After nearly a decade from the time the Agreement to create our first nation was signed, the Qalipu enrolment process recently culminated in the mailout of 101,000 decision letters. By now members and applicants should have received a letter from the Enrolment Committee. I am aware that there are some people who are still waiting. Whether it is due to a changed address that didn’t get updated, or some other potential issue, I want you to know that Canada and the FNI are monitoring the situation. It should be noted that requests for copies of the decision letters are addressed within 48 hours, and ensuring that all applicants have received their decision letter is of utmost importance. This played an important part in the decision to extend the Appeal Notice submission deadline first from March 17 to the 31st, and recently to April 13, 2017.
The release of these letters on our communities, which included notification to some 10,500 current members that may potentially have their status revoked, has caused a great upset among our families and communities.
On February 13, I set out on a difficult journey to meet with members and applicants in communities across the province. In each of the communities along the tour, I heard similar frustrations, confusion and uncertainty. In Flat Bay, I witnessed the anger and frustration of three generations divided by status and non-status in one family; in St. George’s I met a veteran who was denied status due to residency, or his absence from the community while on multiple tours of duty; in Stephenville, a well-spoken woman from the Newfoundland Aboriginal Women’s Network brought forward the concerns of those who were lost in the confusion and paperwork of a long enrolment process. At every stop on the community tour—Port au Port, Burgeo, Corner Brook, Benoit’s Cove, Port Saunders, Grand Falls-Windsor, Gambo, Appleton and St. John’s—I heard stories of upset that I now carry with me on my shoulders and in my heart.
I can sincerely say that I have heard and felt the struggle of people in our communities. I know that our meetings were a good chance to talk to one another and I am truly greatful to have had the opportunity to meet so many of you during this difficult time. I want you to know that while I cannot solve all the issues that I have heard about, I am doing everything that I can to ensure the most positive outcome possible.
I would like to take this opportunity to remind you all of our End of Enrolment Support Team which has been put in place at each of our office locations-St. George’s, Stephenville, Corner Brook, Glenwood and Grand Falls-Windsor. If you haven’t already reached out to a member of the team I encourage you to do so. Each has been trained to help you understand the meaning of your decision letter, the appeals process, and the enrolment process as it unfolded overall. We have also provided training for community members in Flat Bay, Burgeo, Port au Port, Port Saunders and Parsons Pond so that people in those areas may find the support they need.
Additionally, we recognize the strain that may be impacting our mental well-being and assistance is being made available to applicants in this regard.
My prayer is that we continue to find ways to work together to face the challenges that the enrolment issue presents.
Chief Brendan Mitchell