Ambassador Chartier speaks at SECAN Conference

May 3, 2024

From April 24-26, 2024 Ambassador Clément Chartier attended the XVIII International Seminar in Canadian Studies (SECAN) held at the town of Guardalavaca near Hoguin, Cuba. This 18th conference, in conjunction with the International Congress on Foreign Languages, Communication and Culture Conference (WEFLA) has been organized annually by the University of Holguin. The opening and closing of the conference are held jointly and then for the duration of the remaining time they are held separately.

Ambassador Chartier gave a keynote speech on the first day of the SECAN conference, entitled: "Indigenous Identity Theft/Fraud Running Wild in Canada".

Indigenous Identity Theft/Fraud Running Wild in Canada
April 2024

i. Introduction:

Indigenous identity fraud in Canada affecting First Nations, Inuit, and the Red River Métis, also known as the Métis Nation, has been the direct result of the colonization process perpetrated by outsiders for centuries. This was manifested over time by the colonizer, not only taking over Indigenous lands, but by trying to exterminate Indigenous peoples physically in some parts of the Americas, to transforming Indigenous peoples' identities in other parts, such as the Indian residential school system in Canada where an attempt was made to kill the "Indian in the child".

This was exacerbated by laws and policies adopted by the Canadian government beginning with the Indian Act, 1876 passed after Canada was created as a country through the British North America Act, 1867. Under this newly established constitutional order, federal powers or jurisdiction included s. 91(24) which provided exclusive federal authority over "Indians and lands reserved for the Indians".

The Indian Act created legal categories of Indians. Indian Bands which had entered Treaties with the Crown had their band members included on the Indian Registry. Where Treaties were not concluded, band lists created by government agents were incorporated.

The Indian Act was passed by the new Canadian Parliament 6 years after the Métis Nation (the Red River Métis) of the historic northwest of Canada resisted the taking over of their homeland which led to the entry of the Red River Métis into Confederation as the fifth province to join: the province of Manitoba. This transition was followed by a 2 ½ year reign of terror including rape, murder, and plundering, forcing thousands of Métis to abandon the newly created province of Manitoba, primarily moving west and northwest to join existing Métis settlements or creating new ones. The Manitoba Act, 1870 as a negotiated outcome by s. 31 guaranteed 1.4 million acres of land for the Métis children. A promise which to date has not been honoured.

Because of this repressive action against the Red River Métis, Canada's negotiating partner in confederation, the Indian Act was amended in subsequent years to state that those Métis who received land grants under the Manitoba Act, 1870 or land and money scrip under the Dominion Lands Act were not eligible to be enrolled as Indians under the Indian Act, not that that was being sought by the Métis Nation.

As for the Inuit, a Supreme Court of Canada ruling in 1939 concluded that Eskimos (Inuit) were "Indians" for the purposes of s. 91(24). This prompted the federal parliament to amend the Indian Act to provide that those "aborigines" knows as Eskimos were not entitled to be registered as Indians for the purposes of the Act. Nevertheless, over time, the federal government began providing some federal services to the Inuit.

The Indian Act also provided a mechanism (s.12) for removing Indians from the Act, for example, by s. 12(1)(b), if an Indian woman married a man not covered by the Indian Act, for example a Whiteman or Métis, they and their children ceased being Status Indians. This resulted in the creation of a category of Indians known as Non-Status Indians. On the other hand, if a male Status Indian man married a White woman or Métis women, she and her children gained Indian status.

Much of this has been corrected by the Constitution Act, 1982 through the s.15 equality rights clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms contained in Part 1 of that Act. That section did not come into effect for 3 years to enable the federal government, through Parliament, to amend the Indian Act so that Indian woman would no longer lose their Indian Status and rights based upon whom they wished to marry.

Through this amendment and several others since, including one as recent as 2 ½ years ago, such changes, while the federal government may believe that this is positive "reconciliation", is in fact causing more issues, particularly as to Indigenous identity. For example, many Métis from Métis communities steeped in Métis culture, language, traditions, and identity through some distant marriage between a Métis male to a First Nation's women have been given the choice to take Indian Act status. My family as of 2 years ago falls into this category. But how can one suddenly switch from being infused with a Red River Métis identity to for example, a Cree identity?

ii. Indigenous Identity Fraud at the individual Level.

