09/09/2011 11:33 EDT | Updated 11/09/2011 05:12 EST

N.B., feds, First Nations sign agreement

An agreement between the federal and New Brunswick governments and the province's First Nations was signed Friday at Eel River Bar.

The agreement was designed to help guide future discussions leading to an agreement on aboriginal treaty rights.

Premier David Alward signed on behalf of the province. He called it the first step toward a spirit of growing cooperation.

"The recognition was made today that it's not always an easy process, but what I feel positive about is there is an attitude, a desire to see positive change going forward and people are working to see that happen," said Alward.

Ten chiefs representing the province's First Nations also signed the agreement, along with the Federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, John Duncan.

Duncan said the agreement would utlimately help improve the quality of life of the Mi'gmag and Wolastoqiyik in New Brunswick. The agreement establishes a process to guide negotiations toward a framework agreement on Aboriginal and treaty rights and self-government. The document also includes a consultation agreement.

Chief Joanna Bernard, Wolastoqiyik co-chair of the Assembly of New Brunswick Chiefs Inc., said in a news release that by entering into the umbrella agreement, they will be engaging with the Crown in wide-ranging discussions.

"Clearly, there are many issues and problems that we must address as governments. This agreement provides one way that we can work together to protect and advance the rights of the Mi'gmag and the Wolastoqiyik in New Brunswick."