Confronting New Brunswick’s shameful history with First Nations communities…yesterday

Confronting New Brunswick’s shameful history with First Nations communities…yesterday

New Brunswick — As the march of history continues onward, we, as a province, must acknowledge our past mistakes if we are to ever fulfill our goal of becoming a more tolerant, united community.

This is why this brief article recalls a notorious event in our history, in an effort to both expose our past misdeed and to heal as we move forward.

On Tuesday, April 13, 2021 — a day that continues to live in infamy — the province unceremoniously announced that it would be ending a longstanding tax-sharing agreement with 13 First Nations groups that kept millions of dollars within their local communities.

This was done without informing or consulting with First Nations chiefs or representatives, despite the fact that they would be severely affected by the decision.

This action was taken, as you might remember from your history books, while the province was under the rule of premier Blaine Higgs, who today is remembered primarily for his close business ties and anti-democratic behaviour during his tenure.

In the ensuing hours, the announcement has been canonized and even mythologized within the New Brunswick historical discourse, as can be seen in the following etching, made around that time, entitled “Higgs’ Last Stand.”

Historians say that it is important to understand the context in which this took place.

“This, of course, happened during an era in which indigenous people were not treated humanely,” said Canadian history professor Dr. Stephen Balmer. “They were omitted from most conversations surrounding their political future, they were plagued by numerous unfair fishing practices…it really was a shameful time.”

He reiterated that these adverse conditions created a considerable power imbalance, which allowed the white settlers to use their economic and political weight to disregard the opinions of First Nations groups.

“The thing we have to understand is that it was a very different time,” he continued, checking his watch. “Um…16 hours ago. We’ve grown a great deal since those…uh, day. We know better. And when you know better, you do better.”

He stopped a moment to reconsider this.

“Except, of course, when you don’t.” 

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