Corner Brook woman airs concerns with Bill C-25 to Senate Committee

Diane
Diane Crocker
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Pauline Tessier is an applicant in the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band, but if Bill C-25 goes through, she says it’s unlikely her application will be approved.

It’s the changes to the enrolment process that could prevent Tessier from being accepted.

Bill C-25, the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Act, is now before the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. The proposed legislation on the formation of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band supports the implementation of the 2013 supplemental agreement, which was meant to clarify how to apply certain clauses of the original agreement reached in 2008 with regards to enrolment.

That doesn’t sit well with Tessier who, along with Helen Darrigan of Oakville, Ont., shared her thoughts with the Standing Senate Committee in Ottawa on Wednesday.

“If this goes through and if the supplemental agreement is enacted the way it is, we won’t be members of the group,” said Tessier by phone from Montreal on Friday.

She said the same applies for thousands of other people who probably should be members.

Tessier said she and Darrigan have had concerns over the ancestry aspect of the criteria for a long time and she thinks the government and the band know there are problems with it.

She said some people have gotten status and might not be able to prove the ancestry.

“I’m a person who can prove my ancestry and I won’t get it because of the recognition date. And to me that’s unfair, and I believe it’s unconstitutional.”

The two women were invited to speak before the committee as a result of a letter they wrote back in March.

Tessier said her presentation looked at the situation from the perspective of people living in Newfoundland, both in and outside of Mi’kmaq communities, and how Bill C-25 would affect them.

“Because I felt everybody had to be encompassed here, because when you look at the agreement and when you look at the supplemental agreement and when you look at the guidelines, people were being left out because of where they live even in Newfoundland. And I had a big concern about that.”

Darrigan’s approach was a little different in that she looked at the issue from the perspective of somebody living off the island and how the whole agreement in principle and supplemental agreement was going to affect them.

Tessier said she thinks the committee was receptive to what they had to say.

“I think they got a bit of an education as well, because I don’t think they realized what has gone on and what had gone on.”

She wonders if Qalipu is a test case for other First Nations and if the bill will affect other First Nations that are already recognized and others still looking to be recognized.

Tessier said she’s hopeful the committee will study the issue more and send something back to government saying people are being disenfranchised.

“You can’t look at the first group that was accepted and change the rules midstream and now say these people don’t have to supply other documentation because in order to be fair and equal, everyone from day one needs to supply accurate documentation.”

But above all she’d like to see Bill C-25 struck down.

“It’s a travesty.”

 

 

 

 

Organizations: Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, First Nations

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Oakville, Newfoundland Ottawa Montreal

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Recent comments

  • Richard LeJeune
    June 16, 2014 - 13:46

    A HUGE thank you to both of these Ladies for going to bat for so many of us. Much appreciated and wonderful to read about your invitation to speak before the Senate Committee as a result of a letter that you both wrote back in March. Certain people go the extra mile to make their point known and heard...as quite often our valid points and concerns are not given importance or credibility when decisions that affect US all are made...and that is just simply wrong! I salute both Pauline and Helen for their hard work and determination that will absolutely have an impact on everyone who has listened to what they had to say! Thank you...you make me and I am quite sure all of us proud.

  • Debbie Callahan
    June 15, 2014 - 00:17

    We applied a year November past.... Still nothing. My dad and all his siblings have been accepted. We were asked to supplie a lot of docs, we did that at our own expense and still nothing. So disappointed at the gov't

  • Laura Lee Sampson
    June 14, 2014 - 19:37

    I applied for status too and can prove my ancestry and was told I had to supply my long birth certificate which was sent to them twice after the original information was mailed. Then I received another letter saying I sent the application in too late. I don't agree with the way they are treating us too. There are people who has status that shouldn't have it and can't prove their ancestry or who haven't lived in Newfoundland for 40-50 years. I don't understand how they can get away with this.

  • Carol Keefe
    June 14, 2014 - 11:03

    I agree that the enrolment process is no longer fair, especially with the introduction of the supplemental agreement. I take particular offense to the fact that ancestry has taken a back seat: to where you live and how many trips you've made to Newfoundland, supported by copies of paid ferry/airfare invoices. Also required are proven records of e.mails, face book connections and phone calls made to family in Newfoundland. Hardly a word regarding ancestry and I most certainly believe that ancestrial proof is the most important criteria in regards to application for membership into the Qalipu Mi'kmaq Band. Our family has spent years researching our Mi'kmaq ancestrial roots in Felix Cove, Newfoundland and have compiled and submitted considerable documentation as proof of our Mi'kmaq ancestry. Once again the Government of the day as did previous Government refuse to acknowledge all the Mi'kmaq that live in Newfoundland as well as those that do not. I believe that if Bill C-25 is passed, a grave injustice will be done to the Mi'kmag peoples of Newfoundland whether they live on or off Newfoundland. It's very clear to me that the only purpose of the supplemental agreement is to reduce the number of applications into the Qalipu Mi'kmaq Band.