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Corner Brook judge rules no evidence or basis in law to declare Qalipu/FNI lawyer in conflict of interest

Eric Tucker, left, speaks with Jamie Merrigan, lawyer for the Federation of Newfoundland Indians and the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band, following Tucker’s failed attempt to have the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador declare Merrigan to be in a conflict of interest for representing both entities.
Eric Tucker, left, speaks with Jamie Merrigan, lawyer for the Federation of Newfoundland Indians and the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band, following Tucker’s failed attempt to have the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador declare Merrigan to be in a conflict of interest for representing both entities. - Gary Kean

CORNER BROOK

Eric Tucker’s effort to have the lawyer representing both the Federation of Newfoundland Indians and the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band declared to be in a conflict of interest has failed.

Tucker is a former Bay of Islands resident now residing in Ontario who unsuccessfully ran for Qalipu chief in 2012.

He is in the process of suing both the FNI and Qalipu, along with the federal government, over the band’s controversial enrolment process. He wants the courts to reinstate the roughly 10,000 people whose status cards were revoked late last summer after applications for the band, including those already on the original founding members’ list, were reassessed.

The FNI was the predecessor of the Qalipu band, but remains an active entity while ongoing legal battles determine the fairness of the enrolment process.

The FNI is solely consisted of the elected members of the Qalipu council.

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Eric Tucker, who ran for chief in 2012, asking Corner Brook court to prevent Qalipu status cards from being revoked

In his most recent application, Tucker wanted Justice Brian Furey of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador to declare Jamie Merrigan to be in a conflict for representing the interests of both the FNI and Qalipu.

Tucker got to argue his case before Furey in a Corner Brook courtroom Friday afternoon. However, his arguments contained little evidence or case law to support his allegations.

Tucker is of the opinion a lawyer representing Qalipu cannot legitimately represent the FNI as the federation is supposed to be representing both those accepted into the Qalipu band and those from the Mi’kmaq community who have been denied membership.

“It is important to us to see, finally, some little bit of justice is done for the people,” Tucker pleaded to Furey.

Merrigan said it was appropriate for the court to give Tucker, who represented himself but is not a lawyer, some respect and leeway when it comes to the usually strict procedures of the court. However, continued Merrigan, that laxity cannot be extended to Tucker when it comes to his misapprehensions of the law or the onus on Tucker to present evidence to support his arguments.

“When presented with no evidence and no law, there is nothing for you to rule on,” Merrigan said to Furey. “Opinions and belief — no matter how sincerely, firmly or passionately held — are not substitutes for fact and law.”

Furey dismissed Tucker’s application, citing there was indeed no proof presented of any real or perceived conflict of interest in Merrigan representing two clients, who are basically the same group of people, in the other legal proceedings being pursued by Tucker.

“There has got to be more than saying that ‘We, the people, feel that there is a conflict’” said Furey. “To be quite frank, Mr. Tucker, I don’t see that evidence.”

Tucker is still planning to pursue his legal battle to have disenfranchised Qalipu members reinstated and to seek millions of dollars in damages for himself and others who have lost their status.

In documents filed with the court by Tucker, he is claiming $640 million in compensation for the turmoil experienced by all of those who have had their Qalipu status revoked.

In another, he is requesting $96 million in damages for himself.

No new dates have been set for the proceedings as Tucker indicated Friday he wanted some time to contemplate appealing Furey’s decision.

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