RCMP, Quebec police investigating use of fake Indian status cards for tax breaks

Two law enforcement agencies and the federal tax authority are investigating the use of fake Indian status cards to obtain tax breaks, CBC News has learned.

Report found 7 different cards used in attempts to get tax breaks

This card, which is being examined by two law enforcement agencies and the federal tax authority, was distributed by the Confederation of Aboriginal Peoples of Canada. (CBC)

Two law enforcement agencies and the federal tax authority are investigating the use of fake Indian status cards to obtain tax breaks, CBC News has learned.

The RCMP, Quebec's provincial police and the Canada Revenue Agency have separate and ongoing investigations into the use of the cards, according to Indigenous Services.

The department said it "is cooperating" with the three agencies.

A report submitted to federal officials this summer said seven different types of cards have been used in attempts to obtain tax-free vehicles and other goods delivered to the Kahnawake Mohawk reserve south of Montreal.

Crown-Indigenous Relations and Indigenous Services hired auditing firm KPMG in October 2017 to investigate the use of the fake cards, because of their "high degree of resemblance" to real Indian status cards.

KPMG submitted its findings this past July.

"The government of Canada is continuing to assess the findings of this report and it will determine next steps in the coming months," said Indigenous Services in an emailed statement.

The report will also be shared at an upcoming meeting with Kahnawake and the Mohawk community of Kanesatake, which sits west of Montreal, said the department.  

DNA tests used to obtain cards

The KPMG report noted all the cards suggested the holder was entitled to rights in section 35 of the Canadian Constitution. An Indian status card is proof the bearer is registered as a status Indian under the Indian Act. The current on-reserve tax exemptions stem from the Indian Act.

An example of an Indian status card issued by the Government of Canada. (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada)

"Five [card] types included the Canadian flag or maple leaf," said a redacted version of the report provided to CBC News by the department.

The report said that one card — issued by the Confederation of Aboriginal Peoples of Canada (CAPC) — used the word "government" in between a Canadian flag logo and the word Canada.

"The cards could appear to have been issued by the government of Canada," said the report.

This dog's DNA was sent to a Toronto lab. The results claimed the animal had Indigenous ancestry. (submitted by Louis Côté)

CAPC uses Indigenous ancestry DNA tests conducted by Toronto lab Viaguard Accu-Metrics to determine its card-holding membership.

Earlier this year, CBC News reported the lab returned positive Indigenous ancestry results on two dog DNA samples. The lab also found three CBC employees born in India and Russia had the same percentage of Indigenous ancestry.

Guillaume Carle, the grand chief of CAPC, said he still sends DNA samples to Viaguard Accu-Metrics for testing and doesn't fear the investigations.

"The card is legal; we are recognized as the government," said Carle. "I don't know what they can investigate because we are all legal."

A look at what an Indian status card is, what it does and how to apply for one. 2:15

The lab's owner, Harvey Tenenbaum, did not respond to a request for comment.

The KPMG report said the Sû​reté du Québec (SQ) began its investigation in November 2017 on a referral from police in Chateauguay, Que., which sits next to Kahnawake.

An SQ spokesperson said the provincial police force does not comment on ongoing investigations. An RCMP spokesperson said the force also does not comment on ongoing investigations.

Several groups issuing cards

KPMG investigators met with the Kahnawake Mohawk Peacekeepers during their investigation. They provided 28 occurrence reports involving individuals caught using the cards to receive goods tax-free on the reserve.

Purchases delivered to a reserve for people with Indian status are tax-exempt.

KPMG's report said 24 of the occurrence reports included deliveries of a car, truck or van.

The report said retailers believed the fake cards to be real.

The majority of individuals involved in the purchases lived in Montreal, but others were found to reside in northern Quebec and in the Gaspé Peninsula, said the report.

The report said Kahnawake Peacekeepers seized cards apparently issued by a number of groups including:

  • Native Alliance of Quebec
  • Métis Federation of Canada
  • Gaspé Peninsula, Lower St-Lawrence, Magdalen Islands ​Mé​tis Aboriginals
  • Bedeqwe Native Community
  • Eastern Woodland Mé​tis Nation of Nova Scotia
  • Mikinak
  • Confederation of Aboriginal Peoples of Canada (CAPC).​

The report said individuals paid between $40 to $1,000 for the cards.

The KPMG report takes particular note of CAPC, which is headquartered in Gatineau, Que.

Guillaume Carle, the grand chief of the Confederation of Aboriginal Peoples of Canada, said an Indian status card issued by his organization that was seized by authorities 'is legal.' (CBC)

KPMG investigators interviewed an individual — whose name is redacted from the report — who stated that some prospective members paid $250 to CPAC for DNA tests that were never conducted.

The individual told KPMG that some of the DNA test results were photocopied and altered with Wite-Out.  

The report also noted that this individual referred to dog DNA and tap water sent for tests that returned with positive Native American ancestry results.

Carle said the allegations are false, because each test is accompanied by fingerprints and information from federal or provincial government issued ID.

"Dogs don't have fingerprints," Carle said.

About the Author

Jorge Barrera

Reporter

Jorge Barrera is a Caracas-born, award-winning journalist who has worked across the country and internationally. He works for CBC's Indigenous unit based out of Ottawa. Follow him on Twitter @JorgeBarrera or email him jorge.barrera@cbc.ca.