Curve Lake resident's Indigenous status remains in limbo as First Nation disputes registration

·3 min read

Curve Lake First Nation is at odds with Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) over what the First Nation claims is an error in registration for one of its residents.

Don Shartel applied for registration in 2018 and received his registration letter from Curve Lake First Nation in June 2019, along with his status card. A month later he received a letter from the Chief’s office, stating there was an error on the part of ISC and that he cannot be added to the First Nation's membership.

“This is not right. I sent all my documents to Indigenous Services Canada and got my registration letter,” said Shartel.

Registration under the Indian Act requires a long-form birth certificate, along with other documents to support the claim to a community. Shartel's parents are not Indigenous, and he says his mother obtained Indigenous status registration through marriage.

This was the norm up until 1985, when the Indian Act was amended to prevent non-Indigenous women from gaining Indigenous status through marriage. At the same time, Indigenous women who previously lost their Indigenous status when they married a non-Indigenous person were reregistered.

Since then, two more amendments to registration are now part of the Act, meaning children who were affected by the second generation cut-off or by other forms of discrimination relating to registration can apply for Indigenous status.

“The membership department with Curve Lake First Nation said everything was OK and that there shouldn’t be a problem. I don’t understand why I’m not getting any response to my request,” says Shartel.

He says ISC recently told him they did receive a protest in registration from Curve Lake First Nation.

According to Shartel, ISC told him that, as of November 2020, he was on the voting list. However, the most recent Curve Lake First Nation band roster does not have him listed.

When contacted in November 2020, Jeff Jacobs, Deputy Chief of Curve Lake First Nation, said in a delegate email that the band council would not discuss this matter, as it is currently under review. More recently, Chief Emily Whetung said she also would not comment on Shartel's case.

Shartel believes he should be granted status under the Indian Act because his mother is a registered band member with Curve Lake First Nation and has 6.1(a) status, which means, in theory, she can pass on her registration status to her son, as he was born after the amendments to the Indian Act on registration.

Curve Lake First Nation has sought a legal opinion on the matter, which was shared with Shartel in 2019.

“We will be in touch once we have a formal response to the protest filed with Indigenous Services Canada,” states the email.

In a message reply in October 2020, Chief Whetung indicated the matter was still being looked into.

William Olscamp, media relations for Indigenous Services Canada, says that for privacy reasons, ISC cannot comment on questions relating to or involving the personal details of individuals.

Shartel believes he is being discriminated against because his mother is not Indigenous-born.

“This is not right. How is it that ISC registered me, yet the First Nation refuses to acknowledge my registration?” asks Shartel.

Curve Lake First Nation registration policies state that Shartel is entitled to compensation from the Williams Treaty settlement if he is added to the voting list. Shartel has inquired recently and was told that only until the protest to Indigenous Services Canada was complete would the band know more on what action to take regarding registration and treaty settlement funds.

“I just want an answer,” Shartel says.

Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Peterborough This Week