LETTER TO SIPEKNE’KATIK BAND MEMBERS
Date: January 25, 2016
From: Chief Rufus Copage
RE: Assembly of Nova Scotia Chiefs/KMKNO
Dear Band Members,
The Band has been put in a position of commenting on the attempt of Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office (“KMKNO”) to speak for the Band and to misrepresent certain facts in its January 22, 2016 release. The Band chooses to not accept the status quo that the Assembly and KMKNO seem to be content with.
In the January 22, 2016 press release, issued on Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn Negotiation Office (“KMKNO”) letterhead, the Assembly stated that “consultation began on this file” in 2014 during which time I “remained an active member of the Assembly”. Although I was an active member of the Assembly, I disagree with any assertion by KMKNO that any sort of meaningful consultation with Sipekne’katik regarding the Alton Natural Gas Project occurred or has occurred since.
KMKNO had been meeting with Alton Natural Gas as far back as 2006. My concern is that during this time, Sipekne’katik was not formally consulted or even notified nor informed with regard to this project. Through other sources outside KMKNO, the band did learn about the Alton Natural Gas project in 2014, and became very concerned about the impact this would have to our environment. In 2012, KMKNO directed Alton Natural Gas to deal directly with KMKNO, as opposed to all the Chiefs and Councils, on this file. Furthermore, KMKNO made a commitment to communicate with the Chiefs and Councils regarding the Alton Natural Gas project. KMKNO failed in this regard and failed to communicate with Sipekne’katik, even while Sipekne’katik was still a member of the Made in Nova Scotia Process/Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative. Overall, in our view with respect to this project, the KMKNO consultation process has failed Sipekne’katik and our Band members.
On March 5, 2013, Sipekne’katik withdrew from the Made in Nova Scotia Process/Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative. Withdrawing from the Made in Nova Scotia Process/ Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative was due to our concern that individual community members have no voice in the current Made in Nova Scotia/Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative consultation process. There is confusion on not only how and what KMKNO is consulting on, but what KMKNO is negotiating. A fully informed Nation collectively must ratify any agreement that impacts rights or title.
Mi’kmaq citizenship has not been defined, and Sipekne’katik has concerns of impact that KMKMO’s citizenship work will have on Mi’kmaq people that traditionally reside throughout our territories. Our territory is not limited to present day Nova Scotia. Conceivably, there may be people that should be at the table, and there may be people at the table that shouldn’t be in regards to negotiations and consultations. To forge ahead without answers to these fundamental questions is irresponsible.
Sipekne’katik’s decision to leave KMKNO also meant that I was removed from their board of directors. Since this time, the Band has been representing itself on all matters regarding consultation and has remained transparent with the Province of Nova Scotia and Canada including consistently lobbying for the need for additional funding to adequately provide consultation services for our band members. I am proud to say any band member can access any of our consultation files upon request.
KMKNO states that the Assembly has passed resolutions and has had ongoing discussions. What KMKNO failed to state is that I was not regularly notified of Assembly meetings. When I did attend, information was purposely removed from my Assembly information package meaning the Band did not have the same information as the other Chiefs. This is hardly conductive to in-depth discussions that KMKNO alludes to.
Resolutions were typically presented on the same day as voting took place, with no opportunity for the Band council or Band members to have any input. Assembly resolutions are not passed subject to ratification by individual Bands. Again, hardly indicative of in-depth discussions and deliberation on Constitutionally protected collective rights and title.
In KMKNO’s press release they suggested that Sipekne’katik has requested and received funding from the Province. The Band questions KMKNO’s motivation on this statement. KMKNO has claimed previously that it respects the autonomy of individual Bands. In my view KMKNO has made an exception in singling out and intermeddling with the internal affairs of Sipekne’katik. The Band has received funds but it pales in comparison to amounts KMKNO has received over the years from various levels of Government and industry. The Band would welcome KMKNO’s statement on what it has received in funding over the years from various sources.
Sipekne’katik has requested clarification on the difference between KMKNO and Assembly of Nova Scotia Chiefs. Sipekne’katik’s concern is the growing involvement of KMKNO in other organizations, and that there is a growing danger that other Mi’kmaq organizations are becoming redundant as KMKNO continues to expand beyond their mandate and purpose.
KMKMO’s press release stated that Sipekne’katik stopped talking to the Province of Nova Scotia. This statement is untrue, erroneous, defamatory, and irresponsible. Sipekne’katik has and continues to talk to the Province. In September 2015, Sipekne’katik decided to stop talking directly to the Proponent due to trust issues and concerns with the consultation process. Publishing untrue statements such as this demonstrates KMKNO’s opinion of the Band.
On January 21, 2016, Sipekne’katik withdrew from the Assembly after much deliberation. This was an unfortunate but necessary decision. Currently, this is the only way to ensure that Sipekne’katik represents itself in ensuring the protection of our member’s rights and title.
While the Province, Alton and KMKNO forge ahead in this project, one has to ask who will speak for this vital river system. For thousands of years it has been our highway, grocery store and pharmacy. It kept us fed and alive and we have the duty to ensure it is protected and respected. Companies and organizations come and go, yet the river remains as our connection to the past, present and future.
The Band’s does not want its limited consultation capacity to have any adverse impact on Band members’ rights and title. This is the reason why Sipekne’katik had proposed to have Alton Gas issue addressed in a formal referendum process. Simply put, the river is too important to exclude our Band membership.
Sipekne’katik has been seeking to create its own consultation process. This community based process will address our concerns with the existing provincial process, and to allow for individual Band members to have meaningful input. Members need to be involved, informed and included in any discussion concerning our rights and title.
We are committed to open communication, accountability and transparency, especially when dealing with our collective rights and title. We treat our obligation and duty to protect and preserve our rights and title with the utmost respect and seriousness.
If you have any questions regarding this feel free to contact me anytime.
Chief Rufus Copage
Phone: (902) 758-2049 ext. 222
Cell: (902) 805-0141 Email: email@example.com