According to various news reports there are approximately 70,000 applications for possible inclusion in the Qalipu Mi’Kmaq First Nation Band that may not be processed.
Apparently, the review date for possible status in the band ended on December 18, 2012.
While these applications may be processed at a later date, some people in the province are starting to believe that they may never be processed.
These people have formed a group called Qalipu Watchdogs to act as a single voice for the remaining applicants to the Band (and those involved in the appeal process) to ensure that their concerns receive fair consideration.
The Qalipu Mi’Kmaq First Nation Band was officially formed on September 26, 2011 with a membership of 21,429 people.
At the time the band was officially formed it was announced that the enrollment process would continue until November 30, 2013.
The review of applications for this second stage was to conclude on December 31, 2012. Applicants would then have a three-month period to make an appeal if their application for status was declined.
While the timeline seemed fine no one expected about 100,000 applications to be received for status review. With such an overwhelming number of applications to process, the final applications were actually reviewed on December 18, 2012.
The remaining 70,000 applications may not be processed at all.
Hector Pearce, from Lewisporte, is the Vice Chairman of the Qalipu Watchdogs.
Pearce said that he wrote to the Honourable John Duncan, the federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs early in the New Year expressing his displeasure with the fact that the remaining applications may not be reviewed.
Pearce later met with a group of friends who decided to form a committee to organize and develop strategies for dealing with the possibility that so many applicants may not receive fair treatment from the federal government in this important matter.
The committee that was initiated from all of this is known today as the Qalipu Watchdogs.
Pearce said, “We are simply saying to the Minister that the remaining applications should be given the same treatment as those reviewed up to December 18. We are not looking for automatic acceptance in the band but at least our applications should receive the same treatment as all the rest.”
Pearce said that the committee is already forming strategies to deal with this issue.
“Our first strategy is to inform as many applicants as possible that their applications may not be reviewed. We are encouraging these people to sign up on our website as supporters of what we’re trying to do.
“Chief Brandon Sheppard met with federal officials on this issue in Halifax on February 7 and more meetings are scheduled for the week of February 17 to 23.
“Our second strategy will be to arrange meetings with federal officials with the Qalipu Watchdogs committee if the Band is not successful in having the review date extended.
“Another strategy will be to explore the possibility of a class action suite against government if it should come down to that.
“While Chief Sheppard is asking people involved with this matter to be patient, we have the impression that December 18 was the end of the review process.
“We are not just going to stand by and let this matter drop as we do feel we can help people in this matter.
“A large number of people put a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of money into putting their application in for possible status in the Band. They submitted their applications in due diligence following the guidelines set down by the Band and the federal government.
“Every applicant in this process should have his/her application reviewed in a sincere manner.”
Pearce said that the committee is not acting in a vindictive manner but simply wants everyone to be treated fairly.
“The Qalipu Watchdogs is an excellent, responsible committee that can look at this issue in a professional, intelligent and organized manner. We are not against any group, but we want to approach this in an organized way that we hope will bring positive results to the issue for everyone involved.