Mi'kmaq First Nations Assembly preparing for general meeting

Gary Kean gkean@thewesternstar.com
Published on July 9, 2014

Just as the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band says it has moved on beyond its enrolment issues, the group of people who have so far been denied membership says it is tending to its other business too.

That doesn’t mean the Mi'kmaq First Nations Assembly of Newfoundland has given up on what its members feel is rightfully theirs.

“I’m pleased to see the Qalipu band is looking ahead and trying to create opportunities and employment for their members,” said Hector Pearce of Lewisporte, the assembly’s vice-chairperson. “The difficulty is no one really knows who their membership are.”

The Mi'kmaq First Nations Assembly of Newfoundland now has a membership of more than 12,000 people. Most of them have been rejected or not yet approved for membership in the Qalipu band and have vowed to continue questioning the decisions made by the federal government as to who can or cannot be in the band that has been formally recognized under federal legislation.

The assembly is planning to host its first-ever general meeting in Corner Brook Aug. 16. Pearce said there will be some significant things announced at that meeting which will determine the path the assembly will take.

He would not elaborate yet on what those announcements will be because more work needs to be done to determine how they will be worded exactly.

“The actions taken will depend on voting by the members at the meeting,” said Pearce. “One thing I can say for sure is that all of the members will have genuine input into those decisions.”

In February, the federal government introduced the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Act, or Bill C-25. It is legislation the Mi'kmaq First Nations Assembly of Newfoundland feels is meant to protect the federal government from being sued by people who feel they are not being treated fairly or equally.

At the time, the assembly was preparing to launch a class-action lawsuit against the federal government, if it felt that was going to be necessary. The assembly is still in the process of reviewing the legislation to see if its right to take legal action has indeed been quashed or if there is some way to navigate around the legislative impediment.

Regardless, Pearce said the voices of the assembly’s large membership cannot be ignored by government.

“We’re still alive and well,” he said. “We’re going to be around for a long time, regardless of who government says is or is not a member of Qalipu.”