CORNER BROOK — With 70,000 applications for membership in the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band left to be processed, Tom Rideout sees only one solution to getting them cleared up.
“It’s not a staff matter,” said Rideout, chair of the band’s enrolment committee. “It’s a matter of the enrolment committee.”
That doesn’t mean simply extending the current process, because Rideout said one committee of five people can only deal with so many applications.
In the first year of operation, the committee cleared out 11,000 applications. Taking an average of 10,000 a year, Rideout said extending the process would mean it would take around seven years to review the remaining 70,000 applications.
“Obviously that’s not a palatable situation for the applicants I wouldn’t think, nor would it be to the parties to the agreement.”
He said the solution lies in having more than one committee, or two or three different sub-committees operating under one chair, thus giving more capacity to process more applications. But he said he has no idea of what the thinking of the parties involved in the process is, nor has he been asked for his opinion.
In late 2008, Rideout was brought in as independent chair of the enrolment committee, which consists of two members appointed by the Federation of Newfoundland Indians and two members appointed by the federal government.
The timeline for the committee to complete its work under the agreement on the band’s formation was four years. Initial work involved getting the program set up and running, training and getting the indian registry in place. In 2009 the work was full-time, and since then it has been on a part-time basis.
While the committee has until March 21 to complete its work, Rideout said it is no longer working on determining or making decisions on applications.
“The agreement stipulated that ended 30 days after the deadline for applications,” said Rideout.
The deadline to apply was Nov. 30 and the deadline for working on determining applications was Dec. 30.
But Rideout said the federal government lost a committee member in October and sent in a temporary replacement for a week in December. That, combined with the Christmas period, meant the committee actually finished its determination of applications on Dec. 18.
At that point, it was up to applications that had been received in the fall of 2010.
Out of the 30,000 applications that have been processed, between 24,000 and 25,000 were approved and some 4,000 to 5,000 were rejected. Rideout noted some of those rejections would have been overturned on appeal.
Since then, the role of the committee has been more administrative in terms of sending out letters of approval or rejection, updating the registry, scanning certificates and letters. Rideout said this will continue until March 21, but it’s unlikely he’ll be a part of whatever happens after that date.
He said he signed on to the project for four years and, despite it being an interesting and educational experience, has no interest in going any further with it.