While Indigenous identity fraud or theft has been taking place on a smaller scale for decades, it was not as urgent to address then, as it is now.

In the Métis context in our homeland in Western Canada, as we began getting more and better services, primarily from provincial governments, such as housing and education it was noted that many, mainly white people, would pass themselves off as Métis to benefit from programs meant for Métis. As there was no system of verification as to an individual's claim to being Métis, this was simply tolerated.

This was also the case with Non-Status Indians who were welcomed to join our Métis organizations as they also, like the Métis, were excluded from federal government services, both facing the same economic and social challenges.

Many of them began to assume a Métis identity, and with the amendments to the Indian Act in 1985 through Bill C-31, thousands of individuals had the opportunity to become registered Indians and to begin identifying as such. These included hundreds of children and grandchildren raised as Métis in Métis villages or urban centers in situations where a father or grandfather had married an Indian woman.

This has been experienced since 1985 through 3 amendments to the Indian Act where shifting between identities, or at least legal classification, has occurred.

There are now hundreds, if not more, former Métis Nation citizens who have regretted their decision to take Indian status only to find out that they could not then get out of the Indian Act register. Once in, in forever!

This however is about to change as Parliament is currently dealing with a Bill which will amend the Indian Act to enable registered individual to remove their name from the Indian register. Basically, freedom of choice as to which people or nation they wish to identify with and belong to. The Bill also contains an amendment that such individuals always retain the right to opt back onto the Indian Register, which itself is problematic.

With patriation of the Constitution Act, 1982 and the inclusion of s. 35 which "recognizes and affirms the existing aboriginal and treaty rights" of the "Aboriginal peoples of Canada", "being the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada" there has been an explosion of individuals throughout Canada who falsely claim they are Métis, or First Nations or Inuit.

Using the term "Métis" there have been thousands of individuals, many of mixed Indian - white ancestry in eastern Canada, from Ontario to the Maritime provinces, claiming to be Métis for the purposes of s.35 Aboriginal hunting and fishing rights. Dozens of court cases have been heard in eastern Canada where the courts have consistently concluded that there are no historic Métis communities in those areas, as well as no contemporary ones.

One judge in Quebec commented that trying to figure out who is Métis in Quebec is like nailing jello to the wall!

There are also persons belonging to the Acadian people in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick who have claimed s.35 Métis hunting and fishing rights, attempting to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada to try and establish such rights. The SCC has thus far refused leave to appeal from one Acadian case and one from Quebec (a Quebecois case.)

The Inuit are also facing individual identity theft, a notorious example being the Gill sisters, whose natural mother, Karima Manji, born in Tanzania is currently facing fraud charges. In this case, a non-Indigenous woman now living in southern Ontario, who had for a period of time during her 20s lived in Iquluit, claimed she had adopted 2 children from an Inuit woman. Based on that deception she was able to secure hundreds of thousands of dollars from an Inuit government to put her two daughters through university. The sisters were also able to access funding from a national Indigenous institution which provided scholarships to Indigenous students. The sisters themselves were not charged. The case is still before the courts.

What really brought this issue to the forefront was investigative work by the media, outing prominent individuals who were passing themselves off as either First Nations or Métis. Many were in entertainment, literary or education institutions. This practice is also rampant in business, procurement and government institutions and departments which provide programs meant to benefit Indigenous peoples.

For example, Joseph Boyden a celebrated author who claimed an Indigenous identity has since been exposed as not being so. Another is singer Buffy Ste Marie an outstanding American Italian individual who has passed herself off as a member of the Piapot Indian Band in Saskatchewan. Also in Saskatchewan, another prominent figure, Carrie Bourassa who passed herself off as Métis and achieved prominent positions in academia and the health field was also exposed as a fraud. There are others such as Premier Danielle Smith of Alberta who has purported to be of Cherokee ancestry.

