CORNER BROOK Efforts to boost membership in the Mi’kmaq First Nations Assembly of Newfoundland (MFNA) are paying off.
Hector Pearce, vice-chair of the assembly, said Wednesday membership in the association now stands at 5,000.
That comes following the holding of four community meetings, the last of which took place in Grand Falls-Windsor Tuesday night, to talk about plans to fight changes to the enrolment process for the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band and to encourage applicants and band members to join the assembly.
Pearce said the four meetings attracted a good attendance with 60 people attending Tuesday’s meeting and about the same attending an earlier one in Lewisporte. But it was the meetings in Corner Brook and Port Saunders that drew the biggest crowds, with about 400 and 300 people attending respectfully.
Pearce said people at all the meetings have expressed the same concerns.
“They’re just so confused and so upset about what’s happening with their applications.”
And he said they feel they have nowhere to turn and don’t know what to submit to satisfy the criteria of self identification and group acceptance.
Pearce said the assembly hopes to double its membership from 5,000 to around 10,000.
“We need a healthy number of members if we’re going to fight government on this issue, because the more members we have the more revenue we can generate and the greater our chance of being able to deal with the government in court.”
He also noted there is a possibility if the issue does go to court that the court may dictate that any agreement reached between the assembly and government will only involve members of the assembly.
“So that’s your number one advantage in being a member of MFNA in that any court settlement you’re guaranteed to be a part of that.”
Meanwhile, Pearce said the federal government has responded to the two judicial review applications filed by the group’s legal representatives in Ontario by stating it will challenge the applications.
“That’s no surprise,” said Pearce. “It gives us a message that government will delay in any way they can any kind of a settlement to this issue and they will make it as costly as they can for the applicants by challenging some of these judicial review applications.”
Pearce said the assembly plans to hold another series of community meetings in the new year. Possible locations include Stephenville, the Port aux Basques and Burgeo region and Harbour Breton.