Study highlights discrimination faced by B.C. residents when using Indian status card

Click to play video: 'Heiltsuk First Nation upset that officers who wrongfully arrested man & his granddaughter don’t show up for apology ceremony'
Heiltsuk First Nation upset that officers who wrongfully arrested man & his granddaughter don’t show up for apology ceremony
B.C.'s Heiltsuk First Nation says it's upset that two officers who wrongfully arrested one of their memebers and his granddaughter at a Vancouver bank did not make the trip to Bella Bella for an apology ceremony. Neetu Garcha reports – Oct 24, 2022

A new study shows how a significant amount of Indigenous people in B.C. experience discrimination relating to use of their Indian status cards.

The study titled “They sigh or give you the look” reported that 99 per cent of study participants said they’ve experienced some sort of discrimination when presenting their status cards.

“Often, it is this subtle form of disengagement of contempt, of shutting down, making you feel like you’re inconveniencing other patrons or inconveniencing the service provider,” said Harmony Johnson, the study’s author.

“Those are typically called microaggressions, and that was really where the title of this study came in. You get sighs, you get looks. You get eye-rolling that makes  you feel like you’re a hassle.”

Read more: First Nations man, granddaughter handcuffed at bank in 2019, make ground-breaking agreement with VPD

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Discrimination examples include rudeness, refusing to accept the cards, acting as if processing them is a hassle and clerks suggesting people using their status cards receive an unfair advantage, according to the study.

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) commissioned the study after the wrongful arrest of Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter in 2019.

Employees at a bank thought Johnson’s status card was fake.

“Status cards have long been the prime catalyst for the public expression of ongoing racism and stereotyping of Indigenous Peoples,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, UBCIC’s president.

“The media and schools have failed to educate people on the history of status cards and why First Nations Peoples have them. These results will help us to begin educating Canada so that no grandfather and no granddaughter need ever suffer violence when lawfully going about their business.”

Read more: Indigenous leaders survey members to explore racist responses when status cards used

The study also included a “secret shopper” portion, where assessors presented status cards and observed the behaviour of staff.

Out of 103 interactions, discrimination was observed in 17 per cent of them. More than 1,000 people participated in the study.

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