Certainly, one of the most famous identity fraud cases in Canada is that of Archibald (Archie) Bellamy of England who, in the early to mid-1900s passed himself off as Grey Owl, an Indian and was much celebrated for his conservationist work.

This identity fraud at the individual level has also been a challenge in federal and provincial governments which have over the past few decades taken it upon themselves to engage more Indigenous individuals in the public civil service through programs initiated by affirmative action and continued through to acts of reconciliation today. This has witnessed the embedding in governments, especially the federal government, of self-declared "Indigenous" peoples who eventually end up or ended up developing and implementing policies of employment, procurement, business grants, promotion and so forth which served themselves well, and brought in many more similar self-declared non-Indigenous people.

There was even a 2010 election in the Métis National Council in which a Frenchman from Quebec who received a Métis Nation of Ontario card and later moved to Saskatchewan ran for President, supported by the President of the Métis Nation of Alberta. Thankfully this fake did not win!!

iii. Indigenous Identity Fraud at the Community Level

Since patriation of the Constitution Act in 1982, there has also been Indigenous identity fraud at the nation, community, or people level.

One of the most glaring emergences of this identity fraud happened in Labrador, where a new organization came into being in 1984. A group of individuals came together in Labrador and initially organized as Métis, under the name, Métis Nation of Labrador. I was at a meeting of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP) where an individual sitting beside me identified as one of the representatives of the Métis Nation of Labrador.

He explained that they had looked at the definition of Aboriginal peoples in s.35(2) of the Constitution Act, 1982 and explained that the term "Indian" was already taken up by the Innu of Labrador and that the term "Inuit" was taken up by the Labrador Inuit Association. All that was left was the term "Métis", so they decided to call themselves "Métis".

Not having much success as Métis, they decided to call themselves the Inuit of southern Labrador: Nunatukavut. They have been successful in signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the federal government which gives them recognition as Inuit. While not successful in getting a land claim process, they nevertheless get programs and services.

Both the Innu Nation on whose lands the Nunatukavut Community Council (NCC) claims as belonging to them, and the Nunatsiavut (Inuit) Government deny the existence of any such Inuit people or group outside of the northern Inuit population. The national organization representing Canada's Inuit, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) also loudly proclaims that there is no such Inuit people as claimed by NCC.

Several weeks ago a legal proceeding took place in Ottawa at the Federal Court of Canada where-in the Innu Nation, supported by the Nunatsiavut Government challenged the existence of the so-called southern Inuit in Labrador.

In the province of Ontario there are now several so-called "new historic Métis communities". In August 2017 the government of Ontario and the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) jointly declared six "new historic" Métis communities in Ontario, one of which in northwest Ontario may have some legitimacy. This collective identity theft has ripped through the fabric of the historic Métis Nation forcing the Manitoba Métis Federation in 2021 to withdraw from the Métis National Council (MNC) as the Métis organizations in the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta, (the Métis Nation - Saskatchewan and the Métis Nation of Alberta), chose to support the MNO for purely political partisan purposes.

Unfortunately, the federal government continues to accept the MNO as a legitimate Métis organization and blindly propels forward with the MNO, MNS and MNA in Parliament where Bill C-53 would legislatively create fake Métis communities in Ontario. These organizations, or so-called governments will then be individually afforded the opportunity to negotiate separate treaties with Canada, which Treaties will be protected as an entrenched Aboriginal right in s.35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

While this action on the part of the federal government has a detrimental effect on the historic Métis Nation, by constitutionally dismembering our traditional homeland and providing the perception that the Métis Nation homeland includes virtually all the province of Ontario, this decision by the federal government has devastating effects and implications for the First Nations in the province of Ontario.

This governmental action has led to two demonstrations by Ontario First Nations leadership: June and September 2023. Further, large numbers of First Nations leaders from Ontario have appeared before the Indigenous and Northern Affairs (INAN) Committee which studied the Bill and returned it to Parliament in February 2024 with very minor to insignificant amendments. If the Bill were to pass third reading it would then go to the Senate Indigenous Affairs Committee for their review.

