When the Canadian government established a new First Nation in Newfoundland it expected to get about 10,000 applications for membership. It got more than 100,000.
The government was stunned. The mountain of applicants was the equivalent of one in five people in the province. After just the first round of applications, when 23,000 of 30,000 applicants were granted Indian status, the Qalipu Mi’kmaq were already the second largest First Nation in the country.
The size of the response was “neither reasonable nor credible,” the federal government said. The financial implications were significant, considering the health and education benefits due to status Indians in Canada. The government, in concert with band leadership, moved to tighten the membership criteria.
Now a new law before Parliament would allow the government to review and revoke the Indian status of those who’ve already been approved. The Bill, C-25, would also bar anyone from suing the government for the way an application was handled.
The new measures will undoubtedly limit the band’s size. But some of those expecting to be rejected say it’s wrong to deny them their identity, even if it’s relatively new. What began as an attempt to right a historical wrong is likely to leave tens of thousands feeling as though they’ve been wronged again.
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Surge in Newfoundland native band has Ottawa stunned, skeptical - The Globe and Mail