It may be like re-opening Pandora’s Box all over again, but Chief Brendan Mitchell says starting a new process to get more people accepted into the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band is the right thing to do.
Mitchell, in his role as president of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians, took that next step Thursday with the federal government as the two sides announced a plan to deal with still-contentious enrolment issues now that the band’s founding members list has been established.
Joined by Gudie Hutchings, the Liberal MP for Long Range Mountains, the chief and Hutchings announced a two-pronged approach to continuing to soothe the hurt caused by the controversial enrolment process.
Firstly, the government and the Federation of Newfoundland Indians — the precursor of the Qalipu band that negotiated the agreement to form the landless band — will follow through with the Federal Court ruling in what’s known as the Wells/Wells case.
In adherence to that ruling form last May, applicants who applied after the band was formally established in 2011 and who were denied membership will be able to submit additional self-identification documentation based on the date of the band’s formation, rather than that information having to pre-date the 2008 agreement to form the band.
The Federal Court ruling also ruled people should have the right to appeal their denial based on the self-identification criteria.
The second component of Thursday’s announcement involved the start of an effort to find a way to give special consideration to veterans, including peace officers, whose careers required them to reside outside of the recognized Mi’kmaq communities. Many who hailed from these communities were denied because they failed the residency requirements of the application process.
In all, some 58,000 people could be eligible to have their applications reassessed. They will receive letters from the federal government early in 2019 explaining what they must do to re-apply or appeal.
“We’re going to try and do what we can to try and mitigate what happened to those who were lost,” said Mitchell. “There may be some people still disappointed, but we’re going to improve our position from where we are today and that’s what’s key to this announcement.”
Hutchings said the federal government is committed to keep working to make sure the enrolment process is equitable and fair.
“We’ve heard enough examples of cases that need to be revisited,” she said.
More information on these next steps will soon be made available on both the Qalipu and the federal Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada websites.