I look forward to meeting with our membership during our Annual General Assembly (AGA) scheduled for Sunday, September 26, 2021, to be held at the Greenwood Inn in Corner Brook, NL. This Assembly is an opportunity to provide to our members a review of the activities of the past year and present our year-end financials. The AGA also provides an opportunity for our Council to hear directly from our members. Again, our AGA is being live streamed to enable involvement by members who can’t attend the meeting in person. Separate AGA events are planned in Western and Central Regions.
I wish to take this opportunity to thank our Council members and staff for their support and commitment to Qalipu First Nation (QFN) and our members during the past year and particularly, for their efforts in dealing with the impacts Covid-19 on operations. During 2021, Covid-19 continued to interfere with carrying out normal activities, however, we managed to provide an acceptable service level to our people. We must continue to take the necessary precautions to protect our staff and our members. We will continue to take this Covid reality seriously by following prescribed measures. We must be vigilant given the new Covid variants that are appearing in our Province.
In addressing the impacts of Covid-19, QFN has been able to secure to date, Federal funding in excess of $4.3 Million to support our members. We will continue to lobby Government for additional funds to support current and future needs.
We now approach the end of Council’s three-year term and prepare for a Council election on October 22, 2021. For those Councillors leaving Council and not seeking re-election, I thank you for your service to our people during your term in office and wish you well in your future endeavours.
QFN continues to be an active member of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). The AFN election this summer established Roseanne Archibald as the new National Chief. I look forward to working with Chief Archibald and our ongoing positive relationship with the AFN both as an AFN member Chief and as the Newfoundland representative on the AFN Chief’s Committee on Emergency Management.
We continue to build on our relationship with the Atlantic Policy Congress Chiefs Secretariat and the Mi’kmaq Grand Council. In the Fall of 2020, Qalipu obtained a seat at the Atlantic Health Partnership for the first time. These are significant milestones in advancing our relationship with other First Nations and associated organizations.
Despite the impediments created by Covid-19, Qalipu has accomplished several new initiatives during the past year. These include the introduction of a Mi’kmaw Language program, construction and official opening of Mikwite’tm Garden to honor Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and their families, the permanent flying of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council Flag at City Hall and Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook, collaboration with AFN Regional Chief PJ Prosper and Chief Mi’sel Joe of Miawpukek First Nation to create a representative office of the AFN in Newfoundland and support for repatriating Beothuk remains to Newfoundland from the Museum of Scotland. Also, during the past year, Qalipu Council approved a 10-Year Strategic Plan based on input from our membership.
Further to new initiatives, as promised by Qalipu Council in 2018, Qalipu submitted an application to the Federal Fisheries Minister for fishing access for Qalipu members. This application is awaiting approval by the Minister. Additionally, QFN Housing Committee has been working diligently to develop a housing program which can benefit Qalipu Members.
In addition to these initiatives, ongoing Qalipu programs provide $12 million annually for needed health benefits to members and a further $8 million annually in education support for those pursuing post-secondary education and other types of training.
Enrolment in Qalipu continues to be an area of concern for Council. We’ve witnessed too many Founding members and their families impacted negatively with loss of status and former FNI members not having gained the recognition they deserve.
Our conversations with the Government of Canada have led to a potential Agreement which will be put forward and ratified by our membership, pertaining to military personnel, RCMP and veterans of both gaining Founding Membership. We continue to press Government to resume exploratory discussions related to former FNI members as identified in the November 2018 announcement by the Minister of Crown Indigenous Relations.
The urban reserve file is still active and an alternative to establishing an arrangement under the Indian Act is being pursued.
On September 22, 2021, we will celebrate our 10th Anniversary as a First Nation. We’ve accomplished much during our short journey. I thank those who came before us and laid the groundwork and persevered to create the foundation of what QFN is today. We can look forward with optimism about our future.
The next three-year term for Council is expected to see the successful conclusion of outstanding initiatives and will be a period of solid growth. I encourage all of us to work in peace and harmony as we move Qalipu forward together on behalf of our Nation.
Chief Brendan Mitchell