Qalipu Chief Brendan Sheppard welcomed the positive discussion and relationship building with the Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief of Nova Scotia/Newfoundland and Labrador this week.
Chief Morley Googoo met with Sheppard in Corner Brook while visiting the province. Googoo also met with various other chiefs of the bands he represents as an executive member of the national advocacy organization for First Nation citizens.
Qalipu is not a member of the First Nations group, but Googoo extended the invitation to a group he still considers within his realm of responsibility.
Sheppard thought it was a good opportunity, especially considering there is some tumultuous history between the Qalipu and other Mi’kmaq people.
The chief is still not pleased that members of the Grand Council of Micmacs wrote a statement to the United Nations Special Rapporteur Anaya that included concerns over the creation of the Qalipu band. The primary worry of Grand Chief Ben Sylliboy, Grand Keptin Andrew Denny and Putus Victor Alex — who each signed the statement — was that potentially 100,000 new status Indians are claiming Mi’kmaq heritage. It was referred to as a violation of article 33 of the declaration that affirms the ability of indigenous people to determine their own identity and membership.
It is noted the concern is not with all Mi’kmaq from Newfoundland.
“These new Qalipu members we simply do not know and do not recognize as Mi’kmaq,” the statement reads.
There is concern noted that members in their community are being denied the same recognition.
“The Mi’kmaq Grand Council fear that the creation of the Qalipu band will generate hardship towards current funding to existing Mi’kmaq associations and bands in Atlantic Canada,” the statement continued. “Furthermore, by doubling the Mi’kmaq population overnight, Canada will strain current constitutional rights affirmed by the court including hunting, harvesting, and commercial fisheries which are already depleted resources.”
Sheppard said these individuals should be ashamed of their actions, calling it dishonourable and unacceptable.
“These individuals are disrespectful and certainly not acting in the role aboriginal people would expect from Grand Council representatives,” he said.
That is another reason why Sheppard thought it was so significant to have Googoo meet with him on good terms and hear his willingness to learn first-hand about the Qalipu’s battle for status.
Sheppard said some Qalipu members, such as university students, have had bad experiences with other aboriginal people who believe they are not of rightful heritage and have been accused of only seeking benefits.
“Let those people know that we are aboriginal people, registered with Indian Affairs, and it doesn’t make us any less of an aboriginal person than all the people who had been registered with Indian Affairs from the time their province became a Dominion of Canada,” he said.
Qalipu is an affiliate member of the Congress of Aboriginal People, but the chief said there will likely be a time when Qalipu will receive direction from its membership to be affiliated with the Assembly of First Nations.
“I don’t see it as a big rush at this point in time,” he said. “I am always weighing out as to what we would actually obtain from being part of the (Assembly of First Nations), if there is some additional opportunities there for us through different programs that would benefit our people.”
Sheppard said he was also offered an invitation to attend such events as the Assembly of First Nations annual assembly and connect with the Atlantic Policy Congress. He said he plans to do so.
Meanwhile, Googoo said the visit to Newfoundland was to get updated on regional initiatives and goals throughout his jurisdiction.
He also travelled to Conne River and met with Chief Misel Joe and Chief Liz Lasaga in Flat Bay.
“I think it is important for all of them to improve their quality of life, and make sure they are able to provide services for their community members,” Googoo said.
He acknowledged he provided the Qalipu with options to expand their ties, but also took the opportunity to learn more about the history of the band and its struggle for status.
“They are community members in First Nations that are in my region,” he said.
“I want to make sure I have the opportunity to represent them. In order to represent them properly, I need to be able to meet with them.”