Byrne says feds have no legal grounds to change Qalipu enrolment process

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CORNER BROOK  Gerry Byrne says the federal government will open itself up for a legal battle if it imposes a different set of rules for unprocessed applicants hoping for membership in the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band.

In a press release issued Friday by the Liberal Commons member for Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte, Byrne warned the Stephen Harper administration about proposed plans to alter enrolment criteria or changing the level of information needed by the remaining applicants.

The final enrolment phase for the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band ended in November, but there is a significant backlog of applications that have not yet been processed. Between the two phases of enrolment, more than 100,000 people applied for membership.

The majority of them were submitted during the second phase.

Because of the unexpectedly large number of applicants, the enrolment process is now under review by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. No changes have been made yet to the process or the requirements, and Byrne said there should not be any changes implemented.

“Don’t even consider making this a two-tiered process with two sets of rules — one for those already enrolled and one set for those who have yet to be assessed — or face serious legal and political consequences,” Byrne said in his prepared statement.

The MP said there is a concern the federal government will try to rein in the membership numbers by establishing different criteria for those applicants that have yet to be assessed, compared to those who have been previously approved. Doing such a thing, according to Byrne, would violate the rights of those still awaiting a decision on their membership and would be “quick and easy grounds” for a federal court to order the original enrolment process to resume.

“The duty of the Crown to First Nations is protected under the constitution and the duty of a fair process is required under administrative law,” Byrne said. “If the Harper government was so ill-prepared that they negotiated and agreed to a process for the recognition of First Nation members that they now regret, the burden of their incompetence will not be borne by the aboriginal applicants, I can assure you. Federal government incompetence is not a justifiable defense in a federal court.”

Legal action against the federal government, added Byrne, would be a certainty if any substantive change to the membership criteria or to the weight of evidence used during the assessment process is made when compared to the previous process.

“To put it bluntly, the same people that stumbled into this process with their eyes closed to the consequences of their decisions may now be stupid enough to think that they can undo it by some secret, backroom deal to get themselves off some hook,” charged Byrne. “Sorry, Mr. Prime Minister, that’s just not on.”

Organizations: Liberal Commons, First Nations

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Recent comments

  • Tony
    January 10, 2013 - 00:05

    Thanks Gerry, That's exactly how I feel about the. Federal Gout. Intrusion to change the admission requirements already agreed too. I believe that if legitimate applications are not aloud admission into this band then legal and or political. action will be required. I also believe that chief Sheppard is not helping enough with this issue. I just can't believe that he would turn his back on other natives waiting to be recognized after the struggle the new band went through to get status.

  • dorothy
    January 09, 2013 - 20:05

    @jcat you should do your homework before you speak. i am from the west coast of nfld and yes i am aboriginal .we had to endore alot of abuse. from the eastern part of that island .i know first hand .find a subject you know about to comment on.

  • Teri H
    January 08, 2013 - 18:54

    Thank you Mr. Bryne for what you are saying. There should be a class action suit if the government changes the rules. We look to you for leadership and Mr Sheppard to guide the way. Mr. Sheppard don't let this happen to your peoples. We will support you if you should have to speak out against this. We will be 100% strong. We have lived a hard life. Endured the humiliation of being called savages in school Curriculum. Families too ashamed to tell you they are native so as we could go to school and receive an education. Then find out you were native when you grew up. Clothes came from dump to wear to go to school. We are natives that have to be treated fairly. We will be watching!!!!!!!

  • Jcat
    January 06, 2013 - 21:14

    What is really going on here ... What ??? Over 100000 new apps for native status ... Not including those on the island that already have it ... What ... 1/5 to 1/4 island are native ... Sounds /looks like a money grab ... Get a life people ...stop trying to sponge off govt ....everyone knows what's going on here but either have applied /hoping to get native status or are afraid to be say anything at risk of offending the so called natives . No native Indians in nfld ...last I checked They were the Beothuk and as history goes the mikmaq were used as tracking guides to help slaughter them .

