Chief to Demonstrators: “I have an obligation to act in the best interest of our First Nation”

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A group of approximately 25 people gathered outside the office of MP Gudie Hutchings

Corner Brook, January 3, 2017—Approximately 25 demonstrators gathered outside the Qalipu administrative office in Corner Brook today to raise concerns related to the upcoming conclusion of the Qalipu enrolment process.   At the end of January, some 101,000 letters will be mailed to Qalipu members, and those seeking membership, advising them of the Enrolment Committee’s decision on their application to become members of the Qalipu First Nation.  This marks the end the Bands registration process that began in 2008 when the Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI) and the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) partnered in signing the Agreement for the Recognition of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq Band.

The primary concern expressed by the demonstrators gathered at the gazebo on the Majestic Lawn before walking to MP Gudie Hutchings’ office, was that many people will not be found eligible for Founding Membership in the Band following their assessment under the enrolment criteria.  Some expressed the concern that their ancestry alone should be enough to qualify for membership in the First Nation.  Organizer and Qalipu member Blain Ford argued that the process should be thrown out, and the fight for recognition be taken up anew.

Chief Mitchell, who stood in solidarity with the demonstrators along with Corner Brook Ward Councilor Brian Dicks, said that while he is sympathetic to the concerns of applicants, walking away from the table or starting over would not be in the best interest of the First Nation.  He said, “I’m concerned about jeopardizing the decades of effort and persistence which allowed us to form the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation.  After an incredible investment of time and resources, it would be unreasonable to walk away and expect that Canada would be willing to sit with us again any time soon on a new enrolment process.”

He also expressed concern over the risk of losing or suspending the many programs and benefits available to those who gain membership in Qalipu First Nation.

In a related statement, Chief Mitchell commented, “When I was elected in 2015, I inherited this process.  The legal agreements setting out how Founding Membership in the Qalipu First Nation was to be determined had already been established.  I might have negotiated things differently had I been in a leadership position at the time that agreements were made. However, this is the legal agreement that created our First Nation and I have an obligation, as difficult as the outcome will be for many, to act in the best interest of our First Nation to see the enrolment process through as it had been previously negotiated.”

For more information on the Qalipu enrolment process please see the below fact sheet.  An updated series of Questions and related answers regarding the end of the Qalipu enrolment process has been added to the Band’s website.  Find these at qalipu.ca/band-registration/faq

Fact Sheet

In 2008 the Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI) and the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) partnered in signing the Agreement for the Recognition of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq Band.   In September of 2011, Qalipu received recognition as a First Nation under the Indian Act.  This was the culmination of decades of fighting for recognition as the Federation of Newfoundland Indians.  Negotiations had not accounted for the number of people who would eventually come forward laying claim to Mi’kmaq heritage.  In the final days allotted for review of applications under the Agreement in Principle (Agreement), tens of thousands of additional applications were received bringing the total to over 100,000 individuals seeking membership in the First Nation.  Leadership at the time, which consisted of INAC and the FNI, realized the need to negotiate an extension to the Agreement, as well as giving more guidance to the Enrolment Committee on applying enrolment criteria as presented in the Agreement.

In July, 2013, the Supplemental Agreement and its associated Directives to the Enrolment Committee, was introduced by INAC and the FNI.  The Supplemental Agreement outlined that all outstanding applications would be reviewed, including those that had already been assessed.  To ensure everyone was assessed with the same criteria, even those who had received status cards were reviewed under the criteria laid out in the Supplemental Agreement.

At the end of January, 2017, approximately 101,000 letters will be mailed to Qalipu members, and those seeking membership, advising them of the decision on their application. These letters are expected to be received within the first ten days in February. For those with a right to appeal the decision of the Enrolment Committee, there will be forty-five days to file such an appeal. The Appeal Notice Form will be included in the letters sent out.  An independent team of Appeal Masters will review all appeals submitted and a final determination will be made on the appeal. The appeal process will be completed in its entirety by the fall of 2017. The decisions of the Appeal Masters will be final.

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