Some members of the 67 families who continue the fight with Parks Canada over expropriation are shown in Kouchibouguac National Park in New Brunswick on Wednesday, May 19, 2021. Their sign in French reads, “Together for Justice.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kevin Bissett

Some members of the 67 families who continue the fight with Parks Canada over expropriation are shown in Kouchibouguac National Park in New Brunswick on Wednesday, May 19, 2021. Their sign in French reads, “Together for Justice.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Kevin Bissett

Families vow to continue land battle in New Brunswick’s Kouchibouguac National Park

In the eyes of the federal government, the land is not anybody’s home but public land

A group of 50 people gathered last week on a grassy area overlooking the Fontaine River on New Brunswick’s east coast to share memories and erect a teepee. Their answer for why they were there was simple: “This is home,” they said, one after another.

In the eyes of the federal government, however, the land is not anybody’s home but public land in the heart of a national park. Most of the people gathered Wednesday were children or teenagers when their families’ houses and properties were expropriated in the early 1970s to create Kouchibouguac National Park.

Magella Cormier was a young adult when the order to move came, and she has vivid memories of life before expropriation. “It was like heaven,” 75-year-old said as tears streamed down her face. “You can’t forget a place like this, you just can’t.”

Cormier was a member of the group that gathered last Wednesday to install the teepee as a symbolic show of support for members of the Vautour family, who have remained on the land for decades in an effort to fight the expropriation.

The 228 families who lived in the area in the 1970s were some of the poorest people in the province and couldn’t afford to hire lawyers for a fight in the courts. Many received as little as $4,000 in compensation.

Frank Cormier, 72, said that while the families didn’t have much money, they also didn’t have mortgages to worry about, and they could rely on the riches of the land and waters around them. “We lived off the land, lobster, quahogs, clams, fish, and we had a good life,” he said. “When the park came here, it made a mess.”

Cormier said he lived in the area until the age of 17, and after expropriation, families were scattered and he lost contact with his childhood friends. “It was sad,” he said. Cormier’s family lost their house and 97 acres of land.

One man, Jackie Vautour, famously resisted the expropriation, remaining on the spot where the teepee was recently raised alongside a couple of trailers and some sheds. Vautour claimed his family and others were Métis-Acadian and had a right to stay. It was a battle he would fight until his death in February at age 92.

Since he died, Parks Canada has sought to have the family leave in letters written to Vautour’s wife Yvonne and to a non-profit organization, Elders Without Borders, that is representing the family. The group describes itself as being dedicated to preserving the teachings of Indigenous elders.

As well, Stephen Augustine, a hereditary chief of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council, is keeping the issue before the courts with the claim the land is unceded and unsurrendered Mi’kmaq territory. Augustine gave his permission for Vautour and his family to stay on the land.

Vautour’s son Edmond has vowed to continue the fight for the property and plans to live there with his mother and brother, Rocky, this summer. “If we don’t have land and rights, we don’t exist. After 50 years nothing was settled yet,” Vautour said Wednesday.

“We will keep on as we did before. We live our normal life. We garden and go fishing just like we used to.”

But in its letters, Parks Canada says it is time for the family to vacate the land. Parks Canada did not make anyone available for an interview for this story, but officials referred to a statement posted on their website May 17.

The statement notes that after a 1981 special inquiry on Kouchibouguac National Park, “there was a recommendation that although it was acknowledged that Mr. John (Jackie) Vautour was not abiding by the court order at the time, that Parks Canada could allow his presence on the land in the national park, provided he stayed within the law in other respects and did not use the site as a base for action against the park.”

The statement adds, “With Mr. Vautour’s passing, Parks Canada is bringing his occupancy within the park to a respectful and peaceful close.” It said it has offered to help Yvonne Vautour remove all items from the property and has “respectfully requested that within a reasonable period of time the occupation be brought to a conclusion.”

But Edmond Vautour says he’ll continue the fight, and there are another 66 families who remain committed to getting their land back as part of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council’s legal action.Many members of those families attended the brief gathering last Wednesday to support each other and share stories of the past.

“I don’t want any money, I just want my rights as an Aboriginal,” Maurice Robichaud said. He was 12 years old at the time of the expropriation in 1972. Robichaud said his grandfather was retired at the time and had a nice home, but after expropriation he moved into a trailer behind his daughter’s house.

“The older people here were broke. They couldn’t hire lawyers,” he said. “We are fighting for them.”

For Magella Cormier, the pain of having to leave the property with family still hurts 50 years later. “It’s still home. It belongs to us,” she said. “I hope we can go back there.”

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

protest

Just Posted

Four golfers from Fairview Mountain Golf Club in Oliver will golf from sunrise to sunset to raise funds for ALS on June 29. (Submitted)
Golfing from sunrise to sunset in Oliver for ALS

Four golfers from Fairview Mountain Golf Club have taken up the challenge June 29

The Journey, an art exhibit by Pauline Hurley, was on display at the Summerland Ats Centre earlier this spring. Beginning June 15, the Summerland Community Arts Council will present Spark, a 10-week community arts challenge. (Summerland Review file photo)
Challenge to spark creativity among Summerland artists

Spark challenge will begin June 15 and will run 10 weeks

A storm watch has been issued for the Okanagan, Kootenays and Columbia regions of B.C. (Calvin Dickson photo)
Another severe thunderstorm watch issued for the Okanagan

Conditions are favourable for thunderstorms that may produce strong wind gusts, hail and heavy rain

The South Okanagan Tim Hortons raised over $4,000 through the three day orange doughnut promotion with 100 per cent of proceeds going to to the Residential School Survivors Society. The owner of these locations matched the amount. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
South Okanagan Tim Hortons raises over $8K for residential school survivors

More than $4,000 worth of doughnuts were purchased over three days

Bentley resting on a bench at Kal Park in Vernon not knowing there is a baby rattlesnake curled up below. Bentley jumped down and was bit by the snake. (Facebook)
Dog bit by baby rattler at popular Vernon park

The rattlesnake was hidden underneath a park bench when it struck out

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials watching U.K.’s Delta variant struggles, ‘may need to slow’ restart plan

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Jann Arden will embark on Canada-wide tour Spring 2022 with a stop in Penticton at the South Okanagan Events Centre on June 13. (Contributed)
Jann Arden schedules Okanagan stop on 2022 Canada-wide tour

The Jann Arden Live! tour has been rescheduled for 2022

A fire deliberately set in a washroom facility in Vernon’s transit terminal could cost the city around $25,000 to repair. (City of Vernon)
Burned-out bathroom could cost Vernon $25K

Despite changes made by city, vandalism on the rise at transit loop loos

Cody Bandsma practises kiting with his new paraglider wing at Blackburn Park in Salmon Arm on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
VIDEO: Cody Bandsma reaching new heights over the Shuswap

Former 100 Mile resident discovers Salmon Arm by air with powered paraglider

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

A young child has been taken to hospital after being struck by a vehicle on 30th Avenue in Vernon Friday, June 11, 2021. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
Investigation ongoing after child struck by vehicle downtown Vernon

A young child was taken to hospital Friday with undetermined injuries

Most Read