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Distinct disadvantage: Northern peninsula aboriginal community concerned about status with Qalipu

The thought of someone who should be a member of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band losing or never being enrolled does not sit well with Mildred Lavers of Port Saunders.

Hundreds gathered for a meeting at the Torrent River Inn in Hawkes Bay to discuss enrolment in the Qalipu band.

It’s also unacceptable to the nearly 400 people who crammed into the Torrent River Inn in Hawkes Bay earlier this week to discuss this and other issues with Qalipu leaders.

Lavers is a member of the Northern Peninsula Indian Band and helped organize Tuesday night’s meeting, which was attended by Qalipu Chief Brendan Mitchell and Corner Brook ward councillor, Brian Dicks.

It was standing room only inside the room where the meeting was held. The crowd overflowed into the adjacent hallway and rooms, and some even had to be turned away from the building altogether because of fire regulations.

The main topic of conversation revolved around the issues of the enrolment process, in light of the fact there is currently a review of all approved and aspiring members of the Qalipu band.

The people at the meeting came from all over the Northern Peninsula, from Rocky Harbour to St. Anthony. Nearly all of those who attended the meeting were either approved Qalipu members or have filed applications to be enrolled.

The problem is that the entire peninsula is further than the 20-kilometre radius around the nearest established aboriginal community, which would be Deer Lake. That factor alone may put memberships in jeopardy.

“We’re concerned there may be lots of people who have their Qalipu status but are in danger of losing it,” said Lavers, who is currently an approved member of Qalipu.

“I feel very devastated and upset at the thought that some people on the Northern Peninsula won’t even have the chance to qualify under the new agreement.”

Because of the relatively large numbers of people claiming aboriginal descent on the Northern Peninsula, the crowd also supported the idea of having their own ward, if not multiple wards, under the Qalipu band governance structure.

Currently, the area’s members are mostly represented by Dicks under the Corner Brook ward. Some of the Qalipu members on the Northern Peninsula are registered under the Benoit’s Cove ward.

Mitchell said he and Dicks were impressed with the level of interest shown in the area and were glad to have had the opportunity to meet with the Northern Peninsula’s aboriginal community. The enrolment issue is in the hands of the federal government and the ward issue is something that will have to wait until after the enrolment review is done, Mitchell said.

“It is something we’d certainly be considering in the future, but we can’t do it right now because we are in the process of establishing our own band properly,” said the chief.

Lavers said the Northern Peninsula Indian Band realizes the disadvantage its members are at and appreciated Mitchell’s candour.

“It’s sad, but realistic,” she said.

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