A few weeks ago the CBC released an exclusive Nanos Research poll which indicated that more than half of Canadians feel there's an urgent need to change federal government policy toward aboriginal Canadians.
Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, nearly 100,000 people have declared themselves as Mi’kmaq.
The Newfoundland Mi’kmaq claim a special historical bond built by generations of men and women who traveled the island’s interior, lived along it’s shorelines and harvested the wild foods of the land, rivers and bays.
The Qalipu First Nation grew out of the Federation of Newfoundland Indians. When the federal government announced in 2007 that Mi'kmaq in Newfoundland and Labrador would be eligible to receive status under the Indian Act, the Federation had about 7,800 members.
The latest request for memberships saw a tsunami of applications overwhelming the fledgling bands infrastructure to vet the membership.
The Qalipu First Nation has expressed fair concern that many of these new requests from people who have declared themselves as Mi’kmaq are embellished. They believe the opportunity for status has created a strong desire among many to tap into the bands resources and benefits.
Suddenly, being a Mi’kmaq is a good thing and people want to cash-in. This is a sentiment shared by many non- Mi’kmaq. They see folks who could care less about their aboriginal ancestry receiving “benefits” that are paid for by the taxpayer. It irritates many.
I certainly understand that irritation. First Nation’s in this province, and country, have a reputation for mishandling resources. This reputation has grown into a stereotype. The result is that many Canadians feel First Nations are not responsible with the resources that are provided to them.
Is that fair?
Of course not, every level of government in this province has it’s share of corrupt, greedy administrators and political leaders. Look at the conflict of interest allegations in Toronto, Montreal, London and Vancouver or the volumes of town clerks charged with fraud in this province. Look at our own House of Assembly, where at least four MHA’s went to jail for robbing the system.
Corruption and greed are universal human attributes. They lurk in the hearts of many, white and First Nation.
It is not racist to question how First Nations, Metis or the Inuit spend funds provided by the Canadian taxpayer. It is racist to single them out as corrupt abusers of public funds.
The Qalipu First Nation and the Government of Canada will decide who legitimately deserves status.
Every man women and child in this province that can demonstrate that they are of Mi’kmaq ancestry and meets the criteria established by The Qalipu First Nation deserves the benefits and rights of their heritage.