Qalipu First Nation and Canada announce reassessment of 58,000 membership applications

The contentious development of Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation's membership list has taken another step backwards after Canada and the band announced Thursday that 58,000 applications are to be reassessed.

No details yet on timeline for application reassessments and next membership list

'It could be 2019, it could be 2020,' said Qalipu Chief Brendan Mitchell of the establishment of a new membership list. (Submitted/Qalipu First Nation)

The contentious development of Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation's membership list has taken another step backwards after Canada and the band announced Thursday that 58,000 applications are to be reassessed.

Brendan Mitchell, Chief of Qalipu and the president of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians, said a new membership list may not be ready until 2020. 

Mitchell and Gudie Hutchings, MP for Long Range Mountains in Newfoundland, announced an enrolment committee will review the applications of those who were denied membership for failing to prove they self-identified as Mi'kmaw before submitting their membership applications after the band was officially established in September 2011.

"Now we have an opportunity to revisit these files again [and] mitigate some of the hurt and the damage that may have been done recently with the change of the founding members list," said Mitchell in an interview Friday. 

Canada and Qalipu established a new founding members list of 18,575 people in June.

The announcement is a result of a Federal Court ruling earlier this year in what's known as the Well/Wells case.

As per the Wells/Wells ruling, the 58,000 applicants will be permitted to submit additional self-identification documents to support their application, as well as to appeal their denials.

Chief Brendan Mitchell said the actual reassessment of applications likely won't start until 2019. (Submitted/Qalipu First Nation)

No details yet

In a statement released Thursday, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett said the process was an "important step towards reconciliation" for the Mi'kmaq of Newfoundland.

"Canada and the Federation of Newfoundland Indians will continue to work in close collaboration throughout the implementation of the Federal Court's decision, in the spirit of upholding the integrity of founding membership," the statement read.

Mitchell said the reassessments will help to "fix the problems" in the enrolment process. However, he also said the band and Canada haven't figured out how long the process will take or when it will start.

"I don't know yet how we're going to do this," Mitchell said. "Hopefully the process will begin as early as next week." 

Mitchell said that since an enrolment committee needs to be reassembled, it's likely that the actual reassessments won't start until sometime after Christmas.

"We'll be lucky to get it done by the end of 2019, but I couldn't say. It could be 2019, it could be in 2020," he said. 

The enrolment process has already taken nearly a decade. 

Veterans to be reconsidered

Also announced by Hutchings and Mitchell on Thursday, was the federal government and Qalipu's joint intention to address applications to Qalipu by members of the Canadian Armed Forces, veterans and RCMP who say their time in service affected their eligibilty scores. 

Some veterans who applied to Qalipu protested their denial because their time in service affected their eligibility. (Nic Meloney/CBC)

Some veterans had their applications for membership denied based on factors like not residing in Newfoundland, when they say that was because they were stationed in other parts of the world. 

Mitchell said the endeavour is "to bring the veterans back" into the membership, but he was unable to provide details about how the involved parties were going to accomplish that. 

"For me, it's an easy one. I'd say, 'Look, take our veterans and put them back in the band,'" he said.

"But Canada might say it's not that easy."

Requests for more details on either part of announcement were not returned by Crown-Indigenous Relations minister's office. 

About the Author

Nic Meloney

Videojournalist

Nic Meloney is a Wolastoqew video journalist raised on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia/Mi'kma'ki. Email him at nic.meloney@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter @nicmeloney.