top of page

Focus on both French and Mi’kmaq heritage for two Qalipu election candidates

By COLINE TISSERAND

Courtesy of Le Gaboteur

– translated by Gerald J. Roy

Among the 13 candidates running for Council for the Qalipu Nation on Oct. 22, two are campaigning in the Port au Port area, an area of both Mi’kmaq and Francophone heritage. Le Gaboteur spoke with both Jeffrey Young and Jason Benwah.

Jeffrey Young is running for the first time for the Qalipu Band Council in the Port au Port area. He is the Vice-President of the administrative council of Le Gaboteur.

CT: Why did you choose to run in these elections, and in particular, why in this region?

Jeffrey Young: The reason why is we are the First Nation Qalipu created 10 years ago and now, during these 10 years, our region of Port au Port has had very little resources (from the Band) Qalipu. We are the second largest region in term of membership, after Corner Brook, and we are maybe the area with the least services. We have no employees in the region. We have in some Stephenville, which is right beside us, and even then there is only one employee. All other employees are in Corner Brook, and I don’t find that right. And our service here is…I believe we are always last. Our voice at the table (of the council) is not strong and that voice has been there for six years, for the last two elections. For these last six years we have seen very few (people from the Band) Qalipu here. I want to bring more to the table and I want our area to get much more.

CT: What are your priorities as a candidate and what do you want to bring to the table if elected?

JY: I would like to bring better services for education, for people who are looking for funding (funding help from the Qalipu Nation), for availing of better education for secondary education. Right now, the Qalipu Band has a model which is very old, not very modern. We have to modernize this help program. For example, when you apply for financing to pay for your courses, you have to send your request by mail. If you don’t send by mail, they don’t accept it. We should be able to send it online. And you have to pay yourself, and they reimburse afterwards. I think this creates a lot of barriers for kids who can’t afford it. I, for one, used this program in the past, and I had to front almost $5,000 for my studies. So young people, and even adults, who don’t have access to these funds themselves don’t have access to education. And I want to start prioritizing health care. Presently we have a lot of people without a doctor, we have very long waiting periods to see a doctor and for refunds of the cost for services received. It takes time when someone has to travel to see a doctor, for example. So I would like to see solutions to better help the members.

CT: The Qalipu First Nation celebrates its 10 years of official recognition. In your opinion, what still needs to be done after these 10 years?

JY: For the community, there is a lot of work to be done. There is a lot of education to be done for the members about who we are, our identity, and to bring more services in all regions, and not just a few places in particular.

CT: Are there specific needs for members in your area who are also Francophones? Is this aspect one of your priorities?

JY: I find it very important that we recognize our identities. I would say that 80 per cent of the people (of the Peninsula) if not more, are Acadian Mi’kmaq as I am, and who speak French. I would venture to say that 90 per cent of students who go to Francophone schools are Mi’kmaq Acadians. So it is very important for me and my children to know my culture, my roots, my heritage.

Jason Benwah is the incumbent Qalipu councillor of the Port au Port Ward. He is seeking a third term on Council.

CT: Why did you choose to run in these elections, and in particular, why in this region?

Jason Benwah: First of all because I have always been a person involved in the Aboroginal community by providing services and programs for the last 25 years. So it is not something that I am just starting; it is something I have always done and that I want to continue doing because there is still so much more to do than what has been done so far.

CT: What are your priorities as a candidate and what do you want to bring to the table if elected?

JB: My priorities are to continue to support the Mi’kmaq community programs, including reinforcing the food programs and accessibility to services. But I would also like us to start modifying the organization of the Qalipu First Nation so it becomes more integrated within regions, so it is more accessible and less centralized in that each area – in particular ours – get a permanent presence in all programs we need, whether in terms of food security, education or health care. When I go to the Band Council, I represent the members of the Port au Port region, and what I bring is my work experience with the members in providing services, and to continue to build upon that because there is so much more to do.

CT: The Qalipu First Nation celebrates its 10 years of official recognition. In your opinion, what still needs to be done after these 10 years?

JB: The challenge now is to modify the group without breaking it, to bend it, to model it to bring it into the communities. As well, the applications for membership to the Aboriginal status for the Qalipu Nation has always been a sensitive issue for the Band and its members. We have to continually work at it. I think a greater collaboration in the communities is necessary, not only a presence, so that the group becomes an entity of cultural support in the regions.

CT: Are there specific needs for members in your area who are also Francophones? Is this aspect one of your priorities?

JB: I estimate that three quarters of the Francophone population have their membership card as status members of the Qalipu Band, and it’s not really a problem because we know that when the Mi’kmaq met the Europeans for the first time, they

spoke French, and the first foreign language that the Mi’kmaq learned was the French language. So there is a direct and well established relationship and the Mi’kmaq were speaking French before speaking English. There is a huge inter-relationship between the Mi’kmaq and Francophones, which does not compete one with the other, but completes it, and we have to work together for the good of the community. I am happy for the coming elections, and I am happy for all the candidates. I see a lot of respect. I am happy that they all offer. People are very respectful, and show their real Mi’kmaq nature, so it is wonderful to see. I am looking forward to a strong council which will do a lot of things together for the good of the community.


The original article can be found in its entirety on Le Gaboteur.

1 view0 comments

Comments


bottom of page