CORNER BROOK Gerry Byrne may have gotten some answers to his questions on the federal review of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band’s enrolment process, but he still feels there’s a lot not being said.
Byrne, the Liberal MP for Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte, received a response to questions he posed in an order paper in the House of Commons last Friday.
He asked for details on the contract for Fred Caron, the lawyer hired by the federal government to review the band’s enrolment process.
The review was ordered this past December because of concern over the growing number of applicants. Some 30,000 people have approved for membership in the band and more than 70,000 applications are yet to be processed.
Byrne also asked what would become of those unprocessed applications.
“The government, instead of actually answering in a forthright way, being up front, straight forward and honest about it, have cloaked the answers in total bureaucratese,” said Byrne. “Given the fact that they did not answer fully when obviously answers should have been given, they’re either in contempt of Parliament or in violation of the Financial Administration Act.”
Byrne said the answers provided show to what length the federal government will go through to hide the issue.
Meanwhile, he said the response from federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt does clear up a bit of confusion over the role of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI) and Qalipu in the review.
FNI signed the 2007 agreement on the band’s formation, and Bryne said there have been rumours the organization was going to cease existence.
In his response, Valcourt said Caron and the department would be talking with Qalipu and the FNI.
“It suggests that the agreement, and all the provisions therein, roll over onto Qalipu,” said Byrne, adding that if FNI winds up operation, Qalipu retains successor rights and responsibilities.
Byrne’s order paper will be debated in the House on March 27.
“The government will have to make clear on where it stands,” Byrne said.
Neither Fred Caron or Greg Rickford, parliamentary secretary to the minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, were available for an interview on the status of the review.
An emailed response from a spokesperson for the department said, “given the ongoing nature of the discussions between FNI (Federation of Newfoundland Indians) and AANDC (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada) it is not possible to predict, at this time, the result of the discussions or when a final decision will be made.”