued a statement today expressing their disappointment with the new policy.
“Now in response to this, the province seeks to further trample our rights and erase us from the history of this province,” the chiefs wrote. “We have unceded Aboriginal title in the province of New Brunswick,” they added. “That is a historical fact that the provincial government is simply going to have to come to terms with as representatives of the Crown here in New Brunswick.” The chiefs said Premier Blaine Higgs has shown disrespect for First Nations people.
The chiefs of the nine Mi’kmaq communities in New Brunswick equally expressed a negative response: “The contents of that memo are extremely concerning to us and represent a new low in our relationship with the province,” they wrote.
“It is hard to see how a government directive to employees to avoid taking even that bare minimum step has us moving forward on a path of reconciliation and partnership,” they wrote.
Green party Leader David Coon has called for the policy to be revoked. “It’s just another stick in the eye for Indigenous people throughout New Brunswick,” he said in an interview Friday. “Acknowledging that the Wolastoqey, Mi’kmaq and Peskotomuhkati peoples never surrendered or ceded their lands to the Crown is to state a historical fact. It is the truth,” Coon said. “The attorney general’s memo is ordering public employees to be complicit in this government’s sophistry. It is repugnant.”