'Unacceptable': Quebec First Nation frustrated by latest identity fraud allegation

Residents of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation near Maniwaki, Que., are frustrated amid questions around the Indigenous ancestry of Gatineau-based lecturer and naturopath Francine Payer.

Indigenous ancestry of Gatineau, Que., naturopath has come into question

Naturopath and lecturer Francine Payer gives conferences and workshops on Anishinaabe culture in a range of venues, including schools. (FACEBOOK / CLINIQUE HOLISTIQUE FRANCINE PAYER)

Residents of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation near Maniwaki, Que., are frustrated amid questions about the Indigenous ancestry of lecturer and naturopath Francine Payer, who's based in nearby Gatineau.

Payer's Indigenous identity was called into question following a Radio-Canada report published last week.  

"This is completely unacceptable," said Algonquin Elder Claudette Commanda. "It's false information that hurts people, and then it's up to us to limit the damage."

Payer claimed to have Anishinaabe roots, coming from the community of Timiskaming and having ancestors from Kitigan Zibi. She described herself as an Anishinaabe "grandmother" on her website and gave public talks on Anishinaabe culture.

In a 2016 letter, Timiskaming First Nation confirmed Payer is not a registered member.

'I think she is lying'

Claudette Dumont-Smith, the executive director of Quebec Native Women, said cases like Payer's aren't limited to Kitigan Zibi.

"They are taking away the place of real natives to tell their story," Dumont-Smith said in French. 

"I come from Kitigan Zibi. I was the nurse there for years, so I know all the names of the families and she can't name the family that she belongs to. I don't trust her story and think she is lying."

Some community members said they are concerned with the sense of fraud and cultural appropriation.

"To me .. it's more of the life and the experiences that they haven't had," said Doug Odjick, Kitigan Zibi band council member.

"They didn't live the life. They didn't live the discrimination. They didn't live the hardships."

Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Chief Dylan Whiteduck says there have been at least five cases of identity fraud involving the First Nation since he was elected in August 2020. (Radio-Canada)

Community prone to identity fraud, chief says

Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Chief Dylan Whiteduck said he's seen at least five cases like Payer's since he was elected in August 2020. He said he believes the community is particularly prone to this type of fraud because it's one of the oldest in the area. 

"It's just disrespectful," he said. "It degrades who we are as First Nation people."

Francine Payer did not respond to a request for an interview from Radio-Canada on Sunday.

Payer runs a naturopathic clinic in Gatineau and has given lectures and training on Indigenous people in a range of venues, including schools.

Radio-Canada previously reported that Payer said she doesn't need the recognition of a band council, since she views it as a colonial structure.