Membertou: Trailblazers in the Atlantic
Known for its economic self-sufficiency, Membertou is now looking to write its own legislation to define citizenship and land use
Membertou, located in Nova Scotia, hired a full-time governance coordinator and doubled the size of its governance committee to better reflect the community as a whole. The First Nation has established processes to engage its citizens throughout the journey to self-governance.
Membertou’s impressive economic growth and self-sufficiency over the past 15 years has underlined the limitations of the Indian Act in defining citizens and restricting development due to regulations on land use.
The community asked NCFNG to facilitate workshops to increase their knowledge of effective governance practices. Membertou was very interested in moving beyond the Indian Act to develop their own citizenship code and define land allocation and use for themselves.
The Centre conducted a series of well-received workshops in the summer and fall of 2009 on citizenship code development and citizenship engagement. Although additional workshops were planned, Membertou realized that they should first consult the community on issues of citizenship and land management before moving ahead.
The community’s actions resulted in the following outcomes:
- hiring a full-time governance coordinator,
- doubling the size of the governance committee to ensure it truly reflects the community,
- identifying key principles, including the importance of community involvement, the need for culturally relevant laws, the inherent right to develop these laws, and the importance of commitment,
- developing a work plan for the committee, and
- holding community engagement sessions.
Membertou has made great strides, showing exemplary commitment, organization, discipline and dedication to community engagement. They began the next series of workshops in October 2010, and the community believes that it will soon be ready to develop and draft their own citizenship codes and laws.
Throughout the process, Membertou is committed to engaging its citizens and strengthening the community as a whole. As Chief Terrance Paul has said, the key to achieving this is “believing in your people and keeping them on board. Include your people in the visioning process for your Nation. If you have your community working as a team, it makes success a lot easier to achieve.”