Canada implements measures to address Canada – United-States border-crossing issues for First Nations

Backgrounder

The Government of Canada is working in partnership with First Nation communities to address long-standing Canada-United States border-crossing concerns.

In response to a recommendation from the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, the Government made a commitment in 2016 to appoint a Minister’s Special Representative to examine First Nations’ Canada-US border-crossing challenges.

Drawing on an eight-month process involving 21 engagement sessions with representatives from more than 100 First Nations and First Nation organizations across Canada, Minister’s Special Representative Fred Caron presented his final report to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs in August 2017. The report outlines seven broad categories of border-crossing issues raised in the engagement process and identifies 21 proposed solutions put forward by First Nations representatives.

Following a detailed review undertaken by a committee of Deputy Ministers representing seven concerned federal departments and agencies, the Government of Canada is moving forward with a number of measures to address First Nations’ Canada-US border-crossing issues, drawing on the proposals put forward in the report.

These measures include:

  1. The addition of a machine-readable zone to the Secure Certificate of Indian Status;
  2. The recruitment of more Indigenous border services officers by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA);
  3. Enhanced training on Indigenous cultures for CBSA staff;
  4. Strengthened outreach and cooperation with concerned First Nations communities along the Canada-United States border; and
  5. A commitment to a longer-term process with concerned First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities to discuss potential solutions to a number of more complex border-crossing challenges.

1. Addition of a machine-readable zone to the Secure Certificate of Indian Status

As part of the Government’s commitment to address border crossing issues, Indigenous Services Canada will begin issuing the Secure Certificate of Indian Status (SCIS) with a new machine readable zone on the back of all new and renewed Secure Certificate of Indian Status cards issued, beginning in February 2019.  This will be a standard feature on all new and renewed Secure Certificate of Indian Status cards to help simplify the border crossing process for First Nations individuals using the SCIS as a piece of identification at land and sea ports of entry between Canada and the United-States.

The addition of a machine readable zone on Secure Certificate of Indian Status cards is expected to facilitate and expedite identify verification of individuals registered under the Indian Act who use their SCIS cards as identification at land and sea ports of entry on the Canada-United States border. The machine-readable strip will allow for a quicker and more accurate validation of travelers’ biographical information, rather than inputting the information manually, as it is currently done.  This will in turn help increase the efficiency and flow of movement across the border.

Previously-issued Certificate of Indian Status cards and Secure Certificate of Indian Status cards can continue to be used at the border as they will remain valid until the renewal date indicated on the front of the card.

For more information on how to apply for a Secure Certificate of Indian Status card with a machine-readable zone, individuals may contact their local band office, any of the Indigenous Services Canada’s regional offices, or visit the Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada’s Website.

2. The recruitment of more Indigenous border services officers

Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is developing a three-year Indigenous recruitment strategy and action plan.  Work is underway to identify and overcome barriers to recruitment and employment that may disadvantage Indigenous candidates. The Agency is working to better support and integrate the contributions of existing Indigenous employees to improve the Agency’s community outreach and recruitment efforts.

Complementary initiatives are also underway to increase the knowledge and understanding that Agency employees have of Indigenous history and culture, with a greater emphasis on how that can be applied in client service and in employee relationships. All of these efforts are being pursued under the CBSA’s overarching Indigenous Framework and Strategy that comprises a holistic approach to policy, people, operations and engagement.

3. Enhanced Indigenous cultural training for CBSA staff

CBSA is working on an Indigenous Training Strategy to educate CBSA employees on Indigenous topics and engagement skills with the assistance of Indigenous people inside and outside the Agency. Recent initiatives include a series of pilot blanket exercises as part of the CBSA’s Officer Induction Training Program (OITP). The blanket exercise aims to develop a deeper understanding of Indigenous history in Canada, including residential schools. Indigenous Learning packages have also been integrated into the Agency’s OITP.

CBSA has developed and deployed online courses that are available to all employees that cover Indigenous culture and history, as well as broad-based awareness of diversity and race relations. Specialized training and toolkits for border services officers are currently in development and will be released at the end of this fiscal year. This includes specialized training for the cross-border processing of Indigenous people who may be travelling with sacred items.

4. Strengthened outreach and cooperation with concerned First Nations communities along the Canada-United States border

In early 2018, the CBSA launched its newly-formed Indigenous Affairs Secretariat, a permanent group that is working to further develop and implement the CBSA’s Indigenous Framework and Strategy. This Secretariat is serving as the Agency’s coordination hub on Indigenous affairs.  Some of its early activities include both supporting and undertaking new engagements and dialogues with First Nations and other Indigenous communities across Canada to better understand and address complex and long-standing border issues concerning Indigenous Peoples.

5. Commitment to a longer-term process to address border-crossing issues

The near-term measures listed above will help to address border-crossing issues for First Nations people and respond to a number of proposed solutions outlined in the report of the Minister’s Special Representative.

Also identified in the report of the Minister’s Special Representative were a number of more complex issues relating to mobility and identification that will require further policy analysis and dialogue.

To advance the examination and potential resolution of some of these long-standing issues, the Government is committing to a more comprehensive process with interested First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, leveraging existing nation-to-nation and other tables to hold exploratory discussions. The permanent bilateral mechanisms and the Recognition of Indigenous Rights and Self-Determination discussion tables are among the forums at which this dialogue can be advanced with interested parties.

While the report of the Minister’s Special Representative focused on First Nations’ border-crossing issues, the Government is also committed to engaging with interested Inuit and Métis communities on border-crossing issues. This is consistent with the Government’s commitments to a distinctions-based approach to reconciliation and to the delivery of programs and services to Indigenous Peoples.


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