Lead­er­ship wanted

Bur­geo Mi’kmaq com­mu­nity wants an­swers to en­rol­ment con­tro­versy

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - FRONT PAGE - BY GARY KEAN

Greg Janes never had the an­swers head­ing into a meet­ing he or­ga­nized for fel­low mem­bers of the Mi’kmaq com­mu­nity in Bur­geo last Wed­nes­day evening.

Janes is among the 300 or so peo­ple from the small south­west coast town who claim to be of in­dige­nous de­scent.

He is among those who have been re­jected mem­ber­ship in the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Na­tion Band.

He is also among those seek­ing an­swers to the ques­tions of why so many peo­ple have been de­nied the op­por­tu­nity to ex­press their an­ces­try through mem­ber­ship in Qalipu.

The frus­tra­tions mounted when in­clement weather pre­vented Janes and oth­ers from Bur­geo at­tend­ing the end-of en­rol­ment in­for­ma­tion ses­sion or­ga­nized by Qalipu for Flat Bay.

Bur­geo falls un­der the ju­ris­dic­tion of the Flat Bay ward, which is rep­re­sented on the Qalipu coun­cil by ward coun­cil­lor Ben Ben­nett. The res­i­dents there, said Janes, think it’s un­fair to have every­one travel the Bur­geo high­way for a meet­ing at any time in win­ter be­cause that road is of­ten treach­er­ous dur­ing win­ter.

Janes, who has founded and chairs the Bur­geo Qalipu Cul­tural Com­mit­tee, is pre­par­ing a pe­ti­tion de­mand­ing that Ben­nett and Qalipu Chief Bren­dan Mitchell come to Bur­geo to lis­ten to the con­cerns of the Mi’kmaq peo­ple liv­ing in the area.

“Peo­ple are dis­tressed over what is hap­pen­ing and we need lead­er­ship,” Janes said Wed­nes­day morn­ing. “We are look­ing for an­swers and some­one to tell us it’s go­ing to be OK.”

Janes is an abo­rig­i­nal re­cruiter with the Cana­dian Forces cur­rently sta­tioned in Hal­i­fax, and reg­u­larly or­ga­nizes abo­rig­i­nal events there.

He re­turns to his home­town reg­u­larly and plans to soon re­tire there.

His fa­ther, Lester Janes, was a prom­i­nent mem­ber of the Fed­er­a­tion of New­found­land In­di­ans.

He is not con­cerned about re­ceiv­ing the govern­ment ben­e­fits promised to Qalipu mem­bers be­cause his ca­reer has al­ready taken care of him well in that re­gard. It’s the many peo­ple who have been re­ly­ing on their sta­tus cards to ob­tain help with things like pay­ing for pre­scrip­tion drugs that Janes is fight­ing for.

He be­lieves the Qalipu coun­cil should do more to make sure the en­rol­ment process was done fairly.

“It should be our band, our chief, lead­ing our peo­ple,” said Janes. “It shouldn’t be me do­ing this, but the peo­ple here need some lead­er­ship right now and, if they think I can give it to them, then I will.”

Mitchell has pub­licly said he was dis­gusted by the out­come of the en­rol­ment process, which saw more than 10,000 peo­ple on the Qalipu found­ing mem­bers list get let­ters ad­vis­ing them that they have been de­nied mem­ber­ship.

“We feel aban­doned by the very band that had ac­cepted us. Now that they don’t re­ally need us, they are telling us we are not good enough and they don’t need us any­more.” Greg Janes

Tens of thou­sands more who were not on the list have also been de­nied mem­ber­ship.

“Of course it’s dis­ap­point­ing, chief, but what are you now go­ing to do about it for us?” asked Janes.

There has been some talk about the pos­si­bil­ity of ex­tend­ing the dead­line to ap­peal de­clined en­rol­ments. There is also talk of court ac­tion to chal­lenge the process, but not by the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Na­tion Band.

Janes said all those things would be good, but it might take years to ac­com­plish. The time it might take to right any wrongs done, he said, are of lit­tle com­fort to peo­ple who could lose their sta­tus and the ac­com­pa­ny­ing ben­e­fits be­fore ev­ery­thing gets sorted out.

“We feel aban­doned by the very band that had ac­cepted us,” said Janes. “Now that they don’t re­ally need us, they are telling us we are not good enough and they don’t need us any­more.”

TC Me­dia con­tacted Mitchell and Ben­nett for com­ment on the con­cerns of the Mi’kmaq peo­ple in Bur­geo. Only Ben­nett replied.

He would not do an in­ter­view Wed­nes­day, but did say in an email that he and Mitchell plan to visit the peo­ple of Bur­geo, and de­tails of when that meet­ing will take place should be fig­ured out in the com­ing days.

Janes said that is good news, but em­pha­sized the pe­ti­tion he has ini­ti­ated will con­tinue un­til that meet­ing ac­tu­ally hap­pens.

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