The Town of Sackville has been asked to welcome a new neighbour after learning that the Fort Folly First Nation near Dorchester is requesting the creation of an Indigenous Reserve on the former CBC transmitter property near Aulac.
Councillors were told at their meeting on December 3rd that the new, 308 acre/124 hectare Reserve would be used for unspecified commercial development.
“Commercial development could be a number of things from retail, power generation, etc.,” said town manager Jamie Burke who was outlining the contents of a letter from a federal official with Indigenous Services Canada in Amherst.
The letter asks the town for any comments it may have about the proposed new Reserve and encourages local officials to take “a good neighbour approach” in dealing with First Nations.
“There is no clear understanding of what they wish to do with the land at this point,” Mayor Higham told council. “They just wish to get it into a Reserve status and then consider what those options might be,” he added.
A non-profit Mi’kmaq organization named Mi’gmawe’l Tplu’taqnn purchased the land from the CBC in 2017 for $50,000 and now the Fort Folly First Nation is seeking federal approval to operate it as a Reserve.
“We’re having somebody move into our neighbourhood,” said Councillor Bill Evans. “In terms of friendliness, I welcome this.”
But he added that the town isn’t in a position to say much more.
“As long as implicit in that welcoming statement, there isn’t a commitment to do anything other than interact in good faith, I’m all for it,” Evans said, adding, “but that’s all we’re really in a position to say right now, is it not?”
Mayor Higham, who operates a consulting business that serves First Nations clients, said if the land does become a Reserve, its development would not be subject to the provisions of New Brunswick’s planning laws.
“It has a different form of development opportunity and responsibility,” Higham said.
“Some of the services that they will probably need may have to come from us, particularly for emergency response, fire etc.” Higham noted. He added that the new Reserve may also need water and sewer services.
“The mayor said that typically in cases such as this, there would be a municipal services agreement negotiated between the town and the First Nation.
Meantime, the federal letter is asking the town for its comments on the proposed Reserve by February 1st.
So far, my calls to the Fort Folly First Nation have not been returned.