Committee studying Bill C-25 questions number of applicants: witness

Diane Crocker
Published on April 3, 2014
Anne Hart, of Stephenville, was in Ottawa Tuesday to be a witness at The Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
— Photo by The Western Star

Anne Hart told the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development in Ottawa on Tuesday that she felt Bill C-25 and the supplemental agreement on the formation of the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band was all about reducing numbers.

Hart is a card-carrying member of Qalipu and she is also a member of the Mi’kmaq First Nation Assembly of Newfoundland.

She appeared before the committee studying Bill C-25, the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Act, on behalf of the assembly.

“I became a member (of the assembly) out of concern for those whose applications were not processed and for those who were processed and rejected,” she said Wednesday afternoon after returning home to Stephenville.

Hart said even though she has her card there’s a possibility under Bill C-25 that those holding cards could be at risk of losing them.

Given 10 minutes to speak

Hart said she and the assembly’s lawyer Jaimie Lickers presented a position paper on how the group felt about Bill C-25 and she was given 10 minutes to address some key points.

“I used that 10 minutes to give them an overview of what the assembly was about, the history of the process that the Mi’kmaq people of Newfoundland have gone through, and then we talked about the concerns that we have about Bill C-25,” said Hart.

Those concerns lie in how names can be removed from the band list and in the lack of an appeal process.

“Right now the registrar under the Indian Act has the power to remove names and we just wanted to know why the governor in council was given that power.”

As for appeals, Hart said the only option is to take the government to court. “Which costs money.”

She said “under the Indian Act there’s a simple appeals process where it doesn’t cost the individual a great amount of money to appeal their decision.”

Following their presentation Hart and Vickers answered questions from the committee.

Hart said Vickers addressed a question about the assembly’s concerns quite well by presenting the differences between having a name removed under the registrar as opposed to being removed by the governor in council.

Hart said it was questions like that she felt were legitimate, but there were others that left her with the feeling the committee was more concerned about the number of applicants.

“One of the questions was did I think it was reasonable for 105,000 people to be registered,” she said.

“Well that’s not for me to decide.”

Hart said she made it clear that she wasn’t there to discuss the number of applicants.

Meanwhile, Humber-St. Barbe-Baie Verte Liberal MP Gerry Byrne was notified Tuesday that his request to appear as a witness before the committee has been turned down.

“It is not unusual for an MP to appear on the other side of the table as a witness on an issue,” said Byrne in an email. “In fact, when an MP asks to appear, professional courtesy to a colleague usually ensures it happens. But more substantially, I was the MP that drew the House’s attention to the Qalipu situation through my motion, M-432.”

Byrne said the government’s closing debate on C-25 in the House and being denied the opportunity to appear before the committee provides people with proof that C-25 is unjust, unfair and that the government is trying to ram it through without proper scrutiny.