Bill Power Staff Reporter
An important hurdle in treaty talks with Nova Scotia's 13 Mi'kmaq chiefs and Ottawa - an agreement setting the stage for negotiations - will be cleared early in the new year, says Premier Rodney MacDonald.
"There's been an extensive amount of work in the last two to three years on this issue, but we're quite hopeful we will see a framework signed early in the new year," the premier told the 20th-anniversary Treaty Day ceremony Monday in Halifax.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Michael Baker said serious talks on a multitude of treaty issues can proceed once the framework is in place.
"We've had a great response from the First Nations communities. Some communities have yet to ratify but this is simply a matter of time. "Clearly there are issues the Mi'kmaq communities want to talk about. There are issues the Government of Nova Scotia wants to talk about and there are issues the Government of Canada wants to talk about. And all of these things connect together."
A framework agreement has been under discussion since 2003.
Among other things, it will outline how a so-called made-in-Nova Scotia negotiating process will be conducted and what will be discussed.
Millbrook Chief Lawrence Paul said the framework deal will open the door for important talks on health, housing, education and economic development.
He urged chiefs who have not signed to do so and allow the process to proceed.
"We need unanimous consent here. Everybody must sign or the made-in-Nova Scotia process is dead," he said.
Chief Paul said even after the framework is in place it will take about 10 years to negotiate a deal.
"There will be some hard-core negotiations, especially when we want some land back and especially when we want a percentage of natural resources profits."
Nova Scotia's 13 Mi'kmaq reserves have a population of about 8,676, says the office of aboriginal affairs.
Chief Paul said Mi'kmaq communities are exhausted responding to changing government policies and want something solid in place.
"We as leaders understand that education and economic development are going to be lifelines for our people in the future if we want to reach self-sufficiency."
Treaty Day began in 1986 with the signing of a proclamation by then-grand chief Donald Marshall Sr.
The day also marks the beginning of Mi'kmaq History Month in the province.( )