The provincial and federal governments have indicated they are willing to listen to the concerns of the Flat Bay band Inc. as it contemplates distancing itself from the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band.
Flat Bay Chief Liz Lasaga has confirmed the self-governed band based in the western Newfoundland communities of Flat Bay East, Flat Bay West and St. Teresa no longer wants to be associated with Qalipu because of the controversial enrolment process that has left thousands of people denied founding membership in the Qalipu band.
Lasaga said the Flat Bay band has about 1,000 members, but Qalipu Chief Brendan Mitchell has said only 132 members of the Flat Bay band are also Qalipu members. Further, noted Mitchell, the Flat Bay band has no direct affiliation with Qalipu.
During an interview Monday, Lasaga indicted she felt confident Flat Bay’s quest for status separate from Qalipu would get support from both the federal and provincial governments.
The Western Star requested interviews with both Premier Dwight Ball, who is Newfoundland and Labrador’s minister for Intergovernmental and Indigenous Affairs, and federal Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett regarding the Flat Bay issue.
No interviews were granted from either government.
In an emailed statement attributed to Ball, the province said it has worked closely with both Mitchell and Lasaga to advance the needs of their people and will continue to stand with both of them in advancing work on all matters of importance, including infrastructure needs, economic development needs and advancing matters under federal jurisdiction.
The provincial statement reiterated the Qalipu enrolment process is a federal matter and only the federal government can confer Indian Act status on a person or establish Indian Act reserves.
“We have been clear in correspondence to the federal government that issues with the enrolment process should be addressed,” read the statement. “We will continue to advocate in this regard and will seek feedback from the federal government that is responsive to the needs of Chief Mitchell, Chief Lasaga and the residents we serve.”
Bennett’s office declined an interview at this time, but also provided an emailed statement that indicated the federal department has been in contact with officials of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band and Mi’kmaq community in the Flat Bay area on this issue. Bennett’s office said it is engaged with these communities to hear their views on a way forward and will continue to have discussions to ensure the integrity of the enrolment process.