Haida activist calls for hefty fines, jail time against those who claim to be Indigenous

Filmmaker Tamara Bell proposing the Indigenous Identity Act – to dissuade ‘Indigenous identity theft’

Haida Nation filmmaker Tamara Bell is proposing legislation to crack down on those who falsely claim they are Indigenous. (Facebook/Tamara Bell)

Haida Nation filmmaker Tamara Bell is proposing legislation to crack down on those who falsely claim they are Indigenous. (Facebook/Tamara Bell)

A Haida Nation filmmaker is demanding hefty fines and jail time for people caught falsely claiming they are Indigenous.

Tamara Bell proposed the Indigenous Identity Act Monday, rebuking Canadian filmmaker, Michelle Latimer, who had previously claimed to be of First Nations descent.

At a Vancouver press conference, Bell said “all too frequently perpetrators claim Indigenous identity, [which, for them] helps establish a successful career in film and television.”

Bell singled out Latimer’s actions as a prime example of “Indigenous identify theft.”

For the past two decades, Latimer claimed to be of Algonquin, Metis and French heritage. Her cultural identity came under scrutiny after an independent examination by a genealogist.

“It is my sincere hope that the IIA, once enshrined into law, will dissuade anybody of non-First Nations descent from impersonating an Indigenous person,” Bell said.

READ MORE: First Nations elders encourage COVID-19 vigilance (VIDEO)

The proposed legislation is similar to the U.S. Indian Arts and Crafts Act, where violations for those falsely claiming to be Indigenous can amount to $250,000 and up to five years in prison.

Bell thinks “this might have dissuaded Miss Latimer from assuming Indigenous identity” if such an act existed in Canada.

Self-identification is the predominant tool used by Canadian institutions to identify who is Indigenous, making those applicants eligible for art grants and resources.

Executive director of the Indigenous Screen Office, Jesse Wente, said that organization plans to revamp its policies regarding Indigenous identity.

The process will begin over the next months, sparking “conversations with elders and Indigenous organizations with knowledge and expertise,” he said.

“Our goal is to have a set of new policies in place before our next anticipated round of funding in fall 2021.”



sarahleonagrochowski@gmail.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

First NationsIndigenousIndigenous cultural groups

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vandals damaged a picnic table at Spectacle Lake Park with a chainsaw earlier this month. (Linda Mills photo)
Editorial: Vandals make victims of us all

It is infuriating when people target public property for vandalism.

Vees' Jack Barnes picked up his second goal of the season in the team's 5-0 win over Merritt on Saturday. (Brennan Phillips - Western News)
Cowichan Capitals in deadline dilemma with 20-year-old players

Hard decisions loom when BCHL may or may not resume play

The latest homeless count in the Valley found 129 in a 24-hour period. (File photo)
Latest homeless count reveals 129 in the Cowichan Valley

But local officials believe number is higher

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.'s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
456 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., 2 deaths

Since January 2020, 78,278 have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in B.C.

“Support your city” reads a piece of graffiti outside the Ministry of Finance office. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Slew of anti-bylaw graffiti ‘unacceptable’ says Victoria mayor, police

Downtown businesses, bylaw office and Ministry of Finance vandalized Wednesday morning

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Vaccinating essential workers before seniors in B.C. could save lives: experts

A new study says the switch could also save up to $230 million in provincial health-care costs

The late Michael Gregory, 57, is accused of sexually exploiting six junior high students between 1999 and 2005. (Pixabay)
Former Alberta teacher accused of sexually assaulting students found dead in B.C.

Mounties say Michael Gregory’s death has been deemed ‘non-suspicious’

According to a new poll, a majority of Canadians want to see illicit drugs decriminalized. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Majority of Canadians think it’s high time to decriminalize illicit drugs: poll

More than two-times the B.C. residents know someone who died from an overdose compared to rest of Canada

Photograph By @KAYLAXANDERSON
VIDEO: Lynx grabs lunch in Kamloops

A lynx surprises a group of ducks and picks one off for lunch

(Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. residents can reserve provincial camp sites starting March 8

B.C. residents get priority access to camping reservations in province

Two women were arrested in Nanaimo for refusing to wear masks and causing disturbance on a BC Ferries vessel. (File photo)
B.C. ferry passengers arrested and fined for disturbance, refusing to wear masks

Police said woman threatened their pensions in Feb. 21 incident aboard Nanaimo-bound boat

Most Read