Q. What is the Umbrella Agreement?
A. The Umbrella Agreement, signed in 2002, formalizes the commitment of Canada, Nova Scotia and the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia to work together in good faith to resolve mutual issues. It highlights three distinct elements of this relationship:
Q. What is the Made-in-Nova Scotia Process?
A. The Made-in-Nova Scotia Process has been established by the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia, and the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia as a means to negotiate outstanding issues of Aboriginal rights, including assertions of Aboriginal title and treaty rights. The process is called "Made-in-Nova Scotia" in recognition of the unique situation of the Mi'kmaq communities and the historic treaties in the province.
Q. What is the Framework Agreement?
A. The Framework Agreement sets out the process and the subjects to be discussed in full negotiations that fall broadly under the categories of land, resources and governance. It is intended to promote efficient, effective, orderly and timely negotiations towards a resolution respecting Mi'kmaq rights and title.
Q. Why are we negotiating now?
A. Over the past thirty years, courts in Nova Scotia and Canada have recognized the existence and validity of Aboriginal and treaty rights and have tried to clarify the nature and extent of these rights. Canadian courts have consistently encouraged governments and First Nations to approach questions of Aboriginal and treaty rights through negotiations rather than litigation. Such was the case in 1999 when the Supreme Court of Canada in the Donald Marshall Jr. case confirmed the existence of Mi'kmaq rights as outlined in the Treaties of 1760-61. The Supreme Court did not define how these rights were to be implemented, but instead encouraged the Parties to negotiate a resolution in a fair and equitable manner.
Q. Who are the parties to these negotiations?
A. These negotiations involve the Government of Canada (represented by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada), the Government of Nova Scotia (represented by the Office of Aboriginal Affairs) and the Mi'kmaq of Nova Scotia (represented by the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs).
Q. How much will negotiations cost?
A. It's too early in the process to estimate costs. We are looking for an agreement that is affordable, cost-effective and results in constructive and enduring solutions.
Q. How long will the negotiations take?
A. The Framework Agreement indicated that the parties would use best efforts to reach a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) within six years of signing the Framework Agreement, with an accord to follow within three years of an approved MOU. Complex negotiations such as these require patience and perspective. The Initial timelines were ambitious and it is now clear that reaching an accord will take longer. A four year review of the Framework Agreement has been completed and the parties are continuing to work toward an MOU.
Q. Will Nova Scotians be consulted on what is being discussed and what kind of say will they have?
A. Stakeholders and members of the general public will have opportunities to become informed and involved throughout the negotiation process. The views and interests of the public, stakeholder groups and organizations will help ensure that the broader public interest is understood and considered in resolving issues under negotiation. All parties recognize that public involvement is an important part of the process and they will be engaging in dialogue with interested people and organizations, both Mi'kmaq and non-Aboriginal.