'We know who our people are,' Ontario First Nations draft citizenship law
'Indian Act is genocide,' Grand Chief Patrick Madahbee says
First Nations in Ontario are encoding their traditional citizenship laws to fight back against the "genocidal" policies of the Indian Act, says the Grand Chief of the Anishinabek Nation.
E-dbendaagzijig, which means 'those who belong' in Ojibwe, is a draft citizenship law for 39 Anishinabek First Nations, representing approximately 60,000 people in Ontario.
The recent Daniels decision from the Supreme Court of Canada on the rights of Metis and non-status Indians continues to muddy the waters of First Nations citizenship, Anishinabek Nation Grand Chief Patrick Madahbee said.
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"It's up to our people to decide who has lineage to our territory," he said. "We know who our people are."
The draft citizenship law recognizes a citizen as anyone who can trace their lineage, through at least one parent, to a First Nation within Anishinabek territory.
Madahbee said distinctions between status and non-status are part of the "genocide" inherent in the Indian Act and that First Nations leaders are prepared to take responsibility for Anishinabek citizens who live off reserve.
"The government has been very skillful at divide and conquer tactics," he said. "Our chiefs have been saying, particularly in the Anishinabek territory, when we talk about E-dbendaagzijig, those who belong, we say we are responsible for our people, no matter where they live."
Mahdabee said it's important to change the terminology from 'band membership' in First Nations to citizenship.
"You can be a member of the Kiwanis Club or the Rotary Club," he said. "You are a citizen of a nation. It elevates it."
Band membership rules under the Indian Act have left a First Nation in central Ontario in a dire situation, Madahbee said.
As of 2013, the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation did not have anyone eligible to be registered as a status Indian, he said.
"This Indian Act is genocide," Madahbee said.