Mi’kmaw veteran Richard Collier says he feels abandoned by Canada after being denied PTSD treatment by Veterans Affairs Canada and being stripped of his Indian status. (Nic Meloney/CBC) A navy veteran who lost his Indian status after being removed from the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation membership list is now more than three weeks into a hunger strike to protest his removal.
The Qalipu Mi’kmaq released its newest membership list earlier this month showing 22,251 members, making it the largest single First Nation in Canada. But more than 7,600 people were stripped of their Indian status after being dropped from the list.
In protest of his removal, Richard Collier said he’s been on a hunger strike since Sept. 1, consuming only chicken and beef broth, black tea with unpasteurized honey and water.
He said he’s lost just over 26 pounds since his strike began.
"I notice I’m getting weaker and weaker, and being a diabetic doesn’t help either," Collier said.
"But I draw strength from realizing that it’s not only being done to me. It’s being done to many other Aboriginal people out there, losing their Aboriginal veteran status and their status in Newfoundland." New eligibility criteria
When the Qalipu band was created in 2011, Collier’s membership in the Federation of Newfoundland Indians was considered sufficient for him to be added to the band’s original founding members list, earning him Indian status.
Collier lives in Pictou Landing, N.S. When new eligibility criteria was applied retroactively to the membership through a supplemental agreement, Collier’s application was rejected for failing to show tangible evidence that he had a connection, communications with, or residence within a Mi’kmaw community.
As a result of his rejected reapplication to the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation, Canada no longer considers him a status Indian.
"I just broke down," said Collier, of when he read the rejection letter. Brendan Mitchell, chief of Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation, with Mi’kmaw veteran Richard Collier. Mitchell says he considers veterans ‘collateral damage’ of Qalipu’s Supplemental Agreement and its eligibility criteria. (Submitted by Richard Collier) Collier served in the Canadian navy from July 1979 to October 1981 when he was "honourably released" from duty for attitude and performance issues. He was diagnosed with PTSD in 2010 by a psychologist assigned to him by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC).
Collier said he realized later in life that the dip in performance leading to his release from the navy was related to mental illness. Loss of benefits
Documents show the psychologist stated to VAC on three occasions that in their opinion, Collier "meets the full clinical criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD," and that his condition is "directly related" to incidents during his time in the Navy.
During explosive tests performed on a navy vessel based in Halifax, there was an accident and Collier witnessed a colleague’s decapitation. Collier says he hopes his hunger strike, now surpassing three weeks, will prompt Canada to reconsider his situation and review how the Qalipu Enrolment Process assessed the applications of veterans. (Nic Meloney/CBC) Collier said that although VAC provides him coverage for tinnitus, hearing aids, and even the psychological assessments and travel costs, he’s been denied coverage for a number of therapies for PTSD recommended by the psychologist, and medications prescribed by his family doctor to treat his PTSD symptoms.
Without VAC coverage for PTSD treatment, he fell back on the extended health benefits available through INAC due to his Indian status.
Now, Collier said, he feels "totally abandoned" by Canada, and he’s hoping his protest will provoke the government to reassess both situations.
In an emailed statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for VAC said the department is unable to speak to […]
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