He is still awaiting what their lawyer’s opinion is of it , but Hector Pearce and the Mi’kmaq First Nations Assembly of Newfoundland are not impressed with new legislation introduced by the federal government this week.
The Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Act, or Bill C-25, was tabled in the House of Commons Tuesday.
While the federal government is saying the bill will be an assurance that everyone applying to become a member of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation will be treated fairly and equitably, there are concerns that the proposed legislation’s real purpose is to protect the federal government from being sued by people who feel they are not being treated fairly or equally.
Pearce is vice-chairperson of the Mi’kmaq First Nations Assembly of Newfoundland, a group which was formed to fight for the rights of those who feel they are being wronged in the process of enrolment in the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation.
“Once I started reading it, my blood started to boil a little bit,” said Pearce after reading the wording of Bill C-25. “We’re not shocked but we are very disappointed with the legislation. This government has put up so many roadblocks to this Qalipu registration process that nothing surprises us anymore.”
The bill, according to the federal government, is meant to allow an amendment to the original agreement in 2008 to form the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation. However, clause 4 of the bill also indemnifies the federal government from any person or entity from taking legal action because they were not included in the enrolment.
The Mi’kmaq First Nations Assembly of Newfoundland is preparing to launch a class-action lawsuit against the federal government if necessary and is in the process of going through a judicial review of some specific cases to determine the merit of proceeding with the lawsuit.
Indications are Bill C-25 will be passed into law expediently.
“This is unheard of in a country like ours,” said Pearce. “We should have the right to sue and to question government on all issues that affect us in a negative way, but they are trying eliminate that process. Where is the fair and equal treatment in this process? It just doesn’t exist.”
Pearce said it is possible the next battle against the federal government will involve challenging Bill C-25.
The Western Star has requested an interview with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister Bernard Valcourt. His office instead sent an email with a statement that essentially said the same thing as what was said in a press release from the department Tuesday — and reported in The Western Star Wednesday— regarding the legislation ensuring “only those with a legitimate claim to membership are registered following the completion of the enrolment process.”
The Western Star reiterated its request for an interview about the allegations the legislation’s real purpose is to protect the federal government from being sued.
A second email from Valcourt’s office said the minister was not available for an interview and that he stands by the emailed comments.