New legislation permits Qalipu agreement amendment, indemnifies federal government

Gary Kean gkean@thewesternstar.com
Published on February 25, 2014
Gerry Byrne. — Telegram file photo

The federal government proposed legislation in the House of Commons Tuesday it says will “ensure that all applicants are treated equitably and fairly” in the ongoing enrolment process for the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation.

However, one western Newfoundland MP says the legislation is not needed and that it says something else those concerned about the process should take note of.

The Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Act, or Bill C-25 — as it was introduced in the House of Commons Tuesday, was touted in a press release from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada as ensuring that only those individuals with a legitimate claim to membership will be registered following the completion of the enrolment process.

The proposed legislation reflects the original intention of the parties with respect to the creation of a Founding Members list for the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation and 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.

Bill C-25 itself essentially has two clauses of note. The first, clause 3, gives the federal government permission to amend the original agreement.

The second, clause 4, states that the federal government cannot be held liable by people who are not included in the formation of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation.

Gerry Byrne, the Liberal Commons member for Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte, said the federal government did not need to pass legislation to make the amendment and the real point of Bill C-25 is to protect the federal government from the potential legal action that could be taken by those who feel wronged by the process.

“This is just a big smokescreen to institute the real purpose of the bill, which is to indemnify and prevent any liability to the federal government,” said Byrne. “That is the biggest admission, in my opinion, that government knew this was totally contrary to law and they did it anyway. Now, they are going to use the cover of Parliament to inoculate them from their own actions.”

The press release from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada announcing the legislation said the bill does not in any way change the founding membership enrolment criteria. In a statement from the press release, Minister Bernard Valcourt said the federal government is committed to working with the Federation of Newfoundland Indians to ensure that enrolment in the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation is done in a fair and equitable manner.

“This legislation will help to ensure that, at the end of the day, only eligible individuals will be granted membership in the First Nation membership," stated Valcourt.

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