Burgeo Bands of Indians Chief confident he will have Qalipu membership reinstated
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.
Greg Janes with his service dog, Ace.