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Indigenous leaders survey members to explore racist responses when status cards used

Online survey will determine the extent of difficulties members face
Judy Wilson, Chief of Neskonlith Indian Band and Executive Member of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, speaks during a news conference on the impact of Bill C-58 on Indigenous communities, in the foyer of the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on December 4, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs is asking its members how much racism or discrimination they encounter when presenting their status card at banks or retail outlets.

A news release from the organization says members will be asked to take part in an online survey to determine the extent of difficulties they face when using the card that confirms they are a registered status Indian under the Indian Act.

Using the card can ensure access to certain rights and benefits, including some tax exemptions, but the group’s vice-president, Chief Don Tom, says there is a lack of data on what happens when status cards are presented, so the survey will provide a way to measure the problem.

Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, the group’s secretary-treasurer, says it’s hoped at least 1,000 status card users share their experiences.

She says results of the study will be made public and will be used in ongoing and future legal proceedings as the organization works toward positive change.

The survey follows the 2019 arrest and handcuffing of Heiltsuk First Nation member Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter as they presented their status cards while opening an account for the young girl at a Vancouver bank.

An investigation has since determined the two Vancouver police officers committed misconduct when they detained and handcuffed the pair and both officers were disciplined and ordered to write apologies to Maxwell and his granddaughter.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the online survey is “critical” to determining the extent of discrimination encountered when presenting a status card.

The responses will “give us the tools we need to make change in the courts of law and public opinion,” Phillip says in the statement.

“It will also tell us more about how Indigenous people adapt their clothes, their demeanour and their conversation to avoid racism,” he says.

The survey, posted on the Union of BC Indian Chiefs website is open to eligible participants until July 1.

—The Canadian Press

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