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Qalipu chief Brendan Mitchell says Assembly of First Nations membership a huge moment for western Newfoundland-based band

(From left) Councillor Corey John, Miawpukek First Nation, Chief Brendan Mitchell, Qalipu First Nation, National Chief Perry Bellegarde, Assembly of First Nations and Chief Mi’sel Joe, Miawpukek First Nation, at the 39th Annual General Assembly in Vancouver earlier this week.
(From left) Councillor Corey John, Miawpukek First Nation, Chief Brendan Mitchell, Qalipu First Nation, National Chief Perry Bellegarde, Assembly of First Nations and Chief Mi’sel Joe, Miawpukek First Nation, at the 39th Annual General Assembly in Vancouver earlier this week. - Contributed

Elder Calvin White says having the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band an official member of the Assembly of First Nations is long overdue.

The western Newfoundland-based band finally achieved that goal Thursday with the passing of a resolution to accept it and its members at the Assembly of First Nation’s 39th annual general assembly in Vancouver.

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Qalipu is now the fourth Mi’kmaq band from Newfoundland and Labrador that holds membership in the Assembly of First Nations in Canada. The others include the Miawpukek band from the Conne River reserve on the south coast, as well as the bands located in Flat Bay in western Newfoundland and Glenwood in central.

“That’s where any status organization belongs,” said White, a Mi’kmaq elder from Flat Bay who is also a member of Qalipu.

It was White who helped get Flat Bay membership in the Assembly of First Nations back in 2000 and who presented a resolution in 2002 urging the assembly to eventually accept Qalipu when it was formed out of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians.

Until now, the Federation of Newfoundland Indians and Qalipu had been members of the Congress of Aboriginal People, an entity that represents mostly Metis and non-status Indians.

“Newfoundland will now be in a stronger position to have its own representative in the Assembly of First Nations. Hopefully, that will be a vice-chief position for Newfoundland.”

The notion of pursuing the establishment of a regional vice-chief for Newfoundland was referenced in a press release posted by Qalipu on its Facebook page. In the release, Chief Mi’sel Joe of Conne River indicated a resolution asking for the Assembly of First Nations to agree to have a Newfoundland regional vice-chief position will be brought forth at the special chief’s assembly in December.

Currently, the Mi’kmaq members of the Assembly of First Nations from Newfoundland are represented by Atlantic regional vice-chief Morley Googoo.

Qalipu Chief Brendan Mitchell said Googoo was instrumental in supporting Qalipu’s membership being brought forward and approved. He said the issue of Newfoundland having its own regional chief is something to be considered further down the road.

“We want to try and enjoy what happened yesterday and what I consider as a step in our own reconciliation as to who we are with respect to acceptance and acknowledgement by the Assembly of First Nations,” said Mitchell.

Qalipu’s inclusion, stated Mitchell, now creates a stronger unity within the assembly across Canada and represents a major development in the band’s own growth.

The acceptance into the Assembly of First Nations comes a little more than a month after the federal government’s Order in Council that established the updated founding members list for Qalipu, which followed a lengthy, controversial and beleaguered enrolment process.

Mitchell said the timing of becoming a member of the Assembly of First Nations was not dependent at all on the formal establishment of the founding members list.

“If the general assembly had been scheduled for March, this still would have taken place,” said Mitchell of Qalipu’s acceptance.

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