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Getting to know your future Qalipu members


On the eve of an election to determine the new Qalipu First Nation Band, The Western Star reached out to all candidates in the western region to see what matters most to them.

Here is what they had to say:

Chief

Brendan Mitchell, age 64, Corner Brook

What can be done about the supplemental agreement that would be fair to the local Mi’kmaq? This conversation will be sticking around because there are so many court cases outstanding. The supplemental agreement is over, but right now we’re in the aftermath, and the aftermath has to carry on. My initiative will always be: How do we get these members back? I won’t be backing down from that. I’ll put together a new committee together to enter into a new conversation with Canada.

Besides that, what’s the biggest issue facing Qalipu today? It’s about moving our Band forward on behalf of our people and communities, and Nations as we build together. We have to bring it forward with a much greater sense of unity. This whole enrolment process has hurt our entire Nation, and we have to become much more unified, through healing and reconciliation. What will help with this is paying attention and participating in our culture.

What sets you apart from the other candidates? I’m not sure if they really have platforms. What I hear from these people, and one in particular, is a lot of negativity. Brendan Mitchell is set apart because he’s moving forward. I want to have a clear direction from our council and our members. I have been on this file now for three years, and I probably know this story better than anybody in Qalipu right now. I can lead this band forward in a positive and progressive way. I have education, a strong family background. This is for me, this is my destiny, and yes, we will fix some of the things that have gone wrong, and the other two candidates can’t do this. 

Clyde Russell, age 62, Stephenville

What can be done about the supplemental agreement that would be fair to the local Mi’kmaq? The people who were on the original family members list should be brought back into our band. This is a very difficult issue because we’re bound by legal agreements, and there are a number of court cases underway, but if I am chief this is something I will be working towards. The anger among families in our community is just unbearable.

Besides that, what’s the biggest issue facing Qalipu today? There are a number of issues and challenges ahead of us. Basically we saw the birth of a nation a while back with the approval of the people who were on the family members list, and now we have to start thinking about what comes next. Specific areas we have to focus on: economic development, language and culture, and we have to have a sound financial base to fund these other initiatives. Communications is an issue, how we’ll improve two-way communication with our members, not just through the internet. Advocating a careful analysis of what we want as a band.

What sets you apart from the other candidates? I have a solid background in managing, and leading large organizations. I’ve done a lot of things in my military career that equip me for running a large and relatively complex organization like Qalipu, and I have experience running budgets, and so on. I’m probably the guy who has experience at the federal level, I worked in Ottawa for seven years, and I had a fair amount of experience dealing at the higher levels of government. ...People are going to decide who they trust to lead our future into the future. It’s a little bit about us, but it’s more about our kids and grandkids.

Hayward Young, age 64, Stephenville Crossing

What can be done about the supplemental agreement that would be fair to the local Mi’kmaq? I really don’t know what can be done right now. If I’m elected I will use the best legal people I can get to look at it, and see where we can go with it. But right now, I wouldn’t be able to say because I don’t know what the legal ramifications are, so I’m just waiting to see, and I’m sure council will be supportive of that too. We need to know what our options are. 

Besides that, what’s the biggest issue facing Qalipu today? Communication. There needs to be more transparency, more consultation, and more accountability, not only in finances, but also in the business of the band itself.

What sets you apart from the other candidates? I’ve been involved with the movement since 1982. I’ve served as Western Vice Chief of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians, was head of Indian Head first nations for three terms, and with the help of many people I just revived the Indian Head First Nations Band. I’ve lived this. I know the history. Without the history, it’s going to be hard to move forward. Everything I do will be done in consultation with our whole membership, not just the council.

Western Region Vice-chief

Keith Cormier, age 67, Corner Brook

What can be done about the supplemental agreement that would be fair to the local Mi’kmaq? Right now the way the federal government has refused to negotiate,  I don’t think there’s much to be done on the supplemental agreement. It’s cast in stone, and the enrollment process as far as the government is concerned, is done. My understanding is that we need to have a new negotiation. We need to focus on a nation-to-nation basis, I don’t think there’s much to be done. New way, new pressure to get the 1,512 back in.

