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Qalipu First Nation continues a lengthy waiting game.

The Federation of Newfoundland Indians remains tight-lipped about the lengthy legal proceedings that surrounds the three-year battle for the creation of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation.

"This matter is now into a legal process and I am not permitted to speak until this matter is resolved," said president of the Federation Brendan Sheppard.

The establishment of the Qalipu band was originally scheduled for sometime this spring, however, the decision of Mi'kmaq elder Calvin White to seek a legal remedy to his concerns about the creation of the band is what has delayed the process indefinitely.

White has said he believes all of the applications for enrolment into the band must be processed before the Qalipu band is formed. He filed for an injunction several weeks ago.

As of Nov. 30, 2009, the enrolment committee of the First Nation had received nearly 26,000 applications, 11,000 of which had been approved for the initial membership.

The delay in the formation of the band means that approved applicants are stalled from receiving the benefits that come from being recognized under the Indian Act. Post-secondary funding, health benefits and funding for additional programs are only some of the entitlements that approved band members are forced to wait for.

"Everything is on hold until the band is formed because we don't have access to funding to move forward with anything," said Sheppard.

On Nov. 30, 2007, the Federation of Newfoundland Indians entered into an agreement with the federal government, outlining the provisions of the official recognition of the Newfoundland Mi'kmaq as status Indians.

Prior to the recent legal turmoil, the government of Canada had announced an accelerated process to address the overwhelming membership applications for the band.

On Feb. 1, Chuck Strahl., minister of Indian Affairs (INAC), expressed his optimism about how the accelerated process would eliminate a delay in the Mi'kmaq receiving status.

"This arrangement should provide comfort to those who filed completed applications by Nov. 30, 2009 in that they will not have to wait long to be added to the band list once they are approved for membership," said Strahl in a press release.

However, waiting is all there is to do until the courts have reached a decision.

While arguments ate heard in court, INAC has no choice but to put the band's creation on hold, said INAC spokeswoman Margot Geduld.

According to Sheppard, affidavits will be presented to the courts from each side, followed by a decision from the judge based on the information presented.

White, former chief of the Flat Bay Indian Council, became a founding member of the Qalipu First Nation Watch Group formed in January. White opened membership to his organization to anyone who had submitted a membership application to the Qalipu band.

The Elder has been critical of the fairness and equality shown by the Foundation's board of directors in regards to determining Mi'kmaq status.

Windspeaker attempted to call White to comment on the case, but our calls were not returned

The push to get the federal government to recognize the Mi'kmaq people of Newfoundland began in 1972.

Applicants for membership must be able to prove their Mi'kmaq ancestry.

Though Qalipu First Nation will officially be recognized by Canada as an Indian Act band, members will not receive a land base.

Qalipu is the Mi'kmaq word for caribou; an animal that has always played a role in the survival of the Mi'kmaq people throughout history.

Windspeaker Staff Writer

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Author:Thompson, Isha
Date:May 1, 2010
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