Backgrounder: Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Enrolment Process
Date: March 18, 2016
When Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949, Mi’kmaq communities were not recognized as First Nations under the Indian Act and their legal status, as well as the status of their members, was uncertain.
Discussions between the Government of Canada and the Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI) led, in 2008, to the Agreement for the Recognition of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq Band, and, in September 2011, an Order in Council established the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation as a “band” under the Indian Act.
The Agreement provides for an enrolment process to assess applications for membership in the new band. Applications for membership in the First Nation are assessed by an Enrolment Committee, composed of an equal number of representatives from Canada and FNI, and a jointly appointed independent chair. The Enrolment Committee’s role is to assess each application for membership in a fair and consistent manner.
Approximately 26,000 applications were received in the first stage of the enrolment process, which concluded on November 30, 2009. Of these, 23,877 applicants were found eligible and registered as founding members of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation.
From November 30, 2009 to September 22, 2011 (when the band was created) approximately 4,000 additional applications were received. The number of applications rose sharply following band creation. In the14 months before the application deadline of November 30, 2012, more than 70,000 applications were received, bringing the total number of applications to over 104,000.
On July 4, 2013, the Government of Canada and the Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI) announced a Supplemental Agreement that addressed the surge in applications, clarified the process for enrolment, and resolved issues that emerged in the implementation of the 2008 Agreement for the Recognition of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq Band.
Under the Agreement, it was determined that all applications, except for the approximately 3,000 already assessed and rejected, would be reviewed by August 31, 2015, followed by an appeal process which would end on March 31, 2016. The review would include the applications of the individuals registered as founding members of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation, to ensure that all applicants meet the criteria for eligibility set out in the 2008 Agreement and the 2013 Supplemental Agreement.
On April 2, 2015, Canada and FNI announced that the enrolment process deadline was extended to June 30, 2016, and the appeal process deadline was extended to January 31, 2017. As well, the Enrolment Committee was expanded from four members to eight.
Canada and FNI agreed that the enrolment decisions of all of the approximately 101,000 applications would be communicated at the same time. The Enrolment Committee conducted an initial review of the applications based on the validity criteria outlined in the 2008 Agreement and, in November 2013, sent letters to advise applicants of the status of their applications. Approximately 94,000 applicants were notified that their applications were deemed valid and roughly 6,500 applicants were notified that their applications were deemed invalid.
Two applicants for enrolment in Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation, Mr. Sterling Clyde Foster and Mr. Alex Howse, took Canada and the Federation of Newfoundland Indians to court over the Enrolment Committee’s determination that their applications were invalid. One application was deemed invalid because of a missing signature, the other because it did not include a long-form birth certificate. The Federal Court agreed with the applicants, and found that they were not given notice of the missing information or an opportunity to correct their applications. For that reason, the court set aside the Enrolment Committee’s decisions and ordered that both applications be evaluated for membership.
Canada and FNI have decided to apply the same reasoning to all applications that were deemed invalid for reasons consistent with the court decisions. As a result, approximately 6,500 individuals will be allowed to correct their applications, and submit additional material in support of their applications, for review by the Enrolment Committee.
Canada and FNI are currently assessing the impact of this additional step on the overall timelines of the enrolment process.
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