Its case has been argued and now the Mi’kmaq First Nation Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador is awaiting a judge’s decision.
The entity formed to represent people who felt disenfranchised by the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band enrolment process presented its legal arguments against the process in federal court in Toronto last week.
One of two judicial reviews filed by the assembly, the case argued last week revolves around the self-identification aspect of the controversial enrolment process that has left tens of thousands of people denied founding membership in Qalipu.
Dave Wells is not only the chairperson of the Mi’kmaq First Nation Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador, but is also the representative applicant in the legal proceeding. He provided an update on the hearing held last Thursday when he spoke at a rally against the enrolment process held in Corner Brook Saturday.
He told the crowd gathered at the rally that the assembly’s lawyer, Jaimie Lickers, had argued that the enrolment process was a sham designed to get rid of the majority of applicants wanting to be on the Qalipu founding members list.
Wells likened the reassessment of applications to a cull of moose or seals.
“Unfortunately, we were dealing with people,” he said.
Of the more than 100,000 who applied, more than 80,000 were rejected.
Wells hopes the judge who heard the case will make a decision in three or four weeks, but is confident with how Lickers presented the case.
“It was very, very expensive, but we felt we had the best lawyer for aboriginal law … It’s no sense to go in and get blown out of the water and we were not blown out,” said Wells. “As a matter of fact, I believe she blew them out of the water.”
While the focus was on the self-identification piece of the application process, Wells hopes the judge will rule the entire process is invalid.
The second judicial review the assembly has in the works involves arguing for all of the applicants who, although they were on the original Qalipu founding members list established in 2008, were later denied under the 2013 supplemental agreement that forced a reassessment of applicants.
The representative applicant in that judicial review is Sandra Wells, who is of no relation to Dave Wells.
In either case, the judge’s decisions will affect all applicants who are deemed to have similar circumstances as the representative applicants.
Wells said it’s been a long, tough battle against the supplemental agreement forged by the federal government and the previous council of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians. He hopes a judgement in favour of the assembly will help break what has so far been a virtually impenetrable wall between the federal government and those who feel shunned by the process.
“Nobody wants to deal with anybody,” he said in frustration. “But they’ll have to listen to the judge.”