THESTAR.COM — New Brunswick’s premier has publicly assailed an “unprecedented” land title claim by six First Nations communities after it was amended this week to target some of the province’s biggest corporations.

The comments by Premier Blaine Higgs are being described by one of the chiefs involved in the legal action as “fear-mongering” that’s meant to turn New Brunswickers against the claim.

“I cannot stand by as premier and just let things unfold, knowing that most New Brunswickers are unaware,” Higgs told a news conference Wednesday.

“This impacts jobs, land ownerships, private investments, and our province’s entire economy.”

Almost a year ago, the Wolastoqey First Nation filed its land title claim against the federal and provincial governments, asking courts to confirm Aboriginal title on more than five million hectares of land — about 60 percent of New Brunswick — originally occupied by the Wolastoqey.

On Tuesday, they modified that claim to include six companies — J.D. Irving, NB Power, Acadian Timber, Twin Rivers Paper, HJ Crabbe and Sons, and A.V. Group — mostly forestry and pulp businesses — as defendants alongside the two tiers of government.

The Wolastoqey seek the return of identified parcels of land from those corporations and compensation from the Crown for the profits reaped from that land.

On Wednesday, during a news conference in which he used some variation of the phrase “60 percent of the province” nearly a dozen times, Higgs alleged the Indigenous claim would be dangerous to the land and homes of private New Brunswickers, despite specific Wolastoqey statements to the contrary.

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