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May 16, 2002 Halifax Herald

Truro, stop sulking over Millbrook's success

FIRST, I want to take a moment to congratulate Sobey's Empire Theatres for deciding to locate an entertainment complex in Millbrook's Power Centre.

It was an excellent business decision that will prove beneficial to both parties. Ditto for the owners of the proposed Super 8 Motel and other businesses that have already located at the site. Their participation in helping Millbrook establish a much needed viable economic base is most appreciated. Hats off to them!

Now, for the opponents of such assistance: If anything over the ages has been consistent when it comes to the shabby treatment of First Nations peoples across this country, it has been the negative attitude shown towards their aspirations by those who benefit most from having them in close proximity to their communities. Truro is no exception - its relationship with our people has been mostly take and little give. And, without exaggeration, the economic take for the town has been very substantial - on an annual basis it runs into millions of dollars. In fact, many of the town's businesses and professionals owe their survival to purchases made by consumers from Millbrook, Indian Brook, and to a lesser extent Pictou Landing and Afton.

I have no way at this time of estimating a reliable number of jobs created for the townsfolk from this trade, but I would venture to guess that it numbers in the hundreds.

Are the townspeople grateful? If I were to respond, based on the experience of the discrimination I faced in the town during my youth, I would have to say no.

But today, I have no way of knowing, because I haven't lived there for decades. (However, I will presume that most have now adopted more enlightened attitudes towards peoples of colour and would be more open to helping them overcome the legacy of poverty that was the terrible gift to them from a racist Canada.)

However, based on press reports, Truro Mayor Bill Mills and councillors aren't happy. In a piece he wrote for this paper April 30, entitled "Native band, Empire reach theatre deal, $4.2m, 7-screen centre planned for Millbrook" Steve Proctor reports:

"Truro Mayor Bill Mills said he was surprised and disappointed by the announcement. The town had been negotiating with Empire since November, and councillors hoped a new theatre in the heart of the town would revitalize the downtown area.

'It's somewhat of a blow,' he said. 'I'd like to see some of the things the band promised to get (Empire) out there.' Mr. Mills said it's hard to compete for development because the band is not constrained by the same development regulations that exist in the rest of the province."

When I read Mayor Mills' words, I found a great lump of sympathy for the plight of the town grow in my chest.

How could my band council be so mean and so selfish and corner for us a few enterprises at the expense of the town? I asked myself. Didn't they know that by the right of past deference to non-Mi'kmaq communities at our expense that Truro deserved 100 per cent of enterprises coming to the area? I even caught myself sobbing and shedding tears profusely over this great "injustice."

Lord help us, the town got Wal-Mart over Millbrook's best efforts, so I guess the band didn't have too many mysterious perks to offer as enticements - I wonder what Truro offered? The main reason that businesses are setting up in the Power Centre is location and parking. Apparently, the fact that a store located at the Centre can stay open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year isn't much of an enticement. If it were, Wal-Mart, or some other department store, would already be located there.

Then, of course, there is the reality of who will reap the benefit of employment with enterprises located at the Centre. Although some jobs will go to reserve residents, a great many will go to people living in Truro and surrounding areas. One would think that the town would be grateful for these spinoffs.

I think it's time for the mayor and councillors to lighten up and begin to count their blessings. The Mi'kmaq from surrounding communities have gifted Truro with many benefits. It's time to reciprocate and be supportive. They should appreciate that their present and past sulks over Millbrook's successes are beginning to irritate to no end many Mi'kmaqs from across the province.

In this regard, they should ask themselves what would happen if the Mi'kmaq decided to organize a boycott of Truro and take their business elsewhere? The bankruptcies would not be pretty. My advice to you, my friends, is to adopt a proactive attitude and work with Millbrook for the overall benefit of the entire region. It's not too hard for a person of wisdom to deduce that a prosperous Millbrook will complement the town, not take away from it.

Finally, mayor and councillors, have a sense of justice. It's unbecoming for council to begrudge the few successes that a thoroughly discriminated-against people are finally beginning to enjoy. There is enough to go around. Why not accept this fact: When people share and support one another, everybody wins!

Daniel N. Paul


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