Happy New Year. I hope that you all weathered the recent flooding in Newfoundland, and that in cases where damage was done, I pray that you found support in your families and community. May the Creator bless you all with good health and the care of community in the year ahead.
Something that has been much talked about in the media and on Facebook recently is the issue of separation that has been brought forward by the Flat Bay Band Inc. This has been a concern for members living in Flat Bay, and for other people in our communities. I would like to take a moment to address this topic. Band Division is, in fact, a provision under the Indian Act. If you would like to read about it for yourself, go to this link and look under the heading “How to divide a Band?”
I would like to take a moment to clarify a few points with members of the Qalipu First Nation who have been calling me to ask what this means for them, and others who may be wondering. First, I am not in support of Band division. Secondly, Band division would be a lengthy process involving formal application to INAC and agreement by the Minister. Further, the elected Chief and Council of the day would have to agree to division. Such a division would also require the majority vote of status members belonging to the impacted community. In this case, status card holders who are members of the community of Flat Bay, and those directly affiliated with Flat Bay Band Inc.
While some of the rhetoric in the ongoing conversation seems to imply that Band division would rectify issues related to the enrolment process or achieve status for individuals who do not currently have it, I regret to say that it will not. Only status members would decide on division, and the number of status card holders would remain the same. I hope that this situation has not given false hope to people.
I have no issue with any community or organization doing whatever they can to better themselves and the lives of people. I do however, feel that the timing may not be the best to publicly talk of division. We should try to stick together at this time as we fight for the rights of people who are not yet members of Qalipu and those that may lose First Nation status after the enrolment process concludes.
At this time, I am working diligently for those residents of our 67 recognized Mi’kmaq communities who were assessed on the points system and were found ineligible for Founding Membership. This system of assessment, the points system, was never intended to be applied to people who lived in one of those communities at the time of recognition! People who, in fact, lived there all their lives. I am compiling information on cases like these and I will fight for their fair treatment. There are many others in this process we strongly support, and we will continue to do so.
While I’m talking about fairness, how on earth can the very members of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians, those who voted to ratify the Agreement to create our First Nation in the first place, now be found ineligible for membership? This is unacceptable, and the Government of Canada has not heard the last from me on this. Grassroots people, I am fighting for you. I offer myself, wholeheartedly, to walk with the people and seek justice.
Were you an FNI member who voted on ratification for the Agreement in Principle, yet you have been found ineligible for Founding Membership? Did you live in a Mi’kmaq community yet, were assessed on the points system and denied membership because you didn’t have enough points?
I want to hear from you! Please send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org
Chief Brendan Mitchell