A non-status First Nation in Ontario is taking issue with Queen’s University’s endorsement of a new report on Indigenous verification.
It comes on the heels of a number of reports of academics fraudulently claiming to be Indigenous Peoples and universities moving away from self-identification to a system of verification.
The report says Indigenous applicants should be vetted by an advisory council made up of First Nations that fall within the Queen’s region.
Left off this list is the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation, which describes itself as “an Anishnabek community that is located in the Madawaska, Mississippi and Rideau watersheds” in Ontario.
“It’s quite shocking actually that a university, let alone a university like Queen’s, which wants to be seen as a great institution of higher learning – that they would at the highest levels receive a report that is almost comically filled with errors on the central facts,” says Ardoch First Nation lawyer Christopher Reid.
In fact, the report takes direct aim at the community stating, “The Ardoch First Nation Community Services Organization Inc. (AFNSC) is a non-for-profit corporation with Letters Patent issued under the Ontario Corporations Act. The AFNSC would not be recognized under the reference of ‘Nations or Tribes’ in Royal Proclamation of 1763.”
In other words, Ardoch is not a recognized First Nation but a corporation.
Reid says the only problem is the report refers to a corporation that has been long dormant and was never a governing council of the community in the first place.
He adds it ignores existing case law.
“They also claim in their report that there’s simply no such thing as a non-status First Nation,” Reid says, “that only Indian Act bands can be First Nations. Which is again, even 30 years ago that would have been a pretty far-fetched proposition. And we know now that the courts in the last 30 years have firmly rejected that idea.”
Reid says Ardoch has no problem with Queen’s moving away from Indigenous self-declaration to a system that includes verification checks.
However, he says by fully endorsing the report the university is opening the door to problematic behaviour.
“They are unwittingly assisting a witch hunt,” he notes. “There is, in effect, a vigilante witch hunt going on across university campuses in Canada now.
“In which people who are Indigenous but don’t have membership in an Indian Act band are being challenged by vigilantes to produce proof of their Indigeneity, which is really bizarre because having an Indian Act status card is not proof of Indigenous identity at all.”
The community has formally written to Queen’s and asked the university to reject the report.
Reid also says Ardoch is considering its legal options.