The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) has filed a lawsuit against the Minister of Indigenous Services and the Attorney General of Canada to stop the discriminatory exclusion of non-status Indigenous post-secondary students. 

“It shouldn’t be happening,” said Kim Beaudin, the National vice chief of CAP. Non-status Indigenous individuals are people who are not considered registered Indians. It could be due to their ancestors who refused the Indian Act or lost their Indigenous status. As non-status Indigenous people are not recognized under the Indian Act, their rights and privileges are less and are not similar compared to Indigenous people who have  Indian status. 

Visit: https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/110010001 4433/1535469348029) for more information. 

Beaudin explained that most non-status Indigenous students have issues when it comes to applying for different grants, programs, and scholarships. The Canadian federal government denies the funding that these people say they deserve. 

According to CAP, this violates section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by not having fair access to post-secondary education. 

Beaudin described the obstacle many students face when it comes to debts in student loans — but for non-status Indigenous students, it may be harder. 

“For pure non-status Indian if [they] want to further education, a specialty for example …… that’s out the door. Those kinds of things are gone,” Beaudin said.

He “explained that non-status Indigenous people are not accepted by their First Nations band. “They fall through the cracks regarding whether they’ve been part of a treaty or not,” said Beaudin. 

As for the federal government, it looks at treaties and the bands’ list of members, and if an individual isn’t part of any band, that could be a problem. 

“They can see that. No question, you should be part of the band, but they realize that the band itself won’t accept you. So, they put you on this list. They declare you as a non-status Indian,” Beaudin added. 

Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) explained in their chart that non-status members can have a status when: 

• One of their parents holds a status, or both of them hold a status. 

• They were entitled to the status 

before changes to the Indian Act in 1985.

• They lost status as a result of 

marriage to a non-status man. 

• Their maternal or paternal grandmother did not have status before her marriage, so they lost status upon turning 21. 

• Their registration was successfully protested despite their father’s non-status and because of their mother’s status. 

• They lost status because they or their parents were enfranchised. 

See https://www.nwac.ca/assets-knowledge-centre/I ndian-Status-in-Canada-FINAL.pdf 

There are many ways for non-status First Nations to get status. But with Beaudin’s explanation, most of the time, a status is difficult to achieve. 

Beaudin pointed to Bill C-38, an act to amend the Indian Act. It also seeks to address the inequity of enfranchisement and where it also includes new entitlements to registration in the

Indian Register. But there are a few problems with it. For more information, visit, https://www.sac-isc.gc.ca/eng/1662142490384/1 662142638971 

“Treaties that were signed with the Crown . . . people forget this. The federal government [are] responsible for administering the treaties, adhering to them, and honouring them,” Beaudin explained. “But . . . they make all the decisions and decide on ABC and D, and they don’t even look at that relationship at all. These people don’t understand the complexities of the relationship and how it works. And that’s why many believe that relationships and treaties are being eroded.” 

Beaudin said because they weren’t being heard, the group had no choice but to file a landmark federal lawsuit against the Minister of Indigenous Services and the Attorney General of Canada.

“This was certainly our last resort. We didn’t want to do that. We wanted to talk and strategize and remove the barriers to discrimination, but they were not interested in talking to us,” Beaudin stated. 

Beaudin’s daughter is a descendant of Métis through Beaudin’s father’s side. She doesn’t have a status card or a treaty card. 

“I remember when she applied [for loans or scholarships] under the Métis, they turned her down,” Beaudin said. “She’s stuck with the debt. She finished schooling but can’t go any further because she said there’s no point in being stuck with a big debt of pain for probably the rest of your life.” 

Beaudin said there were times that they gave up in terms of the treaties and stolen land. “That’s pretty sad.” But at the same time, he noted that they still want to continue to move forward.

“We’re hoping to get the federal government’s attention on this. I’d certainly like to see the federal government honour the treaties and finally deal with it instead of piece-mealing its point . . . poking at it with a stick. To look at the whole relationship in terms of treaty relationships and, address it, so we can move forward and quit leaving people behind.” Beaudin lamented. 

Based on CAP’s press release, there are approximately 1.6 million Indigenous people in Canada who do not have status under the Indian Act. For more information on this, visit CAP’s website at https://abo-peoples.org/ 

“We’ve been addressing issues around discrimination for 52 years. We’ll continue to fight for what’s right and we’ll continue that until our next 100 years.” said Beaudin. “I want to tell them [students] that we’re fighting for them. We certainly want to hear their stories.”

By Julia Archelene Magsombol, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 04, 2023 at 02:06

This item reprinted with permission from   Columbia Valley Pioneer   Invermere, British Columbia
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