The Pass System: illegal confinement of “rebel Indians” – InFocus

The Pass System restricted the freedom of Indigenous peoples to venture off reserve for more than 50 years

APTN InFocus with Cheryl McKenzie

The documentary, The Pass System, illuminates Canada’s unofficial but strictly enforced policy to confine First Nations people to reserves unless they had a pass to leave, issued by Indian Affairs.

Anyone caught off reserve without one would be jailed.

Pass to temporarily leave the reserve issued by an Indian Agent for the Department of Indian Affairs in 1932
Pass to temporarily leave the reserve issued by an Indian Agent for the Department of Indian Affairs in 1932

Even though the pass system was never enacted in legislation and was known to be illegal by government lawyers as early as 1892, it was enforced by the North-West Mounted Police and sanctioned by Canada’s first prime minister, John A. Macdonald.

Watch this edition to hear why it began as an “emergency measure” in the late 1800’s during the time of the Metis resistance but continued to be enforced into the early 1930’s.

The Pass System, Director, Alex Williams joins Cheryl McKenzie to talk about key moments in Tamarack Productions film.