Nfld. & Labrador

'It's still pretty rampant': National Indigenous chief discusses discrimination

Dwight Dorey is on Newfoundland's west coast, taking in community events and holding grassroots meetings to help better the lives of Indigenous peoples.
Dorey held a grassroots meeting with Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation members Thursday night in Corner Brook. (CBC)

The chief of a national organization dedicated to representing the issues of off-reserve, Métis and non-status Indians is in the midst of a visit of Newfoundland's west coast, as part of a cross-Canada grassroots tour.

Dwight Dorey, the head of the Indigenous Peoples' Assembly of Canada, formerly known as the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, said talking with the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band ties into his organization's objectives.

"Because basically they're a landless band, and it goes with a lot of the priorities of the organization in trying to help people better the lives of Indigenous people who reside away from reserves," Dorey told CBC Radio's The Corner Brook Morning Show.

Dorey said Qalipu members are just some of the hundreds of thousands of Indigenous people who live off reserve, who he estimates make up 75 per cent of Canada's Indigenous population of 1.4 million.

Discrimination 'still rampant'

Dorey chaired a public meeting in Corner Brook Thursday night to hear more of Qalipu members' experiences, challenges and concerns.

"There's quite a broad range. Here it's about, what are the benefits, what are the entitlements? People are interested in things like better health care, education opportunities. Hunting and fishing rights is a big question," he said.

Qalipu Chief Brendan Mitchell and Dorey take in the Bay St. George Pow Wow as part of Dorey's visit. (Twitter)

Dorey has noticed a common thread through the grassroots meetings, no matter the location.

"The big issue that keeps coming up, sadly, is discrimination. It's still pretty rampant," he said, adding the Qalipu experience of finally being recognized in 2011 by the federal government as a band, has been no exception.

"When you have people who have not grown up with their cultural identity, and have lost it, a lot of that is because of discrimination in the past."

However, Dorey applauded local efforts to reconnect with the past.

"We're finding people are taking pride in who they are, their heritage," he said.

​Dorey also preached patience with the complicated, contentious and long-running evaluation of Qalipu memberships, in which thousands of applicants are still awaiting word of their status.

"It's probably something to be expected ina process like this," he said, adding that no applicant that meets all the qualifications should be denied.

With files from The Corner Brook Morning Show