FLAT BAY — Chief Brendan Sheppard promises to continue on with strategic plans that the Qalipu First Nation Band Council has been working on, now that he is the first elected chief of the band.
In a historic first election that comes 13 months after the landless band was formally established in Newfoundland and Labrador from what was formerly the Federation of Newfoundland Indians, Sheppard, who was serving as interim chief, won the chief’s position handily.
“I feel very pleased the Mi’kmaq people have decided to send myself and some incumbents back in to build on a strong foundation for Qalipu,” he said.
Sheppard said there is a lot of work to do and he is looking forward to the challenge.
The next step is to size up the time frame to get his new council together and then continue the business they have going now.
Some of the first things they will roll up their sleeves and work at include economic development and education, which Sheppard said the Qalipu council needs to move forward with.
He said through working on economic development, the first nations group could gain more wealth, which translates to gaining more benefits for the members.
He said as wealth grows in the band, the council would probably move into getting something done in the area of housing.
Sheppard said the council would continue creating different committees to move things along.
He said the band council would be accountable and provide openness to the band members.
“We have a lot on our plate and we will take it a step at a time and make the best choices at what we can get involved with so that we don’t fail.”
Sheppard said while they are a landless band, they are not homeless as the band now owns two buildings on Church Street in Corner Brook.
He said the band council would willingly accept ideas from the membership that they can also work on.
“I’m feeling awful proud about this. Now we move forward to build wealth and the foundation for the newest First Nations band in Canada,” Sheppard said.
Part of that pride might be keeping a good paying job, as according to the Qalipu website, the chief’s position is currently the only elected position with a salary, which is $93,000 per year. Councillors are paid an honorarium of $5,000 per year and the chief and council are reimbursed for all travel based on Federal Treasury rates.
Odelle Pike, the closest vote getter to Sheppard for the chief’s position but still behind by a large margin, said its what the people wanted, “So really that’s all you can do.”
She said she ran a good campaign and the people have spoken, so let the chips fall where they may.
“I’m hoping and I’m confident some of the new people on the band council will push for more accountability, more transparency and more openness with their members,” she said.