New Mi'kmaq band on hold due to lawsuit

The formation of a new Mi'kmaq band in Newfoundland and Labrador is being delayed by a lawsuit over the membership application process.

The formation of a new Mi'kmaq band in Newfoundland and Labrador is being delayed.

The Qalipu First Nation was supposed to be created this spring, giving status under the federal Indian Act to Mi'kmaq people who live off-reserve.

But so many people sent in claims for membership that the 13,000 applications weren't processed by the deadline in November.

Mi'kmaq elder Calvin White sued to halt creation of the band until all applications were reviewed, and the Indian Affairs Department has confirmed the band's creation will be delayed.

"While the plaintiff's motion is being considered by the Federal Court, the government of Canada is not proceeding with the establishment of the band," Indian Affairs spokeswoman Margot Geduld said. "The government continues the preparation work in order to be in a position to proceed quickly once a decision is rendered."

The delay means people already accepted for membership will not get Indian Act status or the benefits associated with it — including funding for post-secondary education and health and dental care — until the First Nation is created.

The Qalipu First Nation is part of an agreement between the federal government and the Federation of Newfoundland Indians to give thousands of people Indian Act status.

The agreement — a majority of FNI members voted in favour of it in March 2008 — would apply to those who can prove their Mi'kmaq ancestry. But unlike other aboriginal bands that fall under the Indian Act, members of the Qalipu First Nation will not be provided with land to form a reserve.