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Qalipu, federal government met in Corner Brook this week to start talks regarding denied membership applicants

Staff leave work for the day at the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band office in Corner Brook Thursday. Earlier this week, the band and the federal government began talks concerning how to reassess thousands of people denied band membership.
Staff leave work for the day at the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band office in Corner Brook Thursday. Earlier this week, the band and the federal government began talks concerning how to reassess thousands of people denied band membership. - Gary Kean

The Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band has had its first meetings with the federal government about finding a way to permit more people into the band.

Last month, Qalipu — through its predecessor group, the Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI) — and the federal government announced they would be acting on the implications of the Federal Court ruling of the so-called Wells decision. That decision ordered the reconsideration of some people who had been denied enrolment as founding members of the band under what the court called unreasonable self-identification criteria.

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The FNI, which signed the original agreement to form the band in 2008, and the federal government have indicated that around 58,000 denied applicants will be given another opportunity to submit new information supporting their case for enrolment.

During the same announcement made Nov. 16, the band and the government also announced they would be entering exploratory talks on how to reassess veterans, active members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the RCMP who had been denied membership. Some of these people failed to meet the eligibility criteria for residency solely because their employment had them stationed somewhere other than in a recognized Mi’kmaq community in order to serve their country.

Chief Brendan Mitchell confirmed Thursday afternoon that he and other Qalipu representatives had met with officials from the federal Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations all day Tuesday and Wednesday morning to begin these negotiations.

Mitchell would not go into much detail of the discussions, noting they were preliminary in nature and consisted mostly of determining parameters of the talks and defining who exactly would be eligible for reconsideration.

“What happened in that conversation in the last two days was positive and it reflected very well what the (Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett) said she was interested in doing with respect to helping veterans and having another look at (some of the people who were denied membership),” said Mitchell.

The chief hopes said there will be another round of talks in January and there was some discussion of having these issues resolved expeditiously.

“We’re not dragging this out forever,” said Mitchell. “They are hoping to have a potential agreement in place maybe some time in the spring.”

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