There are competing visions of the territory of Gespe’gewa’gi that are held by the three negotiating parties, the Mi’gmaq, Canada, and Quebec. Yet, guiding the Mi’gmaq is our goal to “uphold, affirm and assert Mi’gmaq rights and title on Gespe’gewa’gi.”
How will this be accomplished? For the most part, by following the guidance and philosophy in the Niganita’suatas’gl Ilsutagan (NI).
What is the NI Agreement? What does the NI call for? How will the three parties work together?
Below you will find answers to these questions that highlight the Gespe’gewa’gi Mi’gmaq approach to negotiations.
The Gigto’qi Niqan’pugultijig (“Circle of Leaders”) brings the leaders of the three negotiating nations together. This circle is a forum for exchange, reflection and dialogue designed to better understand interests and, where possible, to work out differences through discussion.
The Gigto’qi Niqan’pultijig is comprised of the three Mi’gmaq Chiefs (of Gespeg, Gesgapegiag, and Listuguj, respectively), a nominee of the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), and a nominee of the Ministre responsible des Affairs Intergouvernementales Canadiennes of Québec.
The individuals who form Gigto’qi Niqan’pugultigig plan to meet at least once a year. Their first meeting occurred August 28, 2009, in Gespeg.
The circle’s mandates are to:
- assess the progress of the work of the Mgnigng (see below), as well as the effectiveness of the process,
- try to resolve, through the sharing of views, any issues that have not been resolved in the Mgnigng,
- provide direction to the Mgnigng.
The Mgnigng (“Circle of Officials”) is the primary negotiating team. Its main mandate is to ensure the development of a comprehensive Mi’gmawei Mawiomi negotiations strategy based on approved legal, research, and communications components. Further, the Mgnigng is to ensure that the negotiations process “shall be a unique reflection of the Mi’gmaq worldview of Gespe’gewa’gi.”
The Mgnigng is comprised of the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi Nutewistoq (meaning “speaker), his/her assistant, representatives of Canada and Québec, and other persons as they deem appropriate. Thus far, legal counsel has been added to the Mgnigng Circle.
The Mgnigng is charged with identifying common issues and interests and working on addressing these in a timely manner.
To accomplish this, the Mgnigng’s mandaates are to:
- develop work plans including identifying priorities,
- establish side-tables, either bipartite or tripartite, on specific issues (including exploring interim measures to take care of immediate concerns, and getting any resources required to do this),
- develop a Framework Agreement (FA), which will outline the topics that the three parties will discuss in future negotiations.
The Mgnigng agreed to meet at least six times a year. To date, the Mgnigng has been meeting monthly since this circle was first organized.
Megite’taqann ~ a Principle-based Approach to Negotiations
The Mi’gmaq negotiating team (Mi’gmaq Mgnigng) has a mandate from the leadership to ensure that the negotiations process “shall be a unique reflection of the Mi’gmaq worldview of Gespe’gewa’gi.”
So, one of the first actions taken by Mi’gmaq Mgnigng was to draft and get consensus for a Mi’gmaq approach to negotiations that will lead the parties forward. In Mi’gmaq, this principle-based approach is called megite’taqann. Megite’taqann, translated, means “what we honour or hold in esteem.”
To develop the principle-based approach, the Mi’gmaq Mgnigng went to the best of advisors ~ the Elders from the three communities of the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi. Through their input, seven guiding principles were set out.
These principles were approved by the leadership and received assent by the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi in the fall of 2008 (two months after the NI was signed).
Megite’taqann focuses on mutual respect, trust, and reconciliation, which form the core of Mi’gmaq beliefs.
The principles that will guide the Gespe’gewa’gi claims process and negotiations are:
- Nenmgl (acknowledgement)
- Mawqatmu’ti’gw (co-existence)
- Gepmite’taqan (respect)
- Apajigisagutultimg (reconciliation)
- Tetapu’nasgwa’tatultimg (sharing)
- Ta’n Telipgwatu’g (responsibility)
- Ulo’gnitew (Mi’gmaq communal well-being)
Because the leadership of the Mi’gmawei Mawiomi has approved the principles, the Mi’gmaq Mgnigng now has the ability and the permission to move forward with its work based upon them.
The Niganita’suatas’gl Ilsutagan (NI), and the discussions that led to its creation, have established a solid foundation for negotiations based on Mi’gmaq values, beliefs, and traditions. The responsibilities of the two negotiating circles – the Gigto’qi Niqan’pultijig (Circle of Leaders) and the Mgnigng (Circle of Officials) – are stated clearly in the NI agreement.
The circles have already begun their work. The Gespe’gewa’gi claims process and negotiations is being guided by those principles expressed in megite’taqann.
Read the entire text of the Niganita’suatas’gl Ilsutagan (NI).