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Speaking Notes for the Honourable Chuck Strahl on the settlement of a specific claim with Madawaska Maliseet First Nation

by NationTalk on April 23, 2008508 Views

Speaking Notes for the Honourable Chuck Strahl, PC, MP Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and
Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians
on the settlement of a specific claim with Madawaska Maliseet First Nation
Madawaska Maliseet First Nation, New Brunswick
April 23, 2008

Check against delivery

Thank you for that kind introduction and for the warm welcome to Madawaska Maliseet First Nation. Let me say it’s a real pleasure and an honour for me to be a part of today’s celebration.The agreement that we are celebrating today is certainly an historic milestone.

It has taken many years of hard work and patient negotiation between the First Nation and the government. I want to congratulate the negotiators and their teams, Rick Hatchette with the Madawaska First Nation and Martin Sampson for Canada, for their dedication and commitment to reaching a fair and balanced agreement. Through your efforts you have achieved something of lasting benefit to this community, and you should be very proud of your work.

I am also happy to have this opportunity to express my appreciation to former Chief John Wallace. Chief Wallace, I know that you have been involved in this claim from the first day. The settlement we are celebrating today is due in large part to your effort and dedication. I want to thank you personally for that. And to the members of the Madawaska Maliseet community, through ratification of this agreement you have indicated your support and approval of this tremendous achievement.

This agreement is a shining example of what can be achieved by working in partnership, with the determination and the good will of all parties bringing strength to the process.

Under the agreement your First Nation receives $5.7 million in compensation, including negotiation costs, and three parcels of land will be confirmed as reserve lands. The agreement also includes an easement that allows the pipeline to cross First Nation land.

On that note, I would like to take a moment to recognize Fraser Papers and the Canadian Pacific Railway, for their work in facilitating this settlement. By bringing together all these parties, together we have resolved these longstanding issues.

I understand the bulk of the settlement funds will be invested in economic development projects. I think this is a great idea. I have seen what First Nations can accomplish through these types of efforts, and I really think you are making a wise decision – these will be long term investments for your entire community. I truly believe economic development is vitally important, not only for your community, but for surrounding communities and all of Canada.

Chief Joanna Bernard agrees. She believes that the fostering of economic opportunities is the best way to strengthen Madawaska Maliseet First Nation. As you probably know—Chief Bernard is a nationally certified economic-development officer who’s worked for the band in that capacity for more than a decade, and she also serves on the Assembly of First Nations’ committee devoted to economic development.

Now I understand that there are some exciting projects under discussion. These are examples of innovative thinking that will create jobs, attract investment and lead to additional opportunities.

To develop and operate successful businesses requires multiple partners. Settling specific claims such as this one helps First Nations like yourselves attract the partners needed to grow and to fulfill your long-term plans.

There are countless benefits to settled claims – they provide justice for First Nations, fairness and certainty for all Canadians, and are an important means of achieving economic and social progress.

Here in New Brunswick you’re already realizing these sorts of benefits. Four specific claims were settled in New Brunswick in the last fiscal year, which is a great achievement in the Atlantic Region. But we need to do more.

And our Conservative government is committed to doing lots more for Aboriginal peoples in other important areas too.

- Just last week we introduced a new clean drinking water action plan. When we took office there were 193 high risk water systems on reserves… that number is down to 85;
- We are moving forward with Matrimonial Real Property rights legislation to protect women and children when relationships go bad;
- and we are working hard to deliver full access to the Canadian Human Rights Act to all people living on-reserve.

A key priority of ours is why we are today – tackling specific claims. That is why last year, Prime Minister Harper announced the Specific Claims Action Plan, a new approach to resolving specific claims – one that will ensure impartiality and fairness, greater transparency, faster processing, and better access to mediation.

The first part of the plan is Bill C-30, legislation to establish an independent specific claims tribunal that is currently before Parliament. This is an important piece of legislation that was co-drafted by the Assembly of First Nations… and I echo the sentiments of National Chief Phil Fontaine on this… he says that this bill “represents a tremendous collaborative effort” and we need to “seize this important opportunity.”

Bill C-30 is the product of a spirit of genuine, productive collaboration between the Government of Canada and the AFN.

Today, here in Madawaska Maliseet First Nation – that spirit is alive and well. We are celebrating an agreement that benefits all Canadians; an agreement that shows how committed negotiation helps us move forward and prepare for a brighter future.

Thank you.

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