Besides that, what’s the biggest issue facing Qalipu today? There’s two. One is finding new and innovative ways to making sure the widely dispersed community of Qalipu can have access to information using today’s technology, like live-streamed council meetings. The other thing is to make sure the Qalipu Development Co-operation can grow as fast as possible, because it is the best non-government funding source to put profit back to the Band.

Blain Ford, age 45, Benoit’s Cove

What can be done about the supplemental agreement that would be fair to the local Mi’kmaq? There’s a JFK (law firm in BC) report that reveals Qalipu had a right to fight the supplemental agreement, but for some reason our leadership chose not to fight. A lot of people are scared because they think we will go right back to the start, but we won’t. 2008, 27,000 members, the federal government ... had 28 days to appeal any decision, and they only appealed one. The signing and the agreeing of the supplemental agreement, in my opinion, was all done behind closed doors, illegally, because it never came to the membership. It was never voted on or ratified, it was 12 people in a room who made a decision that affected thousands. 

Besides that, what’s the biggest issue facing Qalipu today? Communication, and that our people have no say. The constitution and bylaws are exclusive, not inclusive; they protect the leadership, not the people.

Gary Greene, age 64, Benoit’s Cove  

What can be done about the supplemental agreement that would be fair to the local Mi’kmaq?

I think what we’re going to have to do is, if the right people gets elected , it’s going to end up through the courts, and we should set up a committee right off the bat, and work with the lawyers working with these 10,500 people, and work with the people and see which way we can change it.

Besides that, what’s the biggest issue facing Qalipu today? The biggest thing is the communication. We’re finding everything out through the back door, and the communication from the Chief down, the people is left out. I really think that’s a big.

Ron Jesseau, age 69, Corner Brook

What can be done about the supplemental agreement that would be fair to the local Mi’kmaq? There’s still some court cases that have to be settled. What people have to remember is that when negotiations between the FNI and the Federal Government was ongoing just prior to 2002, the FNI was looking for funding and recognition from the Newfoundland government on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Newfoundland Mi’kmaq got a different First Nations agreement than other Band in Canada. FNI stepped aside from the Indian Act, anyone who could self-identify, doesn’t matter if it’s six or 10 generations, they could qualify. The problem is that there’s tens of thousands of people hurt.

Besides that, what’s the biggest issue facing Qalipu today? In 2002 when the regime was negotiated, the FNI was lobbying for Mi’kmaq communities, and my platform pushes for that. We need to build stronger Mi’kmaq communities, right now we just have one band, at one time we had ten bands, and right now it all flows out of Corner Brook. After 2002, some of our bands were encouraged to dismantle, but I think they should come back in, and Qalipu should be a tribal council, and each band should have their own chiefs.

Edith Miller, age 52, Mount Moriah

What can be done about the supplemental agreement that would be fair to the local Mi’kmaq? The first thing we have to do as a Band is to take a look at entire process, and get some more information from lawyers and other people who might be in the know, to find out what our next step is. For me, it’s not clear what our next step is. There must be something we can do other than the court cases that are ongoing.

Besides that, what’s the biggest issue facing Qalipu today? Communications. Everywhere that I’ve gone, I’ve spoken with people who don’t know what’s going on, don’t know the past, what’s happening now, where we’re going in the future. Part of that might be that people aren’t looking very hard, but we have to change how we deal with people and how we communicate with people. We have to communicate everything that we’re doing, and plan to do in the future.

