Not so long ago, more than one Native adopted a Quebec or English name to hide his true identity.
This is how the prolific filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin lived the first part of her life as Hélène Robert, Jean-Paul Wawanoloat was Jean-Paul Nolet on the screen and on the radio of Radio-Canada and Michel Jean revealed his Innu origins only a dozen years ago.
Thanks to these stars and dozens of other renowned Aboriginal people who are now assuming their identity, more and more Inuit, Métis and First Nations people are breaking their identity anonymity. Being indigenous is no longer a defect, but an origin that is flapped like a flag.
Exalted by the “woke” movement, cultural appropriation activists have become ruthless cerberists who fiercely defend the racial boundaries of black and indigenous communities. While it is difficult to claim to be black when you have white skin, you don’t have to be red to call yourself Ojibwe or Métis.
WE BELIEVE YOU BY WORD
Last Thursday, the show Investigation de Radio-Canada attempted to take stock of the true identity of the 600,000 Canadians who claim to be Métis. Despite a test (the Powley test) which since 2003 has determined the criteria to be met in order to claim to be Métis, these are proliferating almost exponentially.
The Indian Act, which is constantly being amended, also determines Indian status. But in reality it is the Aboriginals and Métis themselves who decide who they are. Occasionally, elders may be called upon to authenticate a questionable identity. Anyone can also appeal to a genealogist and denounce a usurper. But in general, people take their word for it.
The Indian Act of 1982 does not prevent anyone from claiming to have Indian or Métis origins. But pretending to have it without proof, if you get caught, has become a real crime for cultural appropriation activists. The fate that has been done to actress and producer Michelle Latimer says a lot about the fate reserved for impostors, called “pretendians” (so-called Indians).
FINE AND PRISON?
For claiming to belong to the Anishinabeg community of Maniwaki, poor Michelle Latimer had to drop the show Trickster which she created and directed for the CBC. His film, Inconvenient Indian, awarded at the Montreal Documentary Festival and promoted last summer to best Canadian feature film at TIFF, has since been condemned to oblivion.
With the support of several Indigenous personalities, Tamara Bell, a Haida filmmaker from Vancouver, calls for a new federal law providing for a fine of $ 250,000 or a prison sentence of five years for anyone claiming to be Indian would obtain a grant, would win a trophy or would get a “job” that is rightfully a Native person. This is the penalty provided for by the Indian Arts and Crafts of the United States for the sale of falsely attributed crafts to Aboriginal people.
Prime Minister François Legault, who said he had an Algonquin great-great-great-grandmother, had a good nose not to pretend to be Aboriginal or Métis!
As long as Aboriginal identity is subject to such a Mi’kmaq, the federal government will never pass a law to determine it. Is the Aboriginal issue one of the government’s priorities? Five years after the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, almost nothing has been accomplished.