Qalipu Mi'kmaq membership process being questioned

The federal government has mailed out a number of rejection letters for Qalipu Mi'kmaq membership, with a watchdog group warning that legal action may be inevitable.

Legal action may be inevitable, watchdog group members says

Hector Pearce of the Mi'kmaq First Nations Assembly of Newfoundland says he believes legal action is inevitable. (CBC)

The federal government has mailed out a number of rejection letters for Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation membership, and it is asking other applicants for more proof.

These letters have a watchdog group in Newfoundland and Labrador questioning the entire process.

When the application process began in 2008, aboriginal leaders expected about 10,000 people to apply for band membership. However, when the application process ended in November 2012, roughly 103,000 applications were sent in.

Hector Pearce ​is a spokesperson for the Mi'kmaq First Nations Assembly of Newfoundland, formerly known as Qalipu Watchdogs. He said the rejection letters are asking applicants for more information that would demonstrate their connection to the Qalipu Mi'kmaq band.

Pearce said while he can prove his bloodlines, he doesn't have anything to show for the powwows and other activities he's attended. 

"You don't get involved with these activities, say, with your culture, so you can prove something. You get involved because you're interested, it's a significant part of you," said Pearce.

Some receiving flat-out rejections

Pearce said there has been another letter mailed out — this one a flat-out rejection ending that person's application, with no chance to appeal.

Two of Pearce's grandsons received rejections, and were each told they didn't attach a long form birth certificate.

"I'm not sure, I'm 100 per cent positive we did, because these birth certificates are in my files."

Brendan Sheppard, chief of the Qalipu Mi'maq First Nation, is unsympathetic.

"The criteria is there, and people just have to meet that criteria, and if they don't, obviously it's going to get rejected," Sheppard said.

Meanwhile, Pearce said he's had hundreds of phone calls from other applicants in the same situation, adding legal action is inevitable.

His group is meeting on Thursday night to figure out the best way to fight.