Opinion: Lunenburg overlooks Indigenous consultation on Blockhouse Hill to detriment

In a CBC story after I made a few comments during the Town of Lunenburg’s “3-minute” public presentations to Town Council on Jan. 23, reporter, Haley Ryan wrote:

“Strachan said consultation with the Mi’kmaw community is needed, as well as more research into the Indigenous history around the hill which has been largely unexplored.

‘We should be the leaders in reconciliation. We are a colonized town – to their detriment,’ Strachan said.”

On a Town of Lunenburg Facebook post, I noticed a comment that was aimed at lumping all views of those who do not support development of Blockhouse Hill as being from “the peanut gallery,” with their opinions. So I copied the comments above in reply to that commenter.

The response I got was interesting.

“Sorry if I offended you Allison [sic], but isn’t most of Canada colonized. I get the reconciliation aspect, but should it be weaponized against the future of Blockhouse hill. Seems a little much to me. No insult intended, just a conversation”.

A former law professor of mine said, “Indigenous issues come into fashion as quickly as they go out”. That has played out in real-time for me since I left law school three decades ago. 

Yes, all of Canada is colonized but, we, as a Town hold ourselves out as the “best surviving example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America” without acknowledging how colonization occurred.

UNESCO stands for: “United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization”. Emphasis on “Educational” and “Cultural”.

Blockhouse Hill, in my opinion, may help on an educational and cultural level, how we all understand Indigenous use of the land prior to establishing the colony at Lunenburg.

We could be even better at fulfilling the educational and cultural component of the designation through an archaeological survey performed by Parks Canada and its partner on Mi’kmaw archaeological sites in the province, the Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative. This has been done in the Port Joli and Pictou Landing areas already.

Why Lunenburg? In 1991, the Town was named a Canadian National Historic Site and right now Blockhouse Hill is publicly owned by the residents of Lunenburg.

Because it is identified as an historic place, the current Standards and Guidelines For the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada, a document that was funded in part by our Province, suggests that it is a best practice to have Indigenous consultation whenever possible on property that is designated as a historic site.

Blockhouse Hill wasn’t always a tourist bureau atop a hill. The tourist bureau blockhouse replica hints at the original settlers’ use of the land; namely to keep Mi’kmaq and Acadians out of Town.

That site is more accurately described as a battlefield and it continued as such through privateer attacks. Attacks, incidentally, defended against with Mi’kmaq assistance as allies of the Town.

All because of the 1760 Peace and Friendship Treaty applicable to the Town.

In a recent opinion piece I wrote for the Macdonald Notebook, I said:

“The Supreme Court of Canada in awarding the fishing “right to a moderate livelihood” talked about the 1760 Lunenburg Peace and Friendship Treaty in the 1999 R. v. Marshall decision as being “part of an imperial peace strategy“. A strategy that exchanged peace and friendship for a truckhouse — a trading post for pelts, hunted, trapped, or fished goods for blankets, grain and even ammunition — for commerce between Mi’kmaq and settlers. 

Today, does anyone know what a truckhouse is or where the truckhouse was located? How many know there is a treaty that speaks specifically about Lunenburg? 

We’ve been aware of “development” since January 2023. The Town has not engaged in any consultation with Parks and its Mi’kmaq partner on the archaeological value of Blockhouse Hill land. I don’t believe it would cost the Town anything to do. The time that has passed and my comments to Council can hardly be explained away as weaponizing.

Who among us would not want Mi’kmaq or Acadian history learned from the land while we’re debating about the settlement’s expanding “future”? Who would not want Mi’kmaq students engaged in learning about the land their ancestors occupied for thousands of years before the settlement?

Using the terms “reconciliation” and “weaponizing” within 10 words of each other, instead feels to me, like an irrational response to considering the Standards and Guidelines For the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada that I advocate for. To say otherwise is not understanding how reconciliation works.

Strachan is a retired lawyer and Lunenburg resident with views of her own, including that the UNESCO Town of Lunenburg can (and should) be a leader when it comes to reconciliation.


One response to “Opinion: Lunenburg overlooks Indigenous consultation on Blockhouse Hill to detriment”

  1. Angelica Burwell

    Such an opportunity to lead by example.
    Don’t squander it, Lunenburg.

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