Prison Sentence For Pretenders

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A Haida filmmaker is pushing for new legislation in Canada to penalize people who pretend to be Indigenous in order to access grants, awards and jobs intended for Indigenous people.  Tamara Bell said she wants those who misrepresent their identity to face fines and even prison time. Bell’s move comes on the heels of Indigenous elders exposing filmmaker Michelle Latimer’s unfounded claims that she was Indigenous. Latimer, who recently directed the CBC television series Trickster and the documentary Inconvenient Indian, is in fact primarily French Canadian, Irish and Scottish.

“It is reprehensible in all measures, so I think as Indigenous people, we have to draw a line in the sand,” Bell said Monday at a news conference in Vancouver. Right now, most Canadian institutions — even those that administer funds allocated specifically for Indigenous people — use self-identification as the gold standard for identifying who is Indigenous. That means anyone can simply say “I am Indigenous” to authenticate their Indigeneity. “People can’t just come in and squeeze out dollars. We’ve gone a long time being starved and we have to stand up,” said Métis Elder Corie Thunderchild, who is supporting Bell’s bid for an Indigenous authentication law in Canada.

Written by: Samantha Watts-Hopkins

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