Understanding Indigenous Matters
The Province of Prince Edward Island (the Province) is committed to advancing reconciliation with the Mi’kmaq of Prince Edward Island (Mi’kmaq of PEI), in a manner consistent with Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
Reconciliation and other measures
What is “reconciliation”?
Reconciliation refers to the reconciliation of pre-existing Indigenous societies with the sovereignty of the Crown. In practice, this means reconciling Indigenous interests, which are protected under Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, with the broader interests of Canadian society.
What measures are involved in the pursuit of “reconciliation”?
Reconciliation can take many forms. Historically, treaties have provided a method of reconciling Indigenous interests and practices with the broader public interest. However, treaties are not the only method of reconciliation. Processes that support mutual understanding and dialogue, and arrangements that allow for the exercise of Aboriginal and treaty rights within the broader Canadian regulatory framework, are all examples of reconciliation.
What is a treaty?
Treaties are constitutionally protected agreements, which set out how Indigenous peoples can exercise their Aboriginal and treaty rights, and how governments and Indigenous organizations will work together. Treaties provide greater certainty for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples and help to provide specificity and clarity regarding Aboriginal rights.
What Aboriginal rights or treaties apply on Prince Edward Island?
The Mi'kmaq of PEI assert Aboriginal and treaty rights on Prince Edward Island, including Aboriginal title to all of Prince Edward Island. The strength, content and scope of these claims are often unclear given PEI's long and unique history. These claims can be resolved through negotiation or litigation. Until such time, the Province has an obligation to consult with the Mi'kmaq of PEI when its actions or decisions could impact an asserted right.
The Province believes negotiation of these claims can provide greater certainty for all Islanders and allow for the Province and the Mi'kmaq of PEI to work in a collaborative manner for mutual benefit. Negotiation also avoids lengthy and costly litigation and promotes reconciliation.
What is the Province doing to advance reconciliation?
The Province is working together with Canada and the Mi’kmaq of PEI on steps to further reconciliation. These steps are aimed at negotiating an "Accord" to resolve Mi'kmaq of PEI asserted Aboriginal and treaty rights. The Accord will provide constitutional protections under Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 similar to a modern treaty. The Province is also working with the Mi'kmaq of PEI to develop non-treaty measures to protect Aboriginal rights and promote greater self-determination and socio-economic advancement for the Mi'kmaq of PEI.
Why is it important?
The Province is required, under the Constitution Act, 1982, to negotiate claims for Aboriginal and treaty rights in pursuit of reconciliation. This obligation is for a process of negotiation and does not require a particular outcome. The Province represents all Islanders, and has an interest in improving socio-economic conditions for Islanders, including for the Mi'kmaq of PEI. By participating in a trilateral process with Canada and the Mi'kmaq of PEI, the Province hopes to fulfill its legal obligations, while working to advance the interests of all Islanders.
What are the costs?
The Province is providing funding to the Mi'kmaq of PEI to support their participation in the negotiation process.
The costs of a future Accord and non-treaty measures are not yet known. These costs may be borne by the Province and Canada.
Accord Negotiation Process
There are four stages to the Accord negotiation process, as follows:
- Stage 1: Negotiation of a Framework Agreement
- The Government of Canada, the Province of Prince Edward Island and the Mi'kmaq of PEI have completed this stage which lays the groundwork for Stage 2.
- Stage 2: Negotiation of An Agreement In Principle
- Stage 3: Negotiation to Finalize the Accord
- Stage 4: Implementation of the Accord
How long does it take?
The time to negotiate an Accord will depend on the matters being negotiated and the preferences and actions of the parties. Constitutionally-protected Aboriginal rights agreements are typically hundreds of pages in length, covering dozens of subjects. It is common for negotiations to exceed ten years.
Who is involved?
The Province, the Government of Canada, and L'nuey, representing the Mi'kmaq of PEI, are involved in negotiations.
What is the role of the Province?
The Province represents the interests of all Islanders, including those of the Mi’kmaq of PEI. The Province seeks to advance meaningful and lasting reconciliation while promoting the interests of all Islanders.
An Accord will have implications for all Islanders, including the Mi'kmaq of PEI.
What are the implications of an Accord for Mi'kmaq of PEI?
An Accord could replace Indian Act-imposed band governments with a to-be-developed government authority, which represents all citizens of a Nation.
An Accord could define who is eligible for membership in the Nation. This process would be led by the Mi'kmaq of PEI themselves.
An Accord may include elements of self-government and program delivery for the Mi'kmaq of PEI, and provide greater certainty on the exercise of rights-based activities and practices.
All citizens of a First Nation can vote on accepting an Accord.
What are the implications of an Accord for Islanders?
An Accord may provide greater certainty for all Islanders. Matters such as the Mi'kmaq of PEI's asserted Aboriginal title and the exercise of asserted Aboriginal and treaty rights, including fishing rights, can be addressed and formalized, reducing present uncertainty.
An Accord may also provide socio-economic benefits to the Mi’kmaq of PEI and positive socio-economic externalities for all Islanders.