Mi’kmaq First Nation Assembly planning court action over Qalipu enrolment

Published on February 8, 2017

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Dave Wells still hasn’t received his letter, but anticipates he will be among those denied acceptance into the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band.

He’s certainly not alone, and he certainly won’t be alone in joining other members of the Mi’kmaq First Nation Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador as they attempt to have a court decide on the legitimacy of the beleaguered Qalipu enrolment process.

Only 18,044 of the roughly 101,000 applications submitted to be a part of Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band have been approved, with about 20,000 eligible to appeal their denial.

Wells is the chairman of the Mi’kmaq First Nation Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador, which was incorporated in 2013 to advocate for unprocessed applicants to the Qalipu band.

Now that people are being notified of their status and the numbers have been made public by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, the assembly is mounting its case to be argued in court.

The court challenge is not a lawsuit, considering the federal government has already taken measures to protect it from being sued over the enrolment process. Rather, the assembly will ask the court to determine if what the federal government did was legal in terms of the constitution, the Indian Act and any other relevant legislation.

Wells doesn’t think what has happened was right.

“The whole thing is just stupid,” he said. “They took square pegs and they tried to put them in round holes and it’s not working.”

He said the countless stories of people unable to explain why they have been denied membership, despite an obvious genealogical tie to Mi’kmaq ancestry, shows there is a flaw in the process.

Wells said if the system had placed more emphasis on bloodlines, even if it meant allowing one’s ancestry to be traced back for only a determinate number of generations, it would have at least allowed people to better understand why they were denied.

Instead, he said, decisions seem to have been made on a subjective interpretation of applicant information, with more emphasis on where the applicant currently lives than on their connection to the Mi’kmaq community.

“They ended up with a convoluted system that nobody can understand,” Wells said.

The assembly will host a public forum to hear the concerns of those denied membership. The forum will take place in the Corner Brook Regional High School cafeteria Feb. 23.