FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government has created a three-member First Nations partnership team.

The purpose of the team is to support the Premier's commitment to transform the economic, social and political role that First Nations play in New Brunswick.

"This team will help to create a new foundation for long-term relations between the provincial government and First Nations," said Premier David Alward. "New Brunswick has been working hard to strengthen relations with First Nations communities. There is real work to be done.  First Nations and the provincial government must move forward together to tackle critical areas such as social conditions, resource development issues, employment and economic challenges. All efforts will respect the principles of sustainability, fairness and predictability. We have a shared  commitment to ensuring equal opportunities for all New Brunswickers."

The three members of the First Nations partnership team include:

●    Regional Chief Roger Augustine, Assembly of First Nations;
●    Ken Coates, professor and Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation, Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan and former Dean of Arts at UNBSJ; and
●    Tom Mann, deputy minister, Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour

Each member brings a unique skill set that will be integral to the success of the team. Augustine, as a long time chief in New Brunswick and regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations, knows first-hand the history and heritage of New Brunswick Aboriginals, the challenges facing their communities and how First Nations teachings can help strengthen the relationship between the two parties.

"I am honored and pleased to be asked to work with the Premier on this partnership between the provincial government and Mi'kmaq and Maliseet people," said Augustine.

Coates - whose research focuses on Aboriginal rights as well as northern development - will provide external advice on contemporary First Nations issues as they relate to the province.

Mann will be the provincial government representative on the team. He will bring his experience from 30 years as senior executive with two large New Brunswick unions as well as drawing on his role with the federal government in conciliation and mediation.

"This approach demonstrates the importance our government places on working more effectively and efficiently with First Nations people and leaders as we prepare, as a province, for the opportunities ahead," said Alward.