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Burgeo veteran wants answers on status of 'disenfranchised' former Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nations members

Greg Janes, pictured with his service dog Ace, feels veterans like himself should have more of a say in discussions about their Qalipu membership status. CONTRIBUTED
Greg Janes, pictured with his service dog Ace, feels veterans like himself should have more of a say in discussions about their Qalipu membership status. - Contributed

A small group of former Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation members are demanding to have a voice in determining the future of their status with the nation.

Greg Janes, a 22-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces, is part of a contingent planning protests on Nov. 28 and Dec. 12 against being left out of exploratory discussions between the Canadian government and the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band over membership qualifications.

Janes, who is from Burgeo and is chief of the Burgeo Band of Indians, was one of 10,500 Mi’kmaq members to lose their status after a 2013 supplemental agreement between the Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI) and the federal government forced a reassessment of all Qalipu applicants.

The Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band started discussions with the federal government in November 2018 to address concerns brought forward by people who had lost their status. Many of those included people who were serving in the Canadian Forces or were military veterans, RCMP, or who had belonged to the FNI, or to Mi’kmaq organizations.

Janes says that doesn't go far enough. He and some other former members feel that they’re being left out of the process and want a seat at the table.

“We don’t know what they’re exploring, what they’re talking about,” Janes told SaltWire. “It’s been two years now, we’re upset because we aren’t getting any updates.”

Janes said the protests are to represent all 10,500 Mi’kmaq who have been “disenfranchised”.

Protest

Janes, and about a half-dozen others, will have an “online protest” on Nov. 28 on the private Ktaqmkuk Facebook page Janes runs.

Members will be asked to share their stories on the page. Someone will then share these stories with different Facebook groups, including the Qalipu First Nation page.

“There are truly heartbreaking stories,” Janes said. “Transplants that can’t afford medication anymore – people with cancer – because that’s the big benefit about it, being a landless band, is the non-insurable health benefits.”

Members will also be encouraged to reach out to Qalipu band councillors as well Long Range Mountains MP Gudie Hutchings.

A second protest is scheduled to take place in person at the Qalipu building, while the council meeting is underway on Dec. 12.

Janes said they’re encouraging council to meet with them before the meeting starts.

Janes lost his status in 2018 as he was not living in one of the recognized Mi’kmaq communities in western Newfoundland during the times prescribed in the supplemental agreement.

Although he lives in the recognized Mi’kmaq community of Burgeo, he had been stationed in Alberta and then Nova Scotia and Quebec with the Canadian Armed Forces before retiring.

He felt the criteria was based on “exclusion, not inclusion.”

According to Janes, he has tried to contact Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band chief Brendan Mitchell repeatedly, but says Mitchell won’t return his calls.

Janes is also banned from posting on the Qalipu First Nation Facebook page.

Qalipu Chief Brendan Mitchell - Contributed
Qalipu Chief Brendan Mitchell - Contributed

Mitchell, however, told SaltWire that Janes’ planned protests are misguided and he felt it was directed at the “wrong target” with the “wrong tactics.”

He questioned why Janes was protesting the Qalipu council instead of the federal government.

“It’s the Government of Canada who needs to light a fire under themselves to get this moving forward,” Mitchell told SaltWire.

“They should be targeting the federal government, get after the minister and get after the Prime Minister, but they don’t do that. They keep coming at our door.”

According to Mitchell, the Qalipu council has done all the work it can in getting the status back for people like Janes.

“We’ve been working away trying to get a draft agreement in place,” he said.

However, Mitchell claimed they were waiting on the Minister of Indigenous Service Marc Miller and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to approve the resolutions council submitted to government.

“All they need to do is tell their departments to go ahead and get at a process to get the veterans back,” he said.

He added this process would entail identifying who these individuals are and whether they qualify for membership.

According to Mitchell, he’s told the federal government that the FNI and the Qalipu could have the lost members back in six-to-nine months if the federal government would move on the issue.

He said the federal government doesn't seem interested to speed up the process.

As for providing a seat at the table for people like Janes, Mitchell said there is no need. The Qalipu council has done all it can and has completed its side of the process.

Long Range Mountains MP Gudie Hutchings released a statement to SaltWire indicating “the Government of Canada remains committed to the enrolment of founding members in the Qalipu First Nation, in accordance with the 2008 agreement and the 2013 supplemental agreement.”

Hutchings acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic hasimpacted progress on the matter but said all parties were still working hard to see discussions through.

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