Service offers status card renewal, replacement

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The Southern Chiefs’ Organization has launched a new service designed to help First Nation citizens in southern Manitoba renew or replace their status cards.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/12/2021 (301 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Southern Chiefs’ Organization has launched a new service designed to help First Nation citizens in southern Manitoba renew or replace their status cards.

The new status card renewal or replacement service will include trained pathfinders offering support to Status First Nation citizens when navigating the application process.

Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said the program was necessitated by the complexity of the federal government’s renewal or replacement of status cards. The SCO has recognized the barriers in place when it comes to getting a status card for many years, he said, and these obstacles have only been heightened during COVID-19.

Mikaela MacKenzie/Winnipeg Free Press Southern Chiefs’ Organization Grand Chief Jerry Daniels.

“There has been such a backlog in the number of people and the ability for citizens to have their status card [that] we saw it as a very essential service that had to be provided for our citizens,” Daniels said.

Talk of launching the program began a couple of years ago after the shuttering of the Winnipeg Indigenous and Northern Affairs office. Since that time, there has been an increasing demand paired with an inability for people to gain clarity on how to go about engaging in the process of securing their status cards.

“We wanted to help streamline that a little bit, it provides an essential service to our citizens,” he said.

Through the program, pathfinders will help First Nation citizens review applications to ensure all proper documents are in place, take the applicant’s photo, provide guarantor signatures, provide guidance on acceptable forms of identification, verify an applicant’s identification and submit completed applications for processing.

Having the ability to gain a status card is an essential service for First Nation citizens because of the programs, services and resources that become available when a person secures their treaty status, he said.

The next step for the SCO will be to take over the status application process completely if it becomes possible.

Daniels said they want to be the ones certifying status and determine for themselves who is First Nation and who is not. He described it as a policy that should have been in place many years ago.

“You don’t see the same bureaucratic government interference in the Métis Nation here in Manitoba. They decide for themselves who is Métis, and that is how it should be for First Nations.”

Many First Nation families continue to struggle with establishing their status. Families have grandchildren who are not recognized as status First Nation because of policies set by the Canadian government, including the historic loss of status for Indigenous women when they marry someone who is non-Indigenous

“It’s colonial trickery,” Daniels said. “It’s still a very important issue that needs to be addressed in the future.”

There has been an evolving and ongoing discussion around the idea of status cards, he added, centred on how the system currently in place is based on colonial ideals.

“When you look at the Métis Nation, they actually identify their own citizens for themselves, whereas we’re dependent on the government, and the government takes the prerogative of telling us who is First Nation, who is Anishinaabe and who is Dakota,” Daniels said. “It really is a backwards model. It’s archaic and sort of part of the colonial thinking and ideal.”

The SCO believes the services, benefits and rights that come with having treaty status recognition is essential because it provides citizens with the means to establish a better quality of life. The new program marks a step in taking back control of the citizenship aspect of their membership.

He added there is a mistrust in Canadian government systems rooted in colonialism and residential schools. These experiences have created generations of trauma that can further complicate the process of navigating the necessary steps to securing treaty status for an individual.

These experiences are further compounded by the trials and tribulations of navigating government bureaucracy and red tape.

“Think of it this way — we have broken families at a much higher rate than the regular Canadian. If you look at C-92 [an Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families] where First Nations children are being disenfranchised — and this is an old and archaic policy — but if you look at C-92, many are coming from broken families. Fathers and mothers who are not part of the birth of the child, it’s part of the impoverished situation that we’re in, so children don’t have their father on the birth certificate. I didn’t have my father on my birth certificate until I was probably 12 or 13. So, you can imagine children just by not having another parent on a birth certificate actually start to lose status,” Daniels said.

“It’s a part of the process of getting us in front of the bigger question and the bigger problem around citizenship for First Nations.”

» ckemp@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @The_ChelseaKemp

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