Chief Brendan Sheppard of the Newfoundland Qalipu Band said that the band council is willing to work with the federal government to make sure that the review process for all applications for possible band inclusion is completed on a fair and equitable basis.
Chief Sheppard said that, despite what some people are saying, the band has not asked the federal government to alter any criteria for band enrollment and/or to stop processing any applications beyond the December 31 review deadline.
The issue at hand arose when the newly formed Qalipu Band, in agreement with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), said that interested persons in Newfoundland had until November 30, 2012 to file an application for possible acceptance in the group.
The agreement also stated that the Band had until December 31, 2012 to review the applications and people would then have 90 days to appeal their decisions if they so desired.
The agreement seemed fine except that the Band received over 70,000 applications for possible status and could not review all applications by December 31.
Some people are wondering if the remaining applications will be processed at all or, if they are, will they have to face tougher criteria for acceptance.
Chief Shepaprd said, “Quite frankly, that is a lot of fuss and rumour. At this time (January 29) nothing has been decided although we are looking to try and resolve this matter with the federal government.”
Chief Sheppard said that while the government has no obligation from a legal perspective to proceed beyond the dates agreed to by both parties back in 2008, the AANDC officials have never said that this matter is over when the dates, as specified in the original agreement, expires.
Chief Sheppard said, “I wrote to AANDC officials back in August indicating that we’re willing to move beyond the agreement date for the review of applications.
“ We haven’t received any response from the Minister, but he did appoint Fred Caron as a special representative to sit down and discuss how we’re going to move forward on this.”
Chief Sheppard said that he would be meeting with AANDC officials in Halifax on Thursday, January 31 to discuss the ongoing issue.
“I can understand these peoples’ frustrations,” Chief Sheppard said.
“However, I ask those people to be patient as I did in the first phase of applications. I ask people to wait until a solution or a reasonable resolution is found to this particular matter and let the message come forward, hopefully in short time, as to how this is going to unfold.”
A spokesperson from the AANDC said on January 29 that the Minister has asked Mr. Caron to explore possible measures to address the situation connected to the enrollment process, and to ensure that the integrity of the process is maintained and reflects the spirit and goals of the agreement.
The spokesperson said that: We have committed to working closely with the newly elected leadership of the First Nation to explore next steps to address the situation. Given the ongoing nature of the discussion between Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI) and AANDC it is not possible to predict, at this time, the result of the discussions or when a final decision will be made.