Mi’kmaq Grand Council leader disapproves of proposed highway changes

By Ryan Cooke
Nov. 17, 2011

A Mi’kmaq leader has spoken out against the provincial government’s proposed plan to re-route the Trans Canada Highway through Strathgartney Provincial Park.
Keptin John Joe Sark, one of the foremost authorities of the Mi’kmaq people, says he sees no reason why the plan should go ahead.
He says if the funding is there for the proposed plan, they should be able to use that money to come up with an alternative solution.
“Sure as heck they have the money to do it. If they have money to go build a new road, they should have money to fix the road they have now.”
Sark also said he strongly disagrees with the decisions of P.E.I.’s Director of Aboriginal Affairs and Archaeology, Dr. Helen Kristmanson.
Kristmanson was consulted on the issue of possible aboriginal archaeological sites within the park, and concluded from computer models that there is no reason for concern, thus giving her approval of the proposal.
Sark, however, does not believe computer models are a good enough indicator.
“I don’t know how she could do that by a computer. All of Prince Edward Island was used by the Mi’kmaq people, and that would be a great place to fish, and to hunt ducks.”
He said the site should have been examined more thoroughly, as all potential sites should be.
“There should always be an archaeological investigation when building a highway, because who knows, there might be a burial ground.”
He says that with all the private land that has been cultivated on P.E.I., and the relaxed laws on reporting archaeological finds years ago, many sacred Mi’kmaq sites have potentially been disturbed.
Sark also says that aside from just aboriginal sites, many forested areas have been destroyed with the development of Prince Edward Island’s vast amount of privately owned land, which accounts for roughly 90 per cent of the province’s area.
This past July, a report issued by Global Forest Watch Canada revealed that P.E.I. has the lowest percentage of protected land in all of Canada, with just 2.6 per cent of the province reserved as green spaces – well below the national average of 10 per cent.
“Sooner or later, if P.E.I. grows, we’re not going to have too many green spaces left,” Sark says.
However, he believes Strathgartney does not need to meet a similar fate.
“Here’s a prime example where it’s not private land. The land was given to the province to keep it as a green area, a park, and that’s the way it should stay.”