Closed meeting between NB chiefs and Minister of Energy cut short
The Assembly of First Nations Chiefs of New Brunswick called the police to prevent First Nations people from entering the conference room, while meeting with Minister of Energy Craig Leonard earlier today at a hotel in downtown Fredericton.
Three natives from St. Mary’s First Nation said they wanted to remain in the room to observe and listen to what the minister and the Assembly said.
While police were on their way, Leonard and the ministry’s staff left the meeting, because Leonard didn’t want anyone to be arrested. Shortly after, two police officers arrived at the hotel. The whole incident was peaceful.
The meeting was scheduled at the second day of the chief’s assembly, which coincides with the country-wide discussion about First Nations treaties, and the province-wide discussion about energy projects, including shale gas exploration and an oil pipeline which will transfer oil from the West.
The energy minister attended to meet with the chiefs and present the government plans, before scheduling a series of visits to each community.
At this stage, the chiefs are collecting information about resource development in the province.
St. Mary’s First Nation chief Candice Paul was the only of fifteen chiefs who refused to go inside the meeting, if observers were not allowed.
“I don’t want to stay, if the meeting is not open to grassroots people,” Paul said, while waiting outside, “We need open and transparent meetings.”
On behalf of the Assembly, it was clarified that St. Mary’s First Nation had decided not to join as a member of the Assembly.
The Assembly currently represents fourteen out of fifteen communities in New Brunswick, but Paul was allowed to participate as an observer. The meeting was at the time in-camera.
Also, underway are the new tripartite agreements for the framework of cooperation between First Nations, the provincial government and the federal government, which chiefs have not signed, yet at least. These agreements touch on aboriginal treaty rights and self-government and are carefully considered by First Nations in New Brunswick.
The Premier David Alward has expressed interest in meeting with the chiefs, possibly even tomorrow.
The Assembly meeting is ongoing.