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Treaty cards may get a makeover in Saskatchewan

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    Benjamin
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    REGINA, SASK : June 15, 2016 -- Vernon Bellegarde holds up his Certificate of Indian Status card in Regina on Wednesday. Bellegarde was attending the Regina Treaty/Status Indian Services' Urban Treaty Days at the Gathering Place. TROY FLEECE / Regina Leader-PostTROY FLEECE / REGINA LEADER~POST

    REGINA, SASK : June 15, 2016 — Vernon Bellegarde holds up his Certificate of Indian Status card in Regina on Wednesday. Bellegarde was attending the Regina Treaty/Status Indian Services’ Urban Treaty Days at the Gathering Place. TROY FLEECE / Regina Leader-PostTROY FLEECE / REGINA LEADER~POST

    Treaties don’t expire and that’s the premise behind a move to change the Certificate of Indian Status (CIS) cards.

    The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) passed a resolution at its last assembly to create and design its own treaty cards.

    FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron said the idea about creating a new status card came from an elder who didn’t like that the current CIS cards issued by First Nations or the secure CIS cards issued by Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) come with an expiration date.

    “Our treaty and inherent rights don’t expire — they are forever,” he said.

    Cameron said FSIN’s treaty card will be much different from current cards because it will contain some educational information for cardholders.

    “On the back of our own status cards, what it’s going to look like is that every aspect and every item of our inherent and treaty rights would be identified on the back — from education to exemption from war,” he said.

    On Tuesday and Wednesday the Regina Status/Treaty Indian Services (RTSIS) hosted its annual urban treaty days at the Gathering Place.

    In addition to providing treaty annuity payments, it also hosted an identification clinic for those who wanted to obtain a current CIS card.

    Vernon Bellegarde’s card was not outdated, so he had no reason to obtain a new card, but next year he will have to and admitted that sometimes it can be a hassle.

    Some First Nations still issue the laminated CIS cards, which are made on the reserve by staff.

    However, INAC created a new CIS card that is plastic and contains added security features, which was designed to help with border crossings and decrease illegal reproductions. It is issued from the head office, so it takes time to obtain, however, like the laminated card, it expires every five years.

    Bellegarde supports FSIN’s proposed initiative for a couple of reasons.

    “It becomes ours,” he said. “It’s a First Nation’s government paper for their people.”

    He also likes the idea of treaty rights being listed on the back of the card.

    “I think it’s a very positive thing for our people,” said Bellegarde. “Not just for the membership, but for the kids so they know and understand what their treaty rights are.”

    Symbolically, he says the cards are a way of saying this is who I am and this is where I belong.

    In his wallet, his card is prominently displayed because, to him, it’s his most valuable piece of identification.

    “I don’t have a Canadian citizenship card,” said Bellegarde. “At least my status card identifies me as a citizen of my First Nation.”

    Cameron said FSIN has informally notified the federal government about its intentions but has yet to file an application to amend the current legislation. He wants FSIN’s cards to be recognized by the federal government similar to the current CIS cards.

    If successful, FSIN would be the first organization to propose such a change in legislation.

    kbenjoe@postmedia.com

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