Nice to see Cape Breton municipalities talking

I have forwarded this note to the leadership of Cape Breton Island’s municipalities and First Nations.

It is encouraging to see discussions recently with respect to Cape Breton’s municipal and First Nation leaders calling for emergency COVID regulation to be established at the Canso Causeway as an interim measure of protecting and promoting the health and welfare of our island’s residents.

In support of their effort, I point out that our Cape Breton Island Autonomy Group has called for the formation of an island-wide commission to be comprised of representation from each of our local municipal and first nations communities; initially, as an emergency during the pandemic and subsequently on an ongoing basis.

The purpose of the CBI Commission would be to plan, strategize and implement island-wide self-governance, be it on a devolutionary basis or through a direct plebiscite and negotiation with Nova Scotia and Canada.

I call for leadership from our local government to have bold courage in initiating recognition and implementation of the powers that we already have within our resident governments on the island to effect this change of enhanced governance and policy decision making on an island-wide basis.

Under the Nova Scotia Municipalities Act, newly elect mayor Amanda McDougall does indeed have the power to regulate and to work with other CBI municipalities and agencies, including First Nations particularly during an emergency. She can indeed consider emergency regulations with respect to external parties entering CBRM at the Sydney airport, North Sydney CN marine terminal and our ports. Under Section 172, “Power to Make By-Laws,” Subsection (1) states: “A council may make by-laws, for municipal purposes, respecting (a) the health, wellbeing, safety and protection of persons.”

Of course, on the other end of our island at Port Hastings, Inverness County also has a similar power to establish a check-point on our side of the Causeway and establish relevant by-laws with regulations as a COVID emergency measure.

And, whereas newly elected Chief Annie Bernard of We’koqma’q First Nation is also interested in regulating external access to our island for protective measures against COVID, given a heightened vulnerability of the Unamaki people who have higher incidences of health issues. There is potential for Inverness to work with CBRM, as well as other CBI municipalities on this matter per Part X “Fire and Emergency Services.”

Note that in Section 293, the municipal role reads: “A municipality may maintain and provide fire and emergency services by providing the service, assisting others to provide the service, working with others to provide the service or a combination of means.” Furthermore with respect to mutual aid, Section 302 (1) reads: “A municipality may assist at fires, rescues or other emergencies occurring outside its boundaries. (2) A municipality may agree with municipalities, villages, fire protection districts, federal and provincial departments and agencies or others to provide assistance at fires, rescues and other emergencies and to receive assistance at fires, rescues and other emergencies.”

Mark Macneill