Chief Brendan Mitchell says the federal government may not seem interested in any further negotiation, but he is vowing to fight for people he feels should be included in the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band.
The chief indicated as such in his most recent “Message from the Chief” post on the Qalipu website.
In his statement, he promised to fight for the grassroots people. In an interview Wednesday, he said the those people refer to those who were involved in the early days of the movement toward having the Mi’kmaq people of western Newfoundland recognized under the Indian Act. Some of them may have since left the province, but Mitchell feels they still deserve status as Qalipu founding members.
More than 100,000 applied to be founding members, but only a little more than 18,000 were granted status after the controversial 2013 supplemental agreement led to the applications being reassessed.
More than 10,500 of those denied had been on an original founding members list that had been established in 2011.
The most contentious aspect of the supplemental agreement has been the points system used to reassess applicants.
Besides the grassroots category, Mitchell said he also wants to help people who live in one of the 67 established Mi’kmaq communities in Newfoundland and who never should have been subjected to the points system in the first place.
Another group of denied applicants the chief promised to fight for are with either the RCMP, the Canadian Forces or veterans of those agencies who had no choice but to live somewhere other than Newfoundland and Labrador for their careers.
Mitchell said he has recently requested meetings with Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett and Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott, but no meetings have been granted and likely won’t be any time soon.
“I am offering solutions, but they have told me the minister is not interested in meeting with me on this file at this time if it involves enrolment,” said Mitchell.
The last of the enrolment appeal decision letters should soon be delivered and the new founding members list is expected to be established by an order of council some time this spring.
There are a number of lawsuits launched against the federal government over the enrolment issue. Mitchell hopes those cases will have some success and more people who should be in the band can become members.
He also wants to hear from anyone who has had a successful appeal, as their case may help others who might fall into a similar category.
The chief will be in Ottawa to participate in a rally being planned in protest of the enrolment process Feb. 24. He hopes other Qalipu council members will also join him, along with others from the Indigenous community and its supporters.
“I think we need to let people know nationally that this process has been difficult and it is excluding people we think should be involved,” said Mitchell.
The Western Star asked Bennett’s office for an interview, but none was granted as of deadline Wednesday.