© Star file photo
Erica Lavers speaks during a April 22, 2013 protest held by the Qalipu Watchdogs.
The Mi’kmaq First Nation Assembly of Newfoundland is in the process of finalizing the retaining of a lawyer as it looks to possible legal action over the enrolment process for the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band.
Erica Lavers, media spokesperson for the assembly, which was previously known as the Qalipu Watchdogs, said after consultation with members who are part of the local legal profession it was decided to seek legal counsel outside the province.
“We looked at going local, but we needed someone with expertise in the aboriginal field,” said Lavers.
For that reason, she said the assembly has chosen a lawyer from a reputable Canadian aboriginal law firm.
Lavers said once the final details of the contract with the lawyer are worked out, the group will inform its members of just who will be representing them. If the group moves forward with a class-action lawsuit, Lavers said estimates the assembly has been given put the cost to the group at a minimum of $100,000.
She said the assembly, an incorporated body, has been putting that figure out to make members aware of the cost and need to raise funds to cover it.
“It’s a substantial amount of money, so we need to know that the membership is behind us financially as well,” said Lavers.
To find that out, the assembly has launched a survey on its website, www.mfnan.org.
The group was originally formed to advocate for the processing of all outstanding applications to the band. But since a supplemental agreement on the enrolment process was reached between the band and the federal government the focus has changed a bit.
“We are glad that everything is going to be reviewed,” said Lavers. “That was an important goal of ours. So we feel that was a success, but in terms of the new restrictions that have been put in place we’ve yet to kind of figure that out yet.
The assembly currently has 18,000 people registered through its old Watchdogs website and the Watchdogs Facebook page has 9,000 members. Lavers said the assembly maintains the Watchdogs Facebook page because people are familiar with it and is a way of keeping in contact with page members.
She said the plan is to eventually launch an assembly page as well. Lavers said the assembly saw an increase in interest among people once the supplemental agreement was announced and expects that will occur again once the review of applications is complete in November.