‘It’s hurt so many families and communities’: decision in Qalipu membership trial will likely take weeks

‘It’s hurt so many families and communities’: decision in Qalipu membership trial will likely take weeks


ST. JOHN’S, NL – After an emotional 10-year battle to right what she believes to be a historic mistake, Helen Darrigan says she’s content to let Newfoundland Supreme Court Justice Valerie Marshall make the final decision to permit.

Darrigan spoke to The Telegram on Wednesday afternoon, February 1, after concluding arguments for and against five Mi’kmaw plaintiffs who allege they were stripped of their membership in the Qalipu First Nation through an unfair trial a decade ago .

The defense attorney for the Federation of Newfoundland Indians (FNI) and the Canadian government called no witnesses and asked only isolated questions during the two-week trial.

“We’ll wait and see what Justice Marshall’s verdict is, but we hope she’s fair and sees what we see – and what most people really see – that the Amendment has fooled everything for a lot of people and a lot Hurting people,” Darrigan said.

The Amendment was a treaty signed by Ottawa and the Federation of Newfoundland Indians in 2013 that realigned the guidelines for membership in the band years after the ratification of a Memorandum of Understanding and many applicants who had already received status.

Darrigan, who later co-founded the Friends of Qalipu Advocacy Association with Pauline Tessier, said many of the thousands who were rejected were people who had identified as Mi’kmaw the longest and were longtime members of the association that originally founded it was fighting for recognition in the 1970s

“And they’re the ones who left, and that’s heartbreaking,” she said.

Targeted action

The case intertwines a variety of elements, including jurisdictional issues, since recognition of indigenous status is a federal matter.

That was one of the main objections made by the Canadian government’s attorney in a summary statement on Tuesday.

But the Friends of Qalipu argument focused almost exclusively on the concept of corporate oppression, in which the actions of corporate leaders are viewed as intentionally unfair or harmful to their members or shareholders.

So argued attorney Keith Morgan at an annual general meeting in October 2009, which passed a special resolution amending the Constitution of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians.

Morgan argued that the resolution had not been circulated among the federation’s voting members within the required 21 days and that the implicit purpose was to disenfranchise all other members of the FNI except for the Board.

When the new constitution went into effect in 2011, the board members of the FNI officially became the 12 founding members of the Qalipu Band Council. All other members of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians were required to apply for status like everyone else, which Morgan described as targeted action against those members.

He said all subsequent actions were influenced by this fact.

good faith?

Philip Buckingham, arguing for the Federation of Newfoundland Indians, said the voting members had been made aware of the formalities surrounding the notification and had acted in good faith, knowing that the FNI’s activities would have to cease once the Qalipu band was founded.

He also addressed the issue of the statute of limitations under the Corporations Act, which states that a charge of suppression must be filed within six years of the claim. The current suit was launched in 2018.

Morgan denied this, saying the membership suppression was not entirely clear even to those who would have voted for the resolution, let alone members as a whole.

He also pointed out that a lawyer, Stephen May, informed the board at the time that he could face charges of corporate oppression.

“Side Violence”

In 2018, the results of the Qalipu Membership Committee’s final review of applications resulted in 13,479 founding members remaining on the updated list and approximately 5,000 joining. But more than 10,000 founding members have had their membership revoked. In total, more than 71,000 applications were rejected.

Darrigan says the way events unfolded was a slap in the face to her fellow Mi’kmaw and her ancestors.

“It has hurt so many families and communities and caused people to distrust one another,” she said.

“It has led to a lot of lateral violence in communities between people and even between families.”

If the decision doesn’t go their way, Darrigan said, it’s an open question whether they will appeal.

However, she said she’s confident Marshall will make an informed decision whether that’s in another month or several months.

“It’s a decision that is not, and should not be, taken lightly.”

Peter Jackson reports on tribal affairs for The Telegram.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *