Mi'kmaq group rallying support for Qalipu court action

The Mi'kmaq First Nations Assembly of Newfoundland is looking to raise money to finance another legal challenge against the Qalipu First Nation band membership rules.

Mi'kmaq First Nations Assembly of Newfoundland has won previous battles

Dave Wells spoke Thursday night to a group of rejected Qalipu band applicants. (Bernice Hillier/CBC)

A Qalipu watchdog group held a meeting in Corner Brook Thursday night to raise money and rally support for another legal challenge to the First Nation's controversial enrolment process.

The Mi'kmaq First Nations Assembly of Newfoundland (MFNAN) hosted the meeting at Corner Brook Regional High school. Several hundred people were there, including many who had their application to join the Qalipu band rejected or revoked.

Why do we have a point system to know who we are as people?- Kenny Bennett

The group is looking at fighting the rejections in court, and is represented by Gowlings WLG, a firm that specializes in aboriginal law. 

MFNAN Chair Dave Wells explained to the crowd that the legal challenge is expected to cost $250,000, and urged people to sign up for a $20 membership in his group to help finance the effort. 

Getting organized

Wells has previously called the application process discriminatory, alleging the Qalipu First Nation was treated differently than any other band. The application process used a point system to assess whether applicants could be granted status.

"Why do we have a point system to know who we are as people?" asked Kenny Bennett, who also spoke out at the meeting.

The MFNAN is confident that certain elements of the agreement between the Qalipu and Ottawa could be struck down in court.

Many rejections

Thousands of Newfoundlanders learned early in February whether they were accepted into the Qalipu band.

Of the 104,000 who applied, only 18 per cent, or 18,044, were accepted, according to Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.

More than 68,000 were rejected, including some who had already been given Indian status. Families were split, with some relatives keeping or getting status, with others were rejected.

Some of those who were rejected still have a right to appeal.

The MFNAN's legal representative is asking to speak with rejected applications from a few particular categories.

Those include people who were rejected for a technical reason and people who were unaware of their heritage before Sept. 22, 2011 and could not produce the required evidence.

The MFNAN helped organize a court challenge in 2016 that gave a second chance to some 6,500 people who made technical errors in their applications.

With files from Bernice Hillier