Bur­geo Bands of In­di­ans Chief con­fi­dent he will have Qalipu mem­ber­ship re­in­stated

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - News - BY GARY KEAN [email protected]­ern­star.com

Greg Janes says it was like re­ceiv­ing an early Christ­mas gift.

The chief of the Bur­geo Band of In­di­ans was re­act­ing to last week’s news that vet­er­ans and peace of­fi­cers who have been de­nied mem­ber­ship in the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Na­tion Band may be able to get their sta­tus back.

Janes re­tired from the Cana­dian Armed Forces three years ago af­ter a 22-year ca­reer that saw him posted to var­i­ous lo­ca­tions away from his home prov­ince.

Ear­lier this year, in protest of be­ing re­moved from the band’s orig­i­nal found­ing mem­bers list that had been re­leased in 2011, he re­turned his mil­i­tary ser­vice medal to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment. On Aug. 30, on the eve of hav­ing his sta­tus card re­voked, Janes and oth­ers met with fed­eral Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Min­is­ter Sea­mus O’Regan in a last-ditch at­tempt to ad­dress the plight of Indige­nous vet­er­ans who are los­ing their Qalipu mem­ber­ship.

Last week, Qalipu Chief Bren­dan Mitchell and Gudie Hutchings, the Lib­eral Com­mons

mem­ber for Long Range Moun­tains, an­nounced that ex­ploratory talks were about to be­gin to find a way to re­visit the ex­pul­sion of mil­i­tary vet­er­ans and peace of­fi­cers.

“This is ex­actly what the fed­eral gov­ern­ment is sup­posed to do: make sense of things that don’t make sense and cor­rect them,” said Janes. “This is what we’ve been work­ing to­wards. It’s very en­cour­ag­ing the gov­ern­ment has fi­nally ad­mit­ted there are flaws in this process that need to be looked at.”

Janes fig­ures he is among around 400 mem­bers of the Cana­dian Armed Forces or the Royal Cana­dian Mounted Po­lice who were among the more than 10,000 peo­ple re­moved from the Qalipu band’s orig­i­nal found­ing mem­bers list in late Au­gust.

They were re­moved from the band be­cause they never met the new res­i­dency cri­te­ria es­tab­lished as part of the con­tro­ver­sial 2013 sup­ple­men­tal agree­ment to the band’s en­rol­ment process that re­quired ap­pli­ca­tions to be re­assessed. Janes has broth­ers and sis­ters who have re­tained their mem­ber­ship and he is the only one in his fam­ily on the out­side look­ing in.

He has been try­ing to get some fol­low-up re­ac­tion from the seven MPs from New­found­land and Labrador since his meet­ing with O’Regan.

“This an­nounce­ment did catch me off guard a bit, but it is one to be cel­e­brated,” Janes said. “I’m ex­tremely con­fi­dent some­thing good will come from it. It only makes sense for the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to step in and work with Qalipu to right the wrongs that have been done.”

There may be even more vet­er­ans and po­lice of­fi­cers among the 58,000 peo­ple that the en­rol­ment process is be­ing re-opened for in light of a Fed­eral Court rul­ing that will al­low some de­nied ap­pli­cants the op­por­tu­nity to sub­mit more in­for­ma­tion with new ap­pli­ca­tions.

Mitchell was asked to con­firm the num­ber of vet­er­ans who could be el­i­gi­ble for re­assess­ment. He thought Janes’ es­ti­mate of 400 be­ing re­moved from the orig­i­nal found­ing mem­bers list was quite high and thought it was closer to 40.

Mitchell said it’s hard to pin­point be­cause ap­pli­ca­tions were not specif­i­cally cat­e­go­rized as be­ing from vet­er­ans.

Janes said the num­bers of vet­er­ans and RCMP of­fi­cers still shouldn’t be all that high when ev­ery­one is in­cluded, and the re­assess­ment process shouldn’t take too long.

“It’s not hard to fol­low up on,” he said. “I al­ready proved my lin­eage and I still carry my card. All I should have to do, as far as I’m concerned, is show my card and be re­in­stated on the found­ing mem­bers list.”

While he’s con­fi­dent for a pos­i­tive out­come, Janes is concerned this is­sue will turn po­lit­i­cal with a fed­eral elec­tion loom­ing next fall. He felt he and oth­ers in his sit­u­a­tion should know no later than early sum­mer of their sta­tus.

At last week’s press con­fer­ence to an­nounce th­ese lat­est de­vel­op­ments in the en­rol­ment process, Mitchell and Hutchings said they don’t know how this process of ex­ploratory talks will un­fold or how long it will take.

SALTWIRE NET­WORK FILE PHOTO

Greg Janes with his ser­vice dog, Ace.

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