UPDATED: Mi'kmaq First Nation Assembly of Newfoundland weighing its options

Diane Crocker dcrocker@thewesternstar.com
Published on November 12, 2013
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CORNER BROOK  The Mi’kmaq First Nation Assembly of Newfoundland will decide Thursday night what action it will take now that applicants to the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band are getting rejection letters.

Hector Pearce, vice-chair of the assembly, said the group had a conference call with its lawyers Monday to discuss its available options.

“There are a couple of options that we’ll look at,” said Pearce, who declined to elaborate on those options before the meeting.

“We will decide on a course of action Thursday night. We have to.”

With the rejection letters going out last week, Pearce said the group — which is represented by Gowlings, a firm that specializes in aboriginal law — has a grace period of about 30 days if it is going to take any legal action.

 The reasons given for the rejections tend to be either that a release form included in the application was not signed or that the applicant’s long-form birth certificate was not submitted.

Based on the feedback the assembly has been getting its estimating that between 60 and 70 per cent of those rejected fall into the category of not sending in a long-form birth certificate, while another 20 per cent were rejected because they didn’t sign their application.

But Pearce said people are telling the assembly that they did sign their applications and did include the long-form birth certificates and they have copies to prove that.

“In a number of cases the reasons for rejection just appears to be bogus,” said Pearce.

“It just appears that the enrolment committee is rejecting people,” he said adding that people have no chance to appeal.

 

‘False information’

“If we had gone through exactly the same process as the original 30,000 (applicants and members) and if we had been rejected for reasons that that enrolment committee were stating we could accept that,” said Pearce. “But we can’t accept rejection based on what we consider to be false information.”

Pearce said the rejections have nothing to do with the information contained in the applications.

“It has nothing to do with whether you’re of Mi’kmaq ancestry or not. That’s not the question,” he said. “The government is not concerned about that in my opinion, they’re just not concerned about it. What they’re concerned about and their priority in this whole process is to get the numbers for the Qalipu Mi’kmaq band down to approximately 10,000 people.”

That, he said, means they have to eliminate about 90,000 applications.

“They’re not even looking at what would be the essence of the application, which is am I considered of Mi’kmaq ancestry based on the information I’ve submitted. And that should be the question and their answer should be based on that question. But instead of that they’re just trying to reduce the numbers.”

Two of Pearce’s grandsons received letters of rejection stating their long-form birth certificates were not included.

“Which is bogus. My files show that we did submit the long form, and so that rejection is not valid,” he said.

He also expects to receive a rejection letter.

“I suspect the reason will be the same.”

 

Earlier story

CORNER BROOK  The Mi’kmaq First Nation Assembly of Newfoundland will decide Thursday night what action it will take now that applicants to the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band are getting rejection letters.

Hector Pearce, vice-chair of the assembly, said the group had a conference call with its lawyers on Monday to discuss its available options.

“There are a couple of options that we’ll look at Thursday night,” said Pearce, who declined to elaborate on those options before the meeting.

“We will decide on a course of action Thursday night. We have to,” he said.

With the rejection letters going out last week, Pearce said the group, which is represented by Gowlings, a law firm that specializes in aboriginal law, has a grace period of about 30 days if it is going to take any legal action.

The Mi’kmaq First Nation Assembly of Newfoundland, originally known as the Qalipu Watchdogs, was formed to fight for the fair treatment of all band applicants after questions arose about whether or not some 70,000 outstanding applications for membership would be evaluated.

The group’s concerns were further strengthened when the band and the federal government entered into a review of the enrolment process aimed at reducing band membership. That review resulted in a supplemental agreement between the band and federal government that includes a full review of all applications, including those outstanding and those already approved.

Last week applicants started receiving letters of rejection from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. The reasons given for rejection tend to be either that a release form included in the application was not signed or that the applicants long-form birth certificate was not submitted.

Since then Pearce said the assembly has been hearing from a lot of those impacted saying the reasons they were rejected is just not true.

“In a number of cases the reasons for rejection just appears to be bogus,” said Pearce.