Qalipu moving beyond enrolment issues to create benefits for members: Sheppard

Gary
Gary Kean
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While the mere mention of the word Qalipu, for many people, still conjures up thoughts of the challenges pertaining to the Mi’kmaq First Nation band’s controversial enrolment process, its chief says the members have moved on.

That was one of the messages Chief Brendan Sheppard put forth when the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band held its annual general assembly in Corner Brook Sunday.

About 125 people attended the assembly at the Pepsi Centre, just a fraction of the more than 23,000 members of the band.

Tens of thousands more have applied, but have not received acceptance.

Sheppard said the low percentage in attendance was due to the geographic distance over which members are spread, and the fact the annual report presented at the assembly was already online for members to read over.

“We don’t expect people to travel to the (annual general assembly) when they can read the report on our website and pose any questions to or office and get the answer they’re looking for,” said Sheppard.

“All in all, it was an excellent turnout with some good questions and keen interest in what Qalipu is doing.”

During the 2013-14 fiscal year, according to the report, the federal government paid out more than $10.2 million in non-insured health benefits on behalf of Qalipu members.

Meanwhile, the post-secondary student support program managed by Qalipu funded 777 students in a variety of programs to the tune of nearly $7 million.

“Some people consider Qalipu to be surrounded by the enrolment process,” Sheppard said, alluding to the disappointment felt by the thousands of people not approved for enrolment.

“That’s only one aspect of Qalipu. We’re an Indian Act band now and we’re working with the best interest and intentions of the members we have.”

That work includes an entire branch dedicated to creating employment and economic development opportunities for Qalipu members.

For instance, the band is working on an agreement with the Newfoundland and Labrador branch of Emera, the Nova Scotia company building the Maritime Link as part of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.

“We have Emera opening their doors and wanting to speak to us and working towards an agreement to obtain employment opportunities and aboriginal businesspeople,” said Sheppard.

Qalipu members are also eligible to purchase big ticket items tax-free, though the law stipulates they must go to the Mi’kmaq reserve in Conne River to make such transactions. Some members have complained about having to do that, but Sheppard said not much can be done about it yet.

“This is not something we can change because it is legislation within the Indian Act and has to be there,” he said. “Maybe, somewhere down the road, some progress might be made to do something differently, but that remains to be seen.”

Sheppard said Qalipu is taking things slow as it tries to evolve into an entity that can maximize benefits and opportunities for its members.

“We just like to make sure we know what we’re doing by taking it one step at a time and reaching the goals we have in mind for our people,” he said.

“Right now, we’re focused on moving ahead with economic development and other programs, assisting members anywhere we can to advance their cause and make life a little better for them.”

Organizations: Pepsi Centre

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Conne River

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  • Pauline Simon
    July 18, 2014 - 10:50

    Our creator knows who we are. That is priority over any hierarches on this planet. Card or no care our genes cannot be removed from our birth right; which has more impact. Government policy and procedures are just another way to spend the tax payers money like drunken sailors.

  • KP
    July 09, 2014 - 13:25

    It IS and always has been obvious that this creation of an Indian Band is ALL about money!!! Interesting that only 125 "indians" out of 100,000 CLAIMING to now be Indians showed up! It is disgusting that nearly $20 million dollars is being spent on false indians when thousands of reall Indians across the country on Reserves need actual help. How much is Sheppard and his council being paid? Anyone know?

  • Terry Cormier
    July 08, 2014 - 19:01

    The effort to get Qalipu up and going has been a monumental one. The Band deserves much credit for getting the Education and Health Benefits Programs going, though I expect that all associated with the Band would be first to note that there is much that needs to be done, particularly in the areas of culture, language, and education about the Indigenous in Newfoundland and Labrador. When NL joined Canada in 1949 "Indians" were not considered as citizens and could not vote. The story is yet to be told about the discrimination towards the Indigenous of NL. Good luck to the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation.

  • David
    July 08, 2014 - 17:13

    Nice to see Sheppard is trying to put a positive face on qalipu but unfortunately he will never move the band on from the enrolment process because it will always be known as the first nations band that used an unfair and unjust process to allow certain members in a band while their family members were left by the wayside. It is going to take a long long time before Qalipu is going to be able to move on from the enrolment process.

  • Jackie D
    July 08, 2014 - 15:46

    Glad to hear some positive work is being done. I am a member in waiting as many are but I have no interest or need for medical or education coverage. Is it possible to explore a class membership option such as 1. Members with benefits 2 members without benefits? Many of us are interested in the heritage connection and not the personal financial implications. I see a large strong band as a good thing not a negative. Thank you for your efforts thus far.

  • George
    July 08, 2014 - 08:51

    Chief Brendan, Qualibu may be moving on from enrollment issue but I can assure you that band applicants haven't. This will never end until justice and fair play is served up. We have our eyes on you...

  • Roy
    July 08, 2014 - 07:42

    After reading this article I can understand why the critics claim that the creation of this band was, is, and will always be, about money.

  • Gerald White
    July 08, 2014 - 06:43

    this question is for Brendan Sheppard,,,How can you justify myself not being accepted in the band when my first cousin Ann Marie O'Keefe has been accepted when we come from the same blood line, we have the same Grand-Mother

    • Dianne
      July 08, 2014 - 20:58

      I don't understand the process at all. My husband is still waiting for acceptance while his sister and children have membership. Their mother is also still waiting. How can that be.