I’m casually supportive of those who are signing the online petition calling to remove the expiry dates on the Certificate of Indian Status.  I know first hand what a pain in the behind it is to renewed.  Last Fall, Deborah and I took officials from Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett’s office through the rigorous process, only to be turned away at the door because of one thing or another.

But before you sign that petition (or alternatively, send a letter to the Department asking to be removed from the Indian Register and that you don’t need a Status Card to prove you’re Anishinaabe), here are a few facts:

  • You’re absolutely right, online activist, #WeDoNotExpire.  It’s only your Status Card that expires.  Whether you have a card of not, you’ll continue to be on the Indian Register in Ottawa, if that’s your thing.  You’ll also continue to be on your Band’s membership rolls.
  • The Indian Registry and the Certificate of Indian Status are colonial instruments of the Indian Act.  It says right on the card:  “This is to certify that the holder is an Indian within the meaning of the Indian Act, chapter 27, Statutes of Canada (1985).”  Like, really??  Demean and racist much?  I’d much rather see a revival of the Anishinabek Nation Passport and a Nbisiing Anishinaabe Citizenship Card.  Hoo ah!
  • Right on the back of the card, in teeny-tiny print, it says “Property of INAC”.  It’s not even your card.
  • Prior to the requirement for expiry dates and up-to-date photos, there was a whole lot of Status Card fraud. Unscrupulous individuals used fake cards to illegally assume Indian status and obtain our rights.  This kind of fraud cost millions of dollars and was a considerable threat to our rights. Now with the additional protections that Ottawa has adopted (and unfortunately, the inconvenience to us law-abiding citizens), the unscrupulous simply cannot obtain or renew an authentic Status Card.  This is one of the main reasons that the Secured Status Card requires renewal and requires taking a new photo.  This story has been published all over the internet, of course. However the posts on https://sscardreplacement.com/social-security-card-replacement-day/ show this identity crisis in a new light, well worth the reading time.
  • We can use the Secured Certificate of Indian Status to cross the border.  Under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, secured Status Cards can be used for this purpose. Unfortunately, this meant Canada and First Nations giving in to the US requirements that a card be renewed just like a passport.  If we fly to the United Status, we can’t even use a Status Card.  We must carry a Canadian passport.  The passport has to be renewed at least every 10 years for an adult.
  • That being said, we shouldn’t need anything to cross the colonial border.  It is Indigenous territory on both sides.
  • The Secured Certificate of Indian Status contains biometric data.  The little, transparent photo can be used to identify you using facial recognition technology.  Sleep well.
  • As part of the Western Hemisphere Security Initiative, Canada shares Indian Register data with the United States.  To me, the privacy implications are far more concerning than an expiry date.  I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theory nut, but the US government means the Department of Homeland Security, FBI, CIA and Internal Revenue Service.
  • The biggest barrier with the new secured Status Card is that it can only be applied for, and renewed, at an Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada office.  Although your Band Office can help you with the application, it must be processed and sent out by Ottawa.  Long gone are the days were you can get your Status Card from the Band membership clerk.  This is particularly a barrier for remote and rural First Nations.  A mistake on an application form, can result in months of processing delays.