Senator wants to discuss Cape Breton autonomy, suggests First Nation as model

A Mi'kmaq senator says Cape Breton could follow the lead of a First Nation that transformed itself economically through self-sufficiency, and discuss separating from Nova Scotia.

Sen. Daniel Christmas says the Nova Scotia island is "dying" and he predicts depopulation and high unemployment rates will continue unless drastic action is taken.

Christmas says Cape Breton should start discussing its independence and could borrow from the self-reliant economic model he helped craft for Membertou First Nation 20 years ago.

Membertou is just outside Sydney, Cape Breton's largest community, and has become one of the most prosperous Indigenous communities in the country.

Christmas, named to the Senate last fall by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, first made the proposal last Thursday during the inaugural Father Greg MacLeod lecture at the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre.

He conceded the proposal is a complex one, and examining it will take some time, but says the purpose of his speech was merely to inspire the discussion.

Christmas says he has received a great deal of reaction on both sides of the debate since his lecture, with some supporting independence and others dismissing it as unreasonable.