The Mi’kmaq First Nations Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador has won an important court battle in its fight against the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band enrolment process.
On Tuesday, Justice Russel Zinn of the Federal Court ruled in favour of the applicants in the David Wells and Sandra Wells cases, which contested the amendments to the original 2008 agreement to form a band between the Canadian government and the Federation of Newfoundland Indians.
The two applicants — who are not related to one another, but were both denied membership under the 2013 supplemental agreement — were put forth by the Mi'kmaq First Nation Assembly of Newfoundland as examples of the perceived unfairness in the enrolment process.
Zinn agreed with the applicants that, under the circumstances, the FNI and the federal government lacked authority under the original agreement to remove an applicant's right of appeal. He declared Section 6 of the supplemental agreement invalid and unenforceable.
The court agreed with the government and the FNI that requiring proof of self-identification documentation was reasonable, but Zinn also agreed with the applicants that the requirement that such evidence must pre-date the execution of the original agreement was not reasonable.
The court set aside the decisions of the enrolment committee to deny David Wells and Sandra Wells membership. The court ordered that their applications be reconsidered in light of these findings.
This court win may represent a victory for more than David Wells and Sandra Wells. It may open the door for other applicants whose cases are similar to the Wells cases to also have their denied applications reconsidered.