On March 29, 2021, after 27 months of discussions, Canada made the unilateral decision to pause further discussions with Qalipu First Nation and abandon joint efforts to address Band membership for former members of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI) and its affiliates.
In a letter to Band Chief Brendan Mitchell, the Director General of the Individual Affairs Branch notes that, “After much consideration, Canada has decided to pause further discussion of reconsideration options for Founding Membership for individuals who held a membership in the Federation of Newfoundland Indians and their affiliates due to the active litigation on the validity of the 2013 Supplemental Agreement.”
The litigation referred to in the letter dated March 29 was active in November 2018 when exploratory discussions were initiated by Minister Carolyn Bennett and in September 2019 when we received a letter from then MInister of Indigenous Services Seamus O’Regan reaffirming Canada’s commitment to ongoing exploratory discussions. In this context, the explanation provided by the Director General to pause discussions does not make sense.
The discussions, which began in December 2018, focused on addressing outstanding concerns regarding members of the Canadian Armed Forces, Veterans, RCMP and FNI members or members of other Mi’kmaq organizations who were named in the 2008 Agreement and denied Founding Membership.
“These were obvious issues that we could easily agree needed to be remedied” noted Band Chief Brendan Mitchell. “People who were stationed away from home in service of their country had a hard time demonstrating the community connection for the Group Acceptance criterion. We also had a glaring issue around members of the FNI. These were the very people for whom the First Nation was created, the people who voted to ratify the Agreement with Canada that created the Qalipu First Nation.”
Chief Mitchell noted that the First Nation entered discussions in good faith, in the true spirit of Reconciliation, trusting the Government of Canada to follow through with its stated intention from 2018. The promise was reaffirmed a year later in a letter from Minister Seamus O’Regan, who was then the Minister of Indigenous Services. This unilateral decision by Canada to pause the discussion is contrary to the concept of our nation-to-nation relationship, that is based on cooperation and partnership which has been asserted by Canada since the outset of this process.
In its letter of response, the Qalipu First Nation strongly urges the Government of Canada to reconsider its decision in view of its inconsistency with past commitments Canada has given to continue discussions.
Band members and FNI and affiliated Mi’kmaq who were denied status, are encouraged to add their voice to the conversation by writing to their local Member of Parliament.
Contact Information for Newfoundland and Labrador MP’s and Minister of Indigenous Services
MP Gudie Hutchings (Long Range Mountains) firstname.lastname@example.org
MP Scott Simms (Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame) email@example.com
MP Churence Rogers (Bonavista—Burin—Trinity) firstname.lastname@example.org
MP Yvonne Jones (Labrador) email@example.com
MP Seamus O’Regan (St. John’s South—Mount Pearl) firstname.lastname@example.org
MP Ken McDonald (Avalon) email@example.com
MP Marc Miller (Minister of Indigenous Services) firstname.lastname@example.org