‘Leave no one behind’
Exploits ward candidates respond to concerns about Qalipu status criteria change
The message was much larger than the turnout.
A few members of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band stood outside the group’s Grand Falls-Windsor office Oct. 1, calling on leaders to fight for the rights of their people.
More than 10,000 people are slotted to be removed from Qalipu’s founding members list, which was established in 2011. The removals were confirmed after applications for membership were reassessed as per the terms of a supplemental agreement reached in 2013 between Qalipu and its predecessor, the Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI) and the federal government.
While Vanda Martin has maintained her status, she organized the protest to voice her concerns.
“I feel it’s very unfair for our people — who have just as much right — to have status denied,” she said. “We can’t go on being proud of being Mi’kmaq when a big majority of our people have been denied.
“Leave no one behind.” Martin called the reassessments a shameful act by the federal government.
“It’s like they ignored us for years, then recognized us, apologized, then screwed us over,” she said.
Martin is calling upon Qalipu leadership to fight for status reinstatement of those impacted by the reassessment.
There are 1,468 members in the Exploits ward, which runs from Point Leamington to Buchans and south to St. Albans. It is unknown how many people within this region have been affected by the supplemental agreement.
Rod Bennett, who is running for Exploits ward councilor in the upcoming band election Oct. 23 is frustrated with the situation.
“My mother had her status, she was a member of the FNI, and now the woman that gave birth to me has lost her status, but I get to keep it,” he said.
His biggest issue with the new criteria approach is the 26-point system, in which members are required 13 points to receive approval.
“Living in a Newfoundland aboriginal community awarded nine points,” he said.
“A lot of the families, had 10, 11, 12 points and when reassessed, but were basically denied (because) they don’t live in a Mi’kmaq community.”
The Central Voice wasn’t able to obtain information of how the criteria’s point system is structured before deadline.
Bennett argues that being a landless band, members shouldn’t be denied based on where they live.
“If there’s no land involved, we should be able to live anywhere,” he said. “It’s completely wrong.”
He too is calling on the Qalipu council to push for the reinstatement of those removed from the list.
Andrew Baker, (who was formerly employed by The Advertiser as a columnist) seeking re-election as Exploits ward councillor, felt the demonstration was misdirected anger.
“The demonstration was in the wrong place,” he said, suggesting the focus should have been a federal government building.
Baker said members’ statuses have been revoked because the federal government is adhering to the established terms of the supplemental agreement.
“If the Qalipu band council had its way, these issues around people that are losing status would be resolved,” he said.
But it doesn’t mean the band are court injunctions against the federal government fighting for reinstatement, and Qalipu has been accepted into the Assembly of First Nations.
Availing of those avenues, Baker said, “I really think that we are going to get the people wronged by this process back (reinstated).”
Vanda Martin was one of a few people to hold a peaceful protest at the Qalipu Mi’kmaq band office in Grand Falls-Windsor on Monday, Oct. 1. The group is fighting for the inclusion of more than 10,000 people who were removed from the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band’s founding members list.