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The lawyer representing both the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band and the Federation of Newfoundland Indians has excused himself from one of the cases involving those entities currently before the courts.
Stephen May has been the legal counsel for both Qalipu and its predecessor, the Federation of Newfoundland Indians, for years, including through the band’s controversial enrolment process.
There are still a number of court cases contesting the legality or fairness of the enrolment process.
Among those are a number of statements of claim filed by Eric Tucker, a Meadows native of Mi’kmaq descent who now lives in North York, Ont. In addition to unsuccessfully trying to stop the Qalipu band council election held last fall, court documents filed by Tucker have demanded the reinstatement of everyone who had their Qalipu status cards revoked last August until courts can determine if they should have had them taken away in the first place.
In another claim, Tucker has requested damages of $640 million be paid to those who have suffered emotional trauma from the enrolment process.
During the proceedings, Tucker has raised allegations of May being in a conflict by representing both Qalipu and the Federation of Newfoundland Indians.
The federation’s membership, which originally had included the members of various Mi’kmaq bands located throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, has been reduced to consist of only its executive since October 2009. That’s when the federation membership voted at its annual assembly to have the federation consist solely of its executive.
Since the inaugural Qalipu election in 2012, the role of the federation’s executive has been assumed by the elected Qalipu council.
Tucker has yet to argue in court why exactly this put May in a conflict.
When Tucker’s matters were called in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in Corner Brook earlier this week, May informed the court he would no longer have conduct of the proceedings on behalf of Qalipu or the Federation of Newfoundland Indians.
The band and the federation have now retained the services of Corner Brook law firm Poole Althouse to represent them on the files May is no longer working on.
The Western Star asked May or an interview. Instead, an emailed reply from Jamie Merrigan, a partner in Poole Althouse, said the change in legal counsel does not signal any concession of there being a conflict of interest.
Rather, Merrigan’s email stated, the firm’s clients do not wish to spend any time or legal costs in contesting that point with Tucker and prefer to focus on other aspects of the legal action before the court.
May did confirm that he will remain the legal counsel for both the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band and the Federation of Newfoundland Indians on four other matters currently before the Federal Court.
Qalipu band manager Keith Goulding said May would only be replaced in matters in which he has been subpoenaed as a potential witness.
Tucker, meanwhile, has indicated he is not done filing claims against the two Indigenous entities.
His matters are next scheduled to be called at the Supreme Court in Corner Brook at the end of this month.