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Legal counsel for Province under fire for arguments that defy rule of law & undermine spirit of reco

Nov 14, 2016

Millbrook First Nation – November 14, 2016

Sipeknekatik made an application for a Judicial Review arguing that the Crown failed in their duty to adequately consult  them before Alton Gas undertook their work on the Shubenacadie River in 2015.  This matter is set for a hearing on Monday November 14th, 2016 and Tuesday November 15th, 2016.

Recently, Chief Robert Gloade, of Millbrook First Nation,  whose community is also affected by the Alton Gas project, reviewed the brief submitted by Alex Cameron, Legal Counsel for the Crown on this matter. What he read in the submissions of Mr. Cameron troubled him. Not only did Mr. Cameron’s argument deny Treaty Rights of the Mi’kmaw,( which are not in issue in the matter before the court) he argued that the Mi’kmaw are a “conquered” people and as such are owed no duty of consultation when decisions of governments may affect Mi’kmaw rights and title.

FOR IMMEDATE RELEASE

 

Legal counsel for Province under fire for arguments that defy rule of law & undermine spirit of reconciliation.

 

Millbrook First Nation – November 14, 2016

Sipeknekatik made an application for a Judicial Review arguing that the Crown failed in their duty to adequately consult  them before Alton Gas undertook their work on the Shubenacadie River in 2015.  This matter is set for a hearing on Monday November 14th, 2016 and Tuesday November 15th, 2016.

Recently, Chief Robert Gloade, of Millbrook First Nation,  whose community is also affected by the Alton Gas project, reviewed the brief submitted by Alex Cameron, Legal Counsel for the Crown on this matter. What he read in the submissions of Mr. Cameron troubled him. Not only did Mr. Cameron’s argument deny Treaty Rights of the Mi’kmaw,( which are not in issue in the matter before the court) he argued that the Mi’kmaw are a “conquered” people and as such are owed no duty of consultation when decisions of governments may affect Mi’kmaw rights and title.

This is not the first time Mr. Cameron’s representation of the Province in a court of law has sparked controversy. In 2009, the Assembly of Nova Scotia Chiefs requested Mr. Cameron be removed from representing the Province on any case involving any Mi’kmaq issues. This stemmed from comments in a book Cameron penned in which he denies Mi’kmaw people are rights  holders, a position that stands in contrast to the  Canadian constitution and subsequent court cases, which have affirmed these rights.  Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw were concerned Mr. Cameron’s personal views were not in keeping with the rule of law and would taint any legal advice he would give to the Province. 

Perhaps most troubling however, is the inconsistency in the message from the Province, to the Mi’kmaw as whole. Each year, on October 1, the Province celebrates Treaty day with the Mi’kmaw, in recognition of the Treaties of Peace and Friendship. The Premier and members of his cabinet speak eloquently about the need for reconciliation and the hope for good and lasting relationships with our people.  The fact that the Province will allow arguments rooted in the denial of these Treaties, in the subjugation of our people to be advanced on its behalf by Mr. Cameron is deeply troubling.  

 The following statement was issued by Chief Gloade on Nov 10, 2016 in response:

 

We are left to wonder why Mr. Cameron, the Crown’s lawyer, felt it necessary to make arguments about the validity of our Treaties or our Sovereignty?  These issues were not put in play by Sipekne’katik  at all.  We know Mr. Cameron is well known for his anti-Mi'kmaw rhetoric and has been vocal in his belief that the highest court in the land was wrong about the R v. Marshall decision. He has refuted the decision repeatedly and his argument in this brief is a ploy to bait the judiciary to comment or rule on historical or legal issues pertaining to our rights that the Mi’kmaw have not put in play in this case, perhaps in an effort to undermine these rights.

Mr. Cameron, suggests that we are a “conquered” people. I’m not sure what history he has been taught. But Mr. Cameron implies that as such we are deserving of less from government. As conquered people, he suggests that we are owed less than good faith, less than the Honour the Crown is bound by in its conduct with aboriginal peoples.

But worse than this, Mr. Cameron’s arguments are racist. To suggest that we are “conquered” is a racist taunt. At its worst, it has been used against Indigenous Canadians to perpetuate or justify a state of inferior legal, social or socio economic conditions. We’ve all heard it: “Indians lost. You were conquered. History is history, too bad, get over it.”  Is this language  and sentiment permitted because Mr. Cameron makes such comments in defense of his client, while wearing Barrister’s robes? Is this the best the Crown can offer?  His position is a betrayal of the Province’s commitment to reconciliation. It is deeply problematic, historically wrong and is a poor substitute for the more difficult work of finding a way for us to reconcile Canada’s old origin story with the  truths that Indigenous Canadians have always known and have now shared, through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

In 2015, Premier Stephen McNeil attended the Marshall Symposium, hosted by the Tripartite Forum, in Membertou Nova Scotia. This forum examined the recommendations of the Inquiry into the Wrongful Conviction of Donald Marshall Jr, some 25 years before. In his opening remarks to the Symposium, Premier McNeil spoke to the “critical lessons” learned from the Marshall Inquiry about racism in the Justice system. He lauded the “increased awareness, a focus on cultural sensitivity and ongoing improvements to our justice system with regard to aboriginal issues.” It is true that the Province of Nova Scotia sits with the Mi’kmaw through various forums to negotiate and work collaboratively on issues of common concern.  How is it possible that the Province can come to the table to work with us, in the spirit of cooperation and reconciliation, yet still allow arguments about “conquered peoples”, without sovereignty, to be made on its behalf, in a court of law, in 2016? How does this further our common interests in reconciliation?

In 2009, Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs formally requested that Mr Cameron be prohibited from representing The Crown in Right of Nova Scotia in respect of all Mi'kmaq issues. This stemmed from fears that   Mr. Cameron’s personal bias against Mi’kmaw rights, evidenced in his book  “Power Without Law”, would taint this professional role with the province and permit him to continue to advocate his personal views within government, contrary to the ruling of the  Supreme Court's opinion in R v. Marshall.  I echo the concerns shared in 2009, and today, I call on Premier McNeill to uphold the rule of law and take steps to ensure continued relations with our people are respectful, consistent and done in the true spirit of reconciliation.

 

For more information, please contact Shelly Martin at 902-890-8106 or Chief Bob Gloade at 902-890-8558.

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