Andy Tobin

- unable to be reached

Corner Brook Ward Councillor

Brian Dicks, age 62, Corner Brook

If elected to the Qalipu Band, I will continue to work on the initiatives that I’ve been engaged in the past three years, and those more specifically, in the area of economic development for the band, in the areas of the cultural promotion and awareness, and access to culture. ... I’ll bring my skillsets to the table, and I recognize the interest and the need in identifying the cultural aspects for the majority of our members has been lost or they haven’t been exposed to it.

Bob McDonald, age 64, Corner Brook

If elected to the Qalipu Band, I would like to see the people who have their card, the 10,500, to be re-instated with those cards, the rest would be the urban reserve for Corner Brook area, and satellite urban reserves for both Stephenville and Central Newfoundland.

Jeff Soper, age 48, Corner Brook

If elected to the Qalipu Band, I will serve my people to the best of my ability. I will try to create and promote more cultural events within the Band, I will promote our language, and I will always there for our people. I would like to try and improve communication between the Band and the members, regarding upcoming events.

Geoff Sparkes, age 41, Corner Brook

If elected to the Qalipu Band, I will bring honesty, integrity and ethics on behalf of the members of Corner Brook, and the Mi’kmaq people of Newfoundland to the table.

Port au Port Ward Councillor

Mike Alexander, age 50, Kippens

If elected to the Qalipu Band, I am planning on being active in terms of reaching out to all the different people in the communities, and to gain a better understanding of what kind of representation they would want, when and where they’d like meetings to be held, what type of meetings, and to get an advisory committee in place to give me advice in highlighting the priorities of what they would like to see accomplished.

Jasen Benwah, age 54, Cape St. Georges

If elected to the Qalipu Band, I will continue to give good representation to the ward, to give honest, strong representation. To work for the other members, and to work with the new council, and also looking forward to new changes, and improvements, and doing things differently, and improving on things the Band does now, or could be doing.

St. Georges Ward Councillor

Kenny Lee, age 62, St. George's

If elected to the Qalipu band, I would like to see some of the bylaws changed, improved communication with band members, and culturally, it’s just going to get better as we move forward. Education and development, more education for our youth, some kind of more benefits for our senior citizens, and there’s not really a hell of a lot for our youth and seniors, so more programs for youth and seniors. 

Ivan White Jr., age 35, St. George’s

If elected to the Qalipu Band I will represent the people in the ward, as well as or better than the last two councilors we’ve had. I will promote and enhance and empower our people with our culture, and I want to make connections with other First Nations and groups in Canada, because we can better ourselves by sharing what we’ve learned.

Flat Bay Ward Councillor

Ivan White, age 63, Flat Bay (acclaimed)

I will get Qalipu working from the bottom up, and to get economic development back into the community so they can fend for themselves. Time for Qalipu to start putting money back down to the memberships, and that will also help with our language and our culture.

Benoit’s Cove Ward Councillor

Darren Greene, age 50, Benoit’s Cove

If elected to the Qalipu Band, I will give the people back their culture what we lost years ago. We should have our culture back. Education is one of the biggest things there. Not enough support as it should be.

Bernard White, age 75, Benoit’s Cove

If elected to the Qalipu Band, I would help my leader, the chief, to get the services and all kinds of programs that Qalipu should have, culture, housing, jobs, anything I can do to help the people that’s what I’m there for.

Stephenville Ward Councillor

Odelle Pike

- unable to be reached

Gerald (Joe) White

- unable to be reached

Stefan Young, age 34, Stephenville Crossing

If elected to the Qalipu Band, I want to represent the youth in our community. The other thing would be communication, a lot of the issues with our Band right now is that people are not getting the word, so expanding communication through e-mail lists, social media, whatever I can do to get word out to the masses.

Here's a list of who is running in central Newfoundland:

Central Region Vice-chief

- Joe Bouzanne
- Randy Drover

Exploits Ward Councillor

- Andy Barker
- Rod (Blackie) Bennett

Gander Bay Ward Councillor

- Calvin Francis (acclaimed)

Glenwood Ward Councillor

- Frank Skeard (acclaimed)

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