In February 2017, Chief Brendan Mitchell announced that the FNI Board would exercise its rights under the Agreement in Principle to issue its own appeal where FNI lawyers identified potential grounds to do so. Based on advice received from the FNI lawyers, they were instructed to initiate those appeals and this process is now underway.
This week, approximately 3100 appellants have begun to receive notification of this process in the mail titled Appeal Notice of FNI. The letter indicates that “the FNI believes a mistake or error was made and that the documentation submitted with your application demonstrates that you do meet the requirements to become a Founding Member of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation.”
For those who were unaware of this action of the FNI, there may understandably be some confusion. The Appeal Notice of FNI letter does not change the decision of the Enrolment Committee of which applicants and members were notified on January 31, 2017. It simply indicates that the FNI believes a mistake or error was made and is subsequently appealing that decision of the Enrolment Committee on the applicant’s behalf.
Steve May of Cox and Palmer, legal counsel for the FNI, explains the real meaning of these letters. He said, “under the Agreement, when a party issues an Appeal, the Applicant is to be notified. The reasons for this are to let them know of the appeal and to give them the opportunity to structure or revise their own appeals accordingly based on the grounds of the FNI appeal.”
Brendan Mitchell, Chief of the Qalipu First Nation, is hopeful that this legal action may lead to some positive outcomes on behalf of appellants. “However,” he states, “Those with a right of appeal should not rely solely on the appeal being made by the FNI. Please ensure that your appeal is sent, post marked no later than April 13, 2017.”
Chief Mitchell also clarified that the ability of the FNI to appeal decisions of the Enrolment Committee is part of the Agreement that created the First Nation and does not constitute legal counsel for the appellants named in its appeal.