A well-known member of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation was remembered during a memorial service in Glenwood this past Saturday.
Tony John passed away suddenly on Oct. 5 at the age of 57. Mr. John was working in Fort McMurray, Alta., at the time of his death.
Although he was unable to attend the service, current Band Chief Brendan Sheppard said Mr. John, who called Glenwood home, was an influential force when it came to the evolution of the Mi’kmaq community in Newfoundland and Labrador.
“It was a shock, along with the greatest degree of sadness, for the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band and the many, many people who knew Tony John, when we were advised of his sudden passing while he was away from home working in Fort McMurray,” said Chief Sheppard. “Tony John was one of the original founders of the Native Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, which eventually evolved into the Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI).”
Chief Sheppard said Mr. John was attending university at the time the aboriginal movement began in Canada, which quickly caught on here in this province.
“Since the establishment of the Aboriginal Provincial Organization, Tony held several key positions such as vice-president, president, board member and Chief of the Glenwood Mi’kmaq First Nation,” said Chief Sheppard, “and held these positions with the greatest consideration and respect for the Mi’kmaq living on the island portion of this province.”
Chief Sheppard said Mr. John was a great friend, and a strong supporter of the landless band concept which would establish official recognition for the Mi’kmaq people for whom he advocated since his involvement. In June of 2006, Mr. John told his colleagues at FNI he was resigning as Chief of the Glenwood Mi’kmaq First Nation Band, and that even though he was bowing out of aboriginal politics, he would always be there for them and that they could call upon him at any time.
“When Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to St. George’s in November 2007 to witness the signing of the in-principle agreement, Tony was invited to the signing ceremony,” said Chief Sheppard. “Tony accepted the invitation without any hesitation, and was very happy to attend. On the day of the ceremony, Tony was sitting in a front row seat with a very notable smile of pride and contentment that the goal and objective of the FNI, which he was instrumental in starting many decades ago, was finally becoming a reality.”
Chief Sheppard said Mr. John’s commitment and dedication to the Mi’kmaq movement in this province will remain a legacy, and will never be forgotten.
“Tony was a true friend, and one who never went behind your back if he had something to get off his chest,” he said. “Tony was an up-front person who made his position known regardless of who you were or what position you held.
“Tony and I didn’t always agree in meetings, and sometimes strong words of disagreement were expressed, but after the meeting was over, Tony was the same friend as if the disagreement had not happened … an excellent quality, a true value of a Mi’kmaq person.”