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Burgeo man turned in military medals in protest of Qalipu enrolment process

Greg Janes of Burgeo has sent his military medals back to the prime minister in disgust over the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band enrolment process.
Greg Janes of Burgeo has sent his military medals back to the prime minister in disgust over the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation Band enrolment process. - Gary Kean

Greg Janes spent more than two decades serving Canada in the military.

Not long ago, he sent the medals he had earned during his career back to Ottawa, along with a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The letter expressed the Burgeo native’s disappointment and frustration with how so many people, Janes included, have been treated by the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band enrolment process.

Janes, who returned with his family to live in Burgeo when he retired a couple of years ago, was on the original founding members list for the Qalipu band.

As a result of the reassessment of applications sparked by the controversial 2013 supplemental agreement to the band’s formation, he and his children will soon lose their status and won’t be on the new founding members list expected to be established this spring.

“I will not wear my medals until this process is ironed out and everyone is treated fairly,” Janes said when he took his turn to speak at a rally in Corner Brook protesting the enrolment process Saturday.

Around 70 people took part in the protest, which coincided with ones in Ottawa and Stephenville.

Janes said his heritage means a lot to him, as it does to many other people of Mi’kmaq descent in Burgeo. He has provided the application process proof of his bloodline, copies of the hunting and fishing licences he has possessed in the past and evidence of the cottage he owns on the ancestral grounds along the banks of Grandy’s River.

He feels gutted to have been denied, knowing he shares the same strong connection as his brothers and sisters whose applications have been accepted.

“This (enrolment process) has been an exercise in extinction,” he said during an interview before he spoke at the rally.

Janes told those gathered that, since he is now retired, he has the time and energy to keep the fight to right the injustice he feels has been meted out to him and many others who have been denied founding membership.

Janes is the chairperson of the cultural revival committee in Burgeo and will be seeking the position of chief when the area forms its own Mi’kmaq band.

“Time is of the essence and it doesn’t seem like Ottawa wants to listen right now, so we have to do something to help make them listen,” he told The Western Star.

When addressing the crowd, he urged people to use more restraint when making social media posts. He said there are far too many divisive dialogues happening when the Mi’kmaq community should be coming together as a single force.

***This story was edited 26-02-2018 to accurately identify Greg Janes.

“You’re doing more harm than doing good,” he said, referencing Facebook in particular. “If everyone reached out and bound together like we did today on this cold February day, we will win this. We will win and we are going to win.”

What others had to say

Lorraine Stone, a vocal advocate in the Mi’kmaq community, reiterated the need for everyone involved to work together.

“The government is laughing at us because we are dividing. If we all come together as one, we can take them on a lot better.”

It was an emotional and powerful day for Keith Cormier, who was inspired to organize the rally by his son and granddaughter, both of whom will be denied status, despite others in the family being accepted.

“Somehow, the entire weight of (the federal Department of Indigenous and Northern Affairs) – all the seasoned bureaucrats, all the genealogists, all the lawyers – got it wrong … and in five months put together a process to eliminate a lot of people, and (my granddaughter) is one of them.”

Janet Chaulk of Corner Brook, said heritage is more than a status card, but believes it is just plain wrong for anyone given a card to have it revoked.

“I believe everyone who has been given their cards should be able to keep their cards. To take away something that has been given is not good.”

Jerry Lyver is a council member with the Mi’kmaq First Nation Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador, an entity formed to fight for denied applicants. He also encouraged people to not give up.

“According to the government of Canada, I’m not Mi’kmaq. Have I got a surprise for them … I will get my status, one way or the other … We need everybody on the same page here. Maybe then government will start to sit up and listen, they’ll open up their eyes and realize we’re not going away.”

Provincial Fisheries and Land Resources Minister Gerry Byrne, who was once a federal MP and is now the Liberal legislature member for Corner Brook, said the treatment of the disenfranchised Qalipu applicants flies in the face of the current truth and reconciliation movement trying to heal the strained relationship between the federal government and the Indigenous people of Canada.

“While there is truth and reconciliation occurring across this entire country today for past wrongs, which desperately need to be corrected, along with current wrongs of indifference and prejudice and bias, this is ground zero of where the current government of Canada must test itself as to whether or not it is true to its own words and its own practice.”

With her parents, Crystal Quinton, left, and Mark Day standing behind her, Clarity Quinton Day holds a poster during a demonstration at the Stephenville Dome parking lot on Saturday to protest the Qalipu Enrollment Process. There was a group of about 120 people at the peaceful demonstration held in conjunction with similar protests on the enrollment process in Corner Brook and Ottawa.
With her parents, Crystal Quinton, left, and Mark Day standing behind her, Clarity Quinton Day holds a poster during a demonstration at the Stephenville Dome parking lot on Saturday to protest the Qalipu Enrollment Process. There was a group of about 120 people at the peaceful demonstration held in conjunction with similar protests on the enrollment process in Corner Brook and Ottawa.

Drummers play a song while involved in a demonstration at Parliament Hill in Ottaw on Saturday during a protest against the Qalipu Enrollment Process. There was a group of about 40 from across the country involved in the peaceful demonstration.
Drummers play a song while involved in a demonstration at Parliament Hill in Ottaw on Saturday during a protest against the Qalipu Enrollment Process. There was a group of about 40 from across the country involved in the peaceful demonstration.

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