Nfld. & Labrador

Scrap Qalipu membership requirements, says Mi'kmaq association chair

Mi'kmaq First Nation Assembly of Newfoundland chair Dave Wells is worried about the results of the Qalipu First Nation Band application process, which ends on January 31, 2017.

Dave Wells says point system a form of discrimination

The Mi'kmaq First Nations Assembly of Newfoundland believes the current enrolment qualifications for the Qalipu First Nation Band are discriminatory. (MFNAN)

The head of a watchdog Mi'kmaq group is alleging discrimination in the application process for the Qalipu First Nation band.

Dave Wells, chair of the Mi'kmaq First Nations Assembly of Newfoundland, said the point system that the federal government is using to determine membership into the band will make it difficult, or even impossible, to join.

"They are treating the Newfoundland band —  the Qalipu — differently than they are treating any other Indian band in Canada, so you have a form of, well, we believe, there is a form of discrimination there," Wells told the Central Morning Show.

In January, the federal government will rule on more than 100,000 applications for membership into the Qalipu First Nation Band. The end of the month marks the end of the appeal process for people who have applied.

Wells explained the federal government is using a point system to try to grade applications.

"If you live in what is called, or so-called, a Mik'maq community in Newfoundland, and they are all listed there, you get so many points. If you are a member of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians, you get so many points."

Wells said he believes the majority of the applicants will fall outside of the parameters required to achieve the 13 points needed to qualify for membership in the Qalipu band. 

"Other bands basically have to prove ancestry. Within Newfoundland, you have to prove that you self-identified, that you live in a Mi'kmaq community," he said.

"If you live outside a Mi'kmaq community you may not achieve status."

Needs to be scrapped: Wells

Wells said his group would prefer to see the current qualification system scrapped. He said government and Qalipu officials should "go back to the table again and come up with something that is fair and equitable."

He did get a reply from Newfoundland and Labrador Premier, Dwight Ball, but said apart from that, his letters and requests for meetings to politicians have gone unanswered.

Wells said that his group will likely bring the matter to court, unless something changes. It has previously been successful in arguing on behalf of two people whose application had been disallowed by government for clerical reasons.

There is a form of discrimination there- Dave Wells

"It is really looking like that unless the Prime Minister or the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett comes back and says 'let's fix this now'," Wells said.

"Or we are going to waste more time, more money in the courts fighting this."

Wells said the Qalipu Band is also able to force a change in the process. Since it is an agreement in principle, either party is able to withdraw from the contract. 

"We throw it right back at the Qalipu. Are you going to sign a document where 80,000 people are left out and not given any opportunity to join the Band, just for a few dollars? That is their decision, and it is a very difficult decision."

with files from the Central Morning Show