In this connection, the Assembly of First Nations unanimously adopted a resolution in July 2023 calling for the removal of Bill C-53 and that only legitimate rights-bearing Métis should have rights recognition and protection.

In addition to this action, there are several legal challenges being made against this federal government legislative recognition and accommodation of the MNO. This is in the context of the self-government agreement signed with them in February 2023 which now forms the basis for Bill C-53.

As for the Red River Métis, the historic Métis Nation, while this federal legislative process is harmful in the short term, the MMF, the National Government of the Red River Métis in July 2021 entered into a self-government agreement with the federal government which confirmed our inherent right of self-government, as well as the fact that our government represents all Red River Métis, whether they live in Canada or outside of Canada.

This has given rise to our Beyond Borders initiative which in the long term, will witness the continued integrity of both our peoplehood and traditional territory, regardless of what the federal government choses to do with the MNO, MNS and MNA.

We are building from the center out, whereas the MNC and its Governing Members have carved up our nation and homeland based on provincial boundaries.

This reprehensible action by the federal government with respect to the identity thieves in Ontario has led to the current alignment of the Red River Métis with the Chiefs of Ontario who are co-hosting a national First Nations, Inuit, and Red River Métis leaders' summit to address identity theft head-on. On May 14-15, 2024 in Winnipeg, Manitoba in the homeland of the Red River Métis and traditional territory of Treaty One First Nations an Indigenous Identity Fraud Summit will be taking place. This Summit will be live-streamed.

First Nations, Inuit and Red River Métis from across Canada will be pursuing a course of action which will directly confront, in a collective and cooperative manner, this pernicious assault on our existence as distinct peoples with our own identities, through a collective declaration and specific resolutions.

Surprisingly, on Wednesday, April 17, from out of nowhere, the Métis Nation - Saskatchewan (MNS) announced that their Provincial Métis Council (PMC) unanimously decided to withdraw from the Bill C-53 parliamentary process stating that they will pursue their right of self-government by a process which better suits them. In this case, being tied to the Métis Nation of Alberta (MNA) and the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO), they feel that their pursuit of self-government was being frustrated by the political and legal problems flowing from those organizations.

In the case of Alberta, based on a judicial review application by the Metis Settlements General Council, supported by some Métis Locals, the Federal Court of Canada ruled that the MNA in its self-government agreement entered into with Canada in February 2023 cannot unilaterally assert that they represent all the Métis in Alberta, along with all Métis communities. That those communities have the right to represent themselves. The court ordered the federal government to correct those parts of the agreement which purported to enable MNA to claim the scope of representation it claimed for itself.

As for Ontario, the MNO claims that it has historic Métis communities based on studies which they and the governments of Canada and Ontario undertook. This has been hotly contested by the Chiefs of Ontario, an organization representing almost all the Chiefs in Ontario. This assertion is also contested by the MMF. The Chiefs of Ontario held two demonstrations on Parliament Hill: June and September 2023. There are also several judicial review applications by First Nations challenging the February 2023 Self-Government Agreement between the federal government and the MNO.

Clearly, with the decision by the MNS to withdraw its support for Bill C-53, that process cannot proceed. In the meantime, the MNS has stated that it will pursue a self-government treaty without the legislation and thus accommodate their needs.

Both the MNO and MNA issued press statements expressing their disappointment and affirming that they will continue pressing forward with securing a treaty between themselves and the federal government.

While this legislation may have stalled and is likely dead, the issue of identity fraud still looms large in Ontario and joint action between the Chiefs of Ontario and the MMF will need to continue. The planned Summit of mid-May remains important and likely will be the launching pad for further cooperative action between the MMF and COO to eradicate this identity theft in Ontario.


This is a prime example of a potential well-meaning, but ill-informed federal government pursuing a course of reconciliation which is or will cause untold harm or damage to the historic Métis Nation, as well as First Nations communities (reserves) in Ontario. This is also a threat to First Nations in Quebec and the Atlantic provinces where hundreds of thousands of self-proclaimed Métis are glamouring for similar recognition given to the fake Métis in the province of Ontario.

This identity fraud may also lead to untold harm to the Inuit and Innu of Labrador.


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