What is Indigenous Identity Theft?

Indigenous identity theft refers to the fraudulent misappropriation or misrepresentation of Indigenous identity by individuals or groups who do not have legitimate connections to Indigenous communities. This act involves falsely claiming Indigenous heritage, cultural affiliation, or membership, often for personal gain, financial advantage, or exploitation of Indigenous rights and resources.

Indigenous identity theft is a multifaceted issue that goes beyond individual misrepresentation, impacting the cultural, social and legal fabric of Indigenous communities. It requires a comprehensive and collaborative response to safeguard the authenticity and rights of Indigenous peoples.

The Impacts of Indigenous Identity Theft

Bill C-53 and Identity Theft

The Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) is the National Government of the Red River Métis, the historic Métis Nation on the Prairies. The MMF has for a number of years been advising Canada to cease its dealings with illegitimate Métis organizations outside of the historic Métis Nation. In 2021, the MMF withdrew from the Métis National Council (MNC) due to that body’s failure to suspend the Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) which is overwhelmingly non-Métis and had declared the existence of six “new historic” Métis communities in Ontario. These communities have no connection to the historic Red River Métis  on the Prairies.

The MMF has strongly opposed the inclusion of MNO communities in the federal Bill C-53: An Act respecting the recognition of certain Métis governments, and to give effect to treaties with those governments and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. It believes this legislation will reward identity theft by thousands of self-interested, like minded individuals who have banded together under MNO to assert an identity, rights and benefits that do not belong to them.

“Decisions made by Canada in support of these individuals and communities without due diligence will have current and future impacts on legitimate rightsholders for generations to come,” says MMF President David Chartrand. “We cannot let these cultural thieves and modern-day identity colonizers erode our distinct Red River Métis identity or those of the First Nations for their own gain.”

The Chiefs of Ontario supports all First Nations in Ontario as they assert their sovereignty, jurisdiction and their chosen expression of nationhood. It remains united in its efforts to protect First Nations rights from Bill C-53 that would recognize alleged “communities” represented by the MNO  as holding section 35 rights under the Constitution without a credible factual or legal basis. It believes Canada has rushed forward an Agreement and accompanying legislation without legitimate justification. At every turn, Canada has attempted to prevent rights-holders and the public from scrutinizing the legitimacy of the MNO’s communities’ false claims.

MNO continues to build its case based on misrepresentations, outright falsehoods, and sweeping unsupportable statements,” said Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare. “The historical ’communities’ that MNO claims to represent have never factually existed.

The threat of collective Indigenous identity fraud