Federal probe into use of fake Indian status cards for tax breaks due at end of month

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Federal probe into use of fake Indian status cards for tax breaks due at end of month

An investigation launched by Indigenous Services last fall into the use of fake Indian status cards has included interviews with three Mohawk communities and Canada's border agency, according to a document released by the department.

CBC News reported earlier this week on the Confederation of Aboriginal Peoples of Canada (CAPC) which provides members with cards the group's leader claims bestows the holders with Indigenous rights to hunt, fish, cross the border and obtain tax breaks for purchases. According to lettering on the cards, the holder is also entitled to "trans-border trade and mobility rights in North America."

The cards have no legal standing but to the untrained eye could be mistaken for federal government-issued Indian status cards.

Indigenous Services's audit and evaluation branch contracted auditing firm KPMG in October 2017 to investigate the use of fake Indian status cards used to obtain tax breaks on purchases of goods, according to department spokesperson Martine Stevens. 

A final report on the investigation is due by the end of the month.

KPMG was required to meet with the band councils of Kahnawake and Kanesatake, which sit near Montreal, and Akwesasne, which straddles the Canada-U.S. border about 120 kilometres west of the city, according to a statement of work document provided by the department to CBC News.

The statement of work document, titled Status Cards, also requested KPMG meet with the Canada Border Services Agency.

The document also stated that any employees of contractors or subcontractors involved in the investigation required "secret level" federal government clearance.

Cards have no legal status

​Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott said Wednesday Ottawa takes the issue "very seriously" and has acted to stop the use of the fake cards.

"We were aware of many of the issues that were raised [in the CBC News story] and have already taken action against the group in terms of asking them to cease and desist the practices which have been troublesome," Philpott told reporters on Parliament Hill.

The department's auditing branch asked KPMG to look into "anomalies or irregularities" involving the use of the cards and submit findings and recommendations based on the investigation, according to the document.

The Kahnawake police force, known as the Kahnawake Mohawk Peacekeepers, told CBC News they had seized about 100 fake cards from CAPC members attempting to score tax breaks on purchases ranging from appliances to vehicles.

CAPC is not recognized by the federal government or recognized by any Indigenous group or community as a legitimate representative political organization.

The organization, which is headed by Guillaume Carle, requires prospective members to undergo DNA tests conducted by Toronto firm Viaguard Accu-Metrics to determine their Indigenous ancestry before admittance.

Two former members of the organization became suspicious of the veracity of the results and separately submitted DNA samples from their dogs to Viaguard. Both results returned positive for Indigenous ancestry. Viaguard said in a statement to CBC News the samples were likely cross-contaminated with human DNA.

CBC News submitted DNA samples to Viaguard from three of its employees, two born in India and one born in Russia, and sent them to the company for testing. All three came back indicating they had 20 per cent Indigenous ancestry.

CBC News also submitted DNA samples from the same three employees to 23andMe, a large consumer DNA testing firm.

The results came back with zero Indigenous ancestry for all the employees tested.