Vivian Hermansen, Snuneymuxw First Nation, initiator of petition e-3281. Photo by Karen Evans.

Vivian Hermansen, Snuneymuxw First Nation, initiator of petition e-3281. Photo by Karen Evans.

Status card wait times an example of systemic racism, says Campbell River woman

Snuneymuxw woman launches petition as people waiting up to two years, as passports take three weeks

By Odette Auger, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse

Vivian Hermansen is collecting signatures for a new petition calling on the federal government to decrease the processing time for Secure Certificate of Indian Status (SCIS), known as status cards.

Petition e-3281 calls upon the House of Commons to “explore all options, including alternative solutions, such as the hiring of additional staff dedicated to processing applications for a SCIS, and take no longer than the equivalent time needed to process a Canadian passport, namely, twenty business days.”

Hermansen, a member of Snuneymuxw First Nation, living in Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw territory in Campbell River, says some people have been waiting for over two years for their status cards, even before the pandemic. The prolonged wait times were happening pre-pandemic, says Hermansen. She doesn’t believe the pandemic should be used as an excuse for the service times.

“I believe a certain amount of this process is systemic racism, on behalf of the federal government,” says Hermansen.

Before retiring, Hermansen says she had a long career in Indigenous education, advocating for the needs of Indigenous Peoples.

Hermansen applied for her SCIS through the federal government in March of this year. In the past, she says, she’s renewed her status card at a local First Nation, but with the pandemic, she decided to apply for the newer Secure Certificate of Indian Status (SCIS).

The cards with increased security features cannot be processed at First Nations level, unlike earlier versions. The enhanced security cards were introduced in 2009, as a government-issued identity document.

“During the process, I discovered the wait times for the issue of these cards are excessively long. The government website says sixteen weeks for complete applications, when in fact wait times are six months to two years,” Hermansen says.

Hermansen gives an example of a woman who emailed her application in December, and phoned in February to check on the progress.

“Three months later, I was told it hadn’t even been opened,” she says. “So the more I thought about it, the more surprised, shocked I was. I still struggle with how ludicrous this is.”

Soon Hermansen says she started hearing other people’s stories about their long wait times.

“One person has been waiting for two years for her children, and still doesn’t have a card,” says Hermansen.

Hermansen says she spoke with a woman who has been waiting a year.

“She looks at it as registering her son for who he is and she can’t do it. She can’t get an answer out of them,” Hermansen says.

“If you’re waiting for more than two years for your child’s registration number, you’re not able to access First Nations-specific health support for your child,” explains Hermansen.

“The ability to access additional health support for yourself and or your child-to-be is very important. And that is both the provincial and a federal responsibility.”

Systemic Racism being perpetrated by the Government

Hermansen says she believes this is an example of systemic racism, since it takes ten business days to renew a Canadian passport when applying in person, and twenty business days by mail.

These are both secure federal government documents, and should have the same standards for processing time, she says.

Rachel Blaney, is a Member of Parliament for North Island—Powell River, NDP. Blaney is sponsoring the petition, and says petitions like the one Hermansen drafted are a useful tool to demand response to an issue of concern.

“There’s no good reason why it should take months or years to get a status card, especially at a time when COVID-19 vaccinations for Indigenous people are a health priority,” says Blaney.

“We’re talking about a secure federal identification document, just like a passport, and it should be prioritized equally. Systemic racism takes many forms and must be rooted out of our government departments and institutions,” Blaney says.

“The current wait times are an example of systemic racism being perpetrated by the Government of Canada,” reads the petition.

“What I hear in their voices is a continuation of the dismissiveness that my own mother encountered when her status was taken away in 1950,” says Hermansen. “There’s still a real element of dismissiveness in this policy where it’s almost as if they’re doing some kind of favor in the first place by asking us to participate in a system that they’ve created.”

Her life’s work has been in advocacy for Indigenous voices, so the need to address this issue pulled at her.

“At the beginning, I thought, `Vivian, you’re retired, you spent a lifetime doing this kind of work. You set it down. Maybe you should just let it go’, but no, I can’t let this one go.

“I’ve just heard too many stories. And in our ways, it is our stories that helped inform us about what’s happening and what to do.”

The petition needs 500 signatures before April 25, to be presented by Blaney in the House of Commons. At that point, it will be sent to the Privy Council Office. The final step is tabling of a government response within 45 days of the presentation.

IndigiNews contacted Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) on April 9. The office responded twice, once to state “Indigenous Services Canada will look into your questions.” IndigiNews did not receive a response in time for publishing.

APTN recently published an article about systemic racism in the national office of Indigenous Affairs.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Indigenous

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

Just Posted

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
West Shore proud owners of B.C.’s first electric school bus

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Architect’s rendering of the 7 Erskine Lane development, showing the view from the east and south. (VDA Architecture Ltd. image)
View Royal green-lights residential development on Erskine Lane

First of two developments near Victoria General Hospital will provide 71 housing units

Habitat Acquisition Trust has received provincial funding to help restore Garry oak ecosystems on southern Vancouver Island. (Photo by Jeremy da Silva)
Central Saanich park among sites for local Garry oak restoration projects

Habitat Acquisition Trust received $140,000 in funding for 12 projects

A family of ducks that lives near Saanich Municipal Hall recently welcomed 11 ducklings and took them for a swim in the koi pond outside the offices. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Pair of ducks make Saanich Municipal Hall a nursery for 11 hatchlings

Family of ducks spent time in koi pond before heading down to Swan Lake

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

A worker rides a bike at a B.C. Hydro substation in Vancouver, on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Hydro report raises safety concerns as pandemic prompts jump in yard work

Incidents involving weekend tree trimmers, gardeners and landscapers have risen 30% since the pandemic hit

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Findings indicate a culture of racism, misogyny and bullying has gripped the game with 64 per cent of people involved saying players bully others outside of the rink. (Pixabay)
Misogyny, racism and bullying prevalent across Canadian youth hockey, survey finds

56% of youth hockey players and coaches say disrespect to women is a problem in Canada’s sport

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hospital investigating whether Alberta woman who died after AstraZeneca shot was turned away

Woman was taken off life support 12 days after getting vaccine

Most Read