On behalf of Qalipu Council, our Executive Committee, and staff, I welcome you to our Annual General Assembly (AGA) 2020. Our approach to conducting our AGA this year differs from past years in that a virtual meeting, made available through live streaming, will allow a greater number of our members to view and participate in the AGA.
In recent months, there have been many precautions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. This situation has changed the way we interact, communicate, work, and socialize. Qalipu First Nation continues to deliver beneficial programs and services to its membership. While it’s not business as usual, we have been able to maintain a satisfactory level of service. I wish to take this opportunity to thank our Council and staff for their dedication and commitment in support of our members during this time. Going forward in dealing with COVID-19, we will continue to take necessary precautions to protect our staff and members. I encourage everyone to take this situation very seriously whether at home or at work by following prescribed measures to protect you and your family.
Qalipu First Nation was able to secure funding for our membership to offset some of the negative impacts of COVID-19. Funding program opportunities to date total $2,228,272 consisting of $52,975 COVID-19 Support Fund, $678,311 from a Community Emergency Response Fund for Emergency and Off Reserve and $1,496,987 from Canada’s Economic Response Plan for Post Secondary Student Support. In addition to Government of Canada’s support, Qalipu recognized the need to contribute an additional $266,745 to provide further support.
We are now coming to the end of year two of the three-year term of this Council. I wish to thank Councill members for their continued support and collaboration in advancing Qalipu on behalf of our members. Progress and successes have been achieved in many areas during the past year. A major accomplishment has been certification with the First Nations Financial Management Board. This certification involved a significant effort by staff and Council to enable Qalipu to become the fourth First Nation Band in Atlantic Canada to achieve this distinction. Certification with the First Nations Financial Management Board will ensure that Qalipu has the financial independence needed to grow as a Nation.
First Nations Financial Management Board certification was an integral step in the path towards ten- year grant funding which was introduced in 2019. The funding agreement marks a significant departure from our previous annual allocation of funds. The new ten-year funding arrangement allows Qalipu to tailor its own programs, carry money forward from year to year and focus on a vision for the future that is driven by people and communities. In conjunction with the ten-year grant funding arrangement, Qalipu is developing a Comprehensive Community Plan.
Qalipu continues to be an active member of the Assembly of First Nations and the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nations Chiefs Secretariat. Membership in these organizations was achieved July 2018 and April 2019 respectively. During November 2019, senior representatives of the Mi’kmaq Grand Council visited Qalipu First Nation for the first time. This visit was a significant opportunity to establish a positive relationship with the Mi’kmaq Grand Council and Mi’kmaq of Atlantic Canada. Grand Council representatives included Grand Chief Norman Sylliboy, Grand Keptin Antle Denny, Keptin Stephen Augustine and Keptin Chief Mi’sel Joe.
Qalipu First Nation, in conjunction with its consultant, has been engaged in developing an updated Strategic Plan. Discussions were conducted with Council, staff, and members through community engagement sessions. This plan, which has a ten-year outlook, will be finalized in the third quarter of this year. I thank everyone who participated in this important initiative.
This past summer saw the cancellation of many significant cultural events here in Newfoundland, in Atlantic Canada and throughout Canada. Our staff at Qalipu compensated for the loss of in-person gatherings by using a virtual approach made possible through technology to share cultural initiatives. Staff, community members and community organizations collaborated to share cultural information and teachings to our broader membership.
Enrolment in Qalipu First Nation continues to be an item of concern for Council. On November 15, 2018, the Government of Canada and the Federation of Newfoundland Indians agreed to enter into exploratory discussions to address outstanding concerns regarding members of the Canadian Armed Forces, veterans, RCMP and FNI members or members of other organizations named in the 2008 Agreement in Principle and who were denied membership in Qalipu. Despite discussions beginning in earnest during December 2018, we are yet to finalize agreements to allow these groups membership in Qalipu. The veterans file has advanced positively, and discussions have been favourable as we now near finalization of an Agreement. Regarding those affiliated with the FNI, discussions are ongoing with Canada and an Agreement will be forthcoming. Eventually, Qalipu members will become engaged in a ratification process to enable executing any new Agreements with the Government of Canada regarding enrolment.
Other initiatives for which discussions are ongoing include the establishment of an urban reserve and development of a Mi’kmaq language program at Qalipu.
In the coming year, we expect to see significant initiatives come to fruition. Qalipu members will experience a high level of community engagement by our Council as we endeavor to create a better tomorrow for our people and our Nation. Let’s commit to working together in peace, harmony and unity as we move forward.
Chief Brendan Mitchell