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

Diane Crocker dcrocker@thewesternstar.com
Published on June 14, 2014
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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.”