Mi’kmaw communities say they were not consulted about province’s plan
Alexandre Silberman · CBC News · Posted: Jul 05, 2023 6:00 AM EDT | Last Updated: July 5
CBC News: New Brunswick’s growing maple syrup industry will now have access to an additional 5,000 hectares of Crown land over the next five years, the first increase since 2015. The expansion comes after producers called on the province for access to more trees to keep up with demand for their products.
Frédérick Dion, president of the New Brunswick Maple Syrup Association, said the expansion will help the industry “get to another level” and continue growing. “It’s great news. It’ll help the current producers to add more taps to their existing business, and it’ll also allow new producers to get into the industry,” he said.
However, eight Mi’kmaw communities in New Brunswick, represented by Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Inc., known as MTI, said they were not consulted and were only notified about the expansion on Friday afternoon. “It appears they have already started making decisions regarding our rights without our input, blatantly ignoring the process,” the group said in a statement.
Producers currently have access to 14,000 hectares, which is less than one per cent of Crown lands in New Brunswick. The association has been asking the province for an additional 12,000 hectares to be made available over 10 years.
New Brunswick’s maple syrup industry is the third largest producer in the world, after Quebec and Vermont.
Locating maple concentrations
Natural Resources and Energy Development Minister Mike Holland said identifying the land for maple sugaring involved an extensive process over five years to locate concentrations of maples. “We looked and said, ‘what is the maximum available area,'” he said after the announcement at Briggs Maples in Hillsborough, near Moncton. Holland also said New Brunswick forests are in a “precarious position” for hardwood volume in the province, which was taken into consideration in the process.
A new Crown lands advisory board will also be looking at how the resources are allocated every five years, moving forward. “They won’t have to wait until a government decides it’s worthy to talk about. We now have predictability and regularity in the conversation,” Holland said, referring to maple producers. “The resource itself is what’ll determine where we can expand in the future.”
David Briggs, owner of Briggs Maples, said he hopes the expansion will help his business grow. “We’ve been waiting a long time for it and it’s a plus for the industry. Hopefully it’ll give us some more taps and some more maple syrup in New Brunswick and make it easier to access for people like me,” he said.
Dion said the industry wants additional Crown lands made available in five years, but the 5,000 hectares is a good start. “It’s right in line with what we were hoping for, we’d like to see a long-term commitment,” he said.
No consultation, Mi’kmaw chiefs say
The expanded Crown lands will be made available for existing and new maple producers through a request for proposal or an application form. New operations must have at least 5,000 taps and expansions are limited to less than 5,000. At Tuesday’s announcement, Holland said the determination of the land also included consultations with First Nations. He did not specify which groups or individuals the province involved.
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The Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn Inc. statement said there have been no discussions about whether the expanded areas for maple production will impact hunting grounds, “if these areas contain plants and medicines that are gathered by our community members,” or if there are “special or sacred sites where ceremonies are practiced” in these areas. “If our concerns are not meaningfully addressed, we may be left with little choice but to challenge the validity of these leases,” the group said.
Jason Hoyt, a spokesperson for the Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development, said in a statement consultation with First Nations formally began on Tuesday.
He said the process will be completed before any final decisions are made.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alexandre Silberman, Video journalist
Alexandre Silberman is a video journalist with CBC News based in Moncton. He has previously worked at CBC Fredericton, Power & Politics, and Marketplace. You can reach him by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org