New Brunswickers turn to social media to defy provincial directive around Indigenous land titles

·2 min read
Ted Flemming is New Brunswick's attorney general. (Michel Corriveau/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Ted Flemming is New Brunswick's attorney general. (Michel Corriveau/Radio-Canada - image credit)

People across New Brunswick are taking to Twitter, Facebook and several other social media platforms to say they are on the unceded and unsurrendered territory of the Wolastoqiyik, Mi'kmaq or Peskotomuhkati.

It follows a directive in a memo by Attorney General Ted Flemming for provincial employees to stop acknowledging Indigenous land titles.

It's not just individuals. Various groups and organizations have heeded the call for proper land acknowledgement as well, including the New Brunswick Association of Social Workers, Community Forests International and CUPE New Brunswick.

Union prepared to file grievances

"It's our position that if any of our members are disciplined for the use of land acknowledgement that we will fight this as far as we need to, and we will be filing grievances and using any legal tools we may have to protect our members should they choose to use land acknowledgement," CUPE New Brunswick president Stephen Drost said on the new directive.

Drost also expressed concern about how the directive would impact Indigenous workers.

"To come out with such a statement and policy for public service workers, we just think it flies in the face of reconciliation," Drost said. "It's an insult and, at the very least, our members also should be protected by freedom of speech."

Facebook/CUPE 1418- Region 2-Saint John
Facebook/CUPE 1418- Region 2-Saint John

On Saturday, the New Brunswick RCMP also posted a statement of land acknowledgement.

In an interview, RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Hans Ouellette said he was unable to comment on whether the province or First Nations leaders had reached out to the force regarding the directive, but said the statement was intended to strengthen relations with First Nations.

"Here in our province … our Indigenous community engagement strategy obligates and empowers our employees here as federal public servants, and Canadians, to really play a role in really ensuring we are working toward an improved relationship with Indigenous peoples in Canada," Ouellette said.

Graydon Nicholas, the former lieutenant-governor of New Brunswick, said he is shocked by the directive.

"I still can't understand why they said what they did," Nicholas said.

He said land acknowledgement is a basic principle that acknowledges that Indigenous peoples were here before the arrival of Europeans.

Logan Perley/CBC
Logan Perley/CBC

He is encouraged by the show of support from the public.

"A lot of people are ridiculing the government ... because we're supposed to be in a time of trying to proceed in reconciliation with all that's happened in this country."

But he said the government, led by the premier, doesn't seem to understand. "I can't explain why their particular mindset does not accept that fact."

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