Beating the Drum on status

Beating the Drum

Beverly Blanchard is an Ojibway First Nation from Northern Ontario.  She holds a degree in Economics. During the last twenty-two years, she has worked as a consultant to First Nation and Inuit organizations in a variety of disciplines including: homelessness, suicide prevention, violence prevention, childcare, HIV/AIDS, women’s issues, business planning, and economic development. She has also designed and delivered Aboriginal awareness and stress management workshops to Federal government employees. Currently, Ms Blanchard is a life strategy coach, author and energy healer in Ottawa.

Status, Non-Status and Treaty ... Oh My!

By Beverly D. Blanchard
True North Perspective

15 February 2013 — The First Nation population contains a variety of sub-grouping and not all groupings are treated the same by government programming. The largest of grouping is commonly referred to as Status First Nations. These are individuals who are registered under the Indian Act of Canada and are entitled to certain rights and benefits.

As a status First Nation, I am registered with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) and I am member of the Batchewana band.  I have the right to live on the reserve, vote for chief and council and share in any band monies. Under the Indian Act I am entitled to certain benefits. Some of the health benefits include dental care, eyeglasses, and prescription drugs. This part of the program is administered by Health Canada’s First Nations and Inuit Health Branch (FNIHB). In some instances my healthcare providers are required to obtain FNIHB approval prior to performing any procedures.

My reserve is allocated dollars for each member on the band list. Through these funds they are to provide services to the membership that includes education, housing and other social, economic and cultural programs.

People have the assumption that every post secondary First Nation student has their education paid for in full. The amount of funding a student receives is dependent upon how much money is in the reserve’s education budget. It is also dependent upon how many students apply to the education department for funding. In some instances the funding is not equally distributed and can be at the discretion of the Education Director.

Most people think that because I am a status First Nation, I do not pay taxes. This is a big fallacy. Unless I work on the reserve my income is subject to income taxes just like everyone else. The only tax exemption that I do have is the provincial sales tax in the Province of Ontario and gas which is purchased on reserve.

I am also a treaty First Nation which means that in 1850 my reserve or band signed a treaty with the Crown in which they surrendered or ceded certain lands in their respective territories. Known as the Robinson Huron Treaty, this document outlined the amount of money that would be paid by the Crown. It also stipulated where the reserve would be situated and how First Nations could dispose or sell their lands. In addition, it also provided for an annuity payment once a year to all band members.

As has been done for more than a hundred years, an Aboriginal Affairs staff member and an RCMP officer come to the reserve on a prescribed date to distribute this annuity to all members. The amount of this annuity has not changed in all these years and is still $4. For those members such as myself, who do not live on reserve I am required to fill out AANDC’s Treaty Annuity Request form and attach a photocopy of my Indian Affairs photo identification card. A cheque in the amount of $4 is then issued to me by the Government of Canada.

Now within the grouping of status First Nation, there is also a non-treaty sub-grouping. The status definition still applies but the non-treaty means that these groups did not sign Treaties with the Crown. British Columbia with the exception of Vancouver Island never signed any treaties.

Non-Status First Nations are individuals who are not entitled to be registered under the Indian Act. In some instances these individuals voluntarily or involuntarily lost or gave up their status as a registered First Nation. In my first article of this series I already identified one of the ways First Nation women lost their status. Up until the 1960s here are some of the ways that an individual could lose their status:

•  Joining the military

•  Attending university

•  Becoming a lawyer

•  Studying to become a minister or priest

•  A person who was never registered at birth

•  A person who never signed a treaty or was a member of any nation that did not sign a treaty

At present, the Federal government has no financial obligation to Non-Status First Nations. This however is now before the courts and could change.

According to the 2006 Census, 1,172,785 self-identified as Aboriginal, representing 3.8% of the total Canadian population. Within the Aboriginal population, 53.2% identified as Registered First Nations, 30.3% as Métis and 4.2% as Inuit. Another 11.4% were Non-Status First Nations.

Aboriginals reside in all provinces and territories across Canada. However, about eight in ten (80.5%) Aboriginals reside in Ontario and Western Canada. In terms of the on-and off-reserve breakdown, one in-five Aboriginal Canadians lived on reserve in 2011. In addition to most living off-reserve, the majority of all Aboriginals (54% in 2011) live in an urban setting.

Next time we will look at the Indian Act and how it has changed and some of the impediments that have made it difficult for economic development.