    • Mi'kmaq citizen
      January 09, 2013 - 13:46

      @JCAT You are horrible mistaken with you "facts". Your comment is ignorant and highly offensive. Firstly, the small issue in your comment is that a TOTAL of 100,000 applicants have been received. Those include individuals living in NL. The Mi'kmaq WERE inhabitants of Newfoundland and were NOT sent her to 'track and kill Beothucks'. That is ignorant and racist. My family are Mi'kmaq and originated from Nova Scotia, but most certainly did not "hunt" Beothuck. Your comment is a very sad predictor of the future of Newfoundland and Labrador. Racism towards Aboriginal populations have already existed and now the opinions are really coming to the surface. I would suggest you do some research and until then, kindly shut your mouth

    • Reality Check
      January 10, 2013 - 09:29

      MI'KMAQ Citizen.. Playing the old racism card. Pathetic. The reality is people in our province and our country are tired of our tax money being handed out to people simply because of their heritage. It's 2013, get over it. There is no viable reason why invidiuals who grow up in the same situations should be segregated financially based on whether or not they are aboriginal. Byrne talks about a two-tiered system.. We live in a two-tiered society and it's dispicable. Let me ask you this.. If you feel your culture was attacked, and I believe 80-100 years ago sure, then why is it always about money? Why do Mi'kmaq, Qualipu, Metis, or any other first "nation" NEED the rest of us to give you money to absolve us of the horrible treatment that people we don't know caused your ancestors that you don't know. There's no other solution? Thought so. It's all about money. Don't try to hid the reality.

    • Claudine Prosper
      February 18, 2013 - 14:00

      You certainly are an ignorant individual, You must lead a life full of hate and jealousy. Maybe it's because you are not Native. Do you feel this way about all Canadian Natives? Maybe you feel this way about every race in the world other than your own..

  • sally
    January 05, 2013 - 23:35

    Way to Go Gerry I am a proud that you are standing up for the rights of our Members. It seems to be such a big issue now that all newfoundlanders are getting what is rightfully theres before this it was only little group getting all the benefits and this is now upsetting the orginal Native Group and this is know way of dealing with this by changing the the rules, LET everyone betreated equal. Can't thank you enough for your support.

  • Mr Corner Brook
    January 05, 2013 - 18:22

    Gerry Byrne on his never ending quest for free publicity. Wow gerry whats next. Why not do what one of our municipal politicians was known for...Start showing up at funeral homes for every wake on the go!!! Don't worry, the provincial leadership is in the bag! You know the saying "two pensions are better that one"

  • Tony Young
    January 05, 2013 - 09:40

    Mr. Byrne's, finally someone who knows what they are talking about. I was fearful with the lack of leadership shown by Mr. Sheppard on this issue that Ottawa would do just that, change the rules and everyone would just sit back and take it like they usually do in this region of Canada. I am so happy someone with your education and knowledge can speak out like this. I live in Winnipeg, and travel to Newfoundland twice and in recent years3 to 4 times per year due to aging family members and illnesses. I left Newfoundland 31 years ago and proudly made Winnipeg my home and I call it that. I call Newfoundland my birth place. I recently found out my heritage as a Native Canadian and very proud of the fact. I have health care so benefite wise that makes no difference to my life. But many out there who are eligible and need it, hats off to you. Many of us left NL to live and survive others stayed to endure a tuff life with high unemployment and hardships. I don't see how anyone has not sacraficed something. Both those who stayed and those who have left it has not been an easy life.

    • R. Young
      January 06, 2013 - 18:12

      After reading this article I finally have some hope for the thousands of us that have applied to gain our long awaited Native Status. Mr. Byrne's has published what so many of us were thinking about how some people want to change the rules in the middle of the game. The protests that are rocking the Nation and the world should be a warning to PM Harper that we will be " Idle NO More " when it comes to our basic rights that have been and still are being infringed upon.