The Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Indigenous Services, has just concluded a trip to seven First Nations communities in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The first multiple-stop trip since before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A key priority throughout the trip was visiting health centres to acknowledge health care staff for their unwavering commitment throughout the pandemic on behalf of Canada. They stepped up to keep their community members safe and are the true heroes in Indigenous communities across the country. In addition to visiting with health care workers in each community, Minister Miller attended a vaccination clinic in Eskasoni First Nation and commended participants for making the choice to protect their loved ones and reduce the spread of COVID-19.
During his trip, Minister Miller made two announcements in Membertou First Nation. The first focused on the Indigenous Community Business Fund, specifically $1.5 million for Membertou First Nation businesses and over $13 million for community businesses in the Atlantic region impacted by the pandemic. With members from the Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey Board of Directors, Minister Miller, on behalf of Canadian Heritage, also highlighted federal funding for the reclamation, revitalization, maintenance and strengthening of Indigenous languages and cultures for Mi’kmaq First Nations by announcing that, starting in the 2021-2022 fiscal year, Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey will act as the third-party administrator of the Indigenous Languages Cultures Program on behalf of the Province of Nova Scotia.
Throughout discussions with Chiefs and councils, the theme of economic development, post-pandemic recovery and building the Indigenous workforce remained front and centre. A number of projects were highlighted, including the Cultural Journeys tour around Goat Island in Eskasoni-a nationally recognized Mi’kmaw cultural experience. Minister Miller also drove through the very successful Webster Farms, owned and operated by Annapolis Valley First Nation, during the height of strawberry season! He was lucky enough to be able to pick a few raspberries while walking through the field. While in the community, he also sat down to have a lunch meeting with Chief Gerald Toney and council to discuss their economic and treaty priorities.
Following a short drive down the road to Glooscap First Nation, in addition to meeting with Chief Sidney Peters and council and expressing his appreciation to health care staff, Minister Miller also visited Glooscap Landing, a growing hub of economic development in the region.
Minister Miller was accompanied by Chief Michael Sack of Sipekne’katik First Nation for a tour of the former Shubenacadie Indian Residential School site and surrounding areas, which operated from 1929 to 1967. Parks Canada recognized this location as a national historic site in 2020. Since the recent discoveries in Kamloops, British Columbia, First Nations communities in the region have held a number of commemorative events to recognize the horrors of the residential school system, raise awareness throughout the province, and honour the children and survivors. This included 12-year-old Landyn Toney’s Walk for Awareness, where he personally walked 200 kilometres from his home in Valley, Nova Scotia, to his home community in Annapolis Valley First Nation, which has raised over $50,000 to date. Minister Miller had the opportunity to meet with Landyn and his mom and personally thanked him for his remarkable efforts.
Minister Miller then travelled to Millbrook First Nation to meet with Chief Robert Gloade and council. During this visit, he toured the community, met with health centre staff and toured the Millbrook Power Centre, a significant economic driver in the province, which showcases Millbrook businesses.
While meeting with the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq (CMM), Minister Miller announced $1.1 million in support of the Confederacy’s Mi’kmawey Green Communities Program and their work to further develop greener, more sustainable waste management systems in their eight member communities.
Dr. Donald Julien, Executive Director of CMM and honorary lieutenant colonel in Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, provided Minister Miller with a tour of the future site of the Mi’kmawey Debert Cultural Centre. This project will ensure the long-term care and protection of the Debert Palaeo-Indian Site, one of the earliest known ancestral places in North America, which has located Mi’kmaw artifacts that date back 13,500 years. It was designated as a national historical site by Parks Canada in 1972, an important step in reclaiming and recognizing the true history of the Mi’kmaw in the area.
Minister Miller concluded his Atlantic visit in Natoaganeg (Eel Ground) First Nation in New Brunswick, where funding for the construction and operation of a new shelter was highlighted. Chief George Ginnish expressed the significance of the project to the community, stating “Natoaganeg First Nation is honoured to have been selected to receive one of 12 new shelters across Canada for Indigenous women, children and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people escaping family violence. These centres will provide critical refuge and culturally appropriate supports to help survivors of family violence.” Minister Miller also met with Roger Augustine, Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief for New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, and other members from council and the community.
True to form, the Mi’kmaw of Atlantic Canada provided Minister Miller with a warm welcome and frank discussions on topics including economic development and recovery, housing, and mental health, and he looks forward to future opportunities to visit additional Indigenous communities throughout the region.
“Chiefs and councils in Atlantic Canada have done an amazing job responding to the pandemic and protecting their community members. With this trip, I wanted to personally commend the leadership and the health care teams across the region for their extraordinary efforts and contribution to this success. I am certain that leadership will continue to fight to ensure that their communities continue to thrive as restrictions are lifted. I appreciate being welcomed into communities while respecting local public health restrictions in order to have the chance to meet with Elders, survivors, Chiefs, councils and community members in person. Being able to build these relationships by working together and fostering an open dialogue is an essential component to my role, which will help me, and the Government of Canada, understand the needs and priorities of Indigenous communities in the Atlantic region.”
The Honourable Marc Miller
Minister of Indigenous Services
Minister Miller visited seven First Nation communities in Atlantic Canada: Membertou, Eskasoni, Annapolis Valley, Glooscap, Sipekne’katik, Millbrook and Eel Ground.
Natoaganeg (Eel Ground) First Nation reclaimed their Mi’gmaw name in April 2021; a move that Indigenous Sevices Canada was pleased to support.
Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey is a self-governing education authority that has delivered services to 12 First Nation communities in Nova Scotia for more than 20 years.