CORNER BROOK Qalipu Chief Brendan Sheppard is not saying much about the presence of officials from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada at the band’s Corner Brook office.
Neither is the federal agency.
The Western Star was informed last week that a delegation from the federal office was in Corner Brook and dropped by to see why they were there exactly.
None of the visiting officials came out to talk to the newspaper, but Sheppard did come out for a brief chat. He said the work being done was just a continuation of the ongoing review of the band’s controversial enrolment process.
Nearly 30,000 people have been approved for membership in the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band, but there are still an estimated 70,000 applications not yet processed. Those numbers are far beyond how many were expected to seek membership in the band and Ottawa has ordered a review of the process.
“(When) the process is completed, I’ll talk to you people and give you something to talk about,” said Sheppard at the office last Thursday. “Other than that, there really is nothing to talk about. We haven’t got nothing finalized.”
He did say the visiting officials were ensuring the files were in order and were being safely secured.
Sheppard was asked if the federal officials were in the process of shutting the office down.
“That’s foolishness,” he said. “Nothing is shutting down.”
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada would not grant an interview about the work being done. In an emailed statement, the department said it was committed to working closely with the leadership of the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band to address areas of mutual concern.
“The goal of the current discussions is to find a solution that will treat everyone fairly,” read the email.
“At the same time, it is necessary to arrive at a solution that ensures integrity and fairness in the enrolment process and reflects the original intention of the parties.”
The email concluded by saying there would be no further comment due to the “confidential nature of these discussions — agreed to by both parties.”
In a follow-up email, the federal agency declined to answer questions about how many officials were in Corner Brook, what their jobs were precisely, how long did they expect to be in the Corner Brook office or if their work involved anything other than discussing issues, such as the removal or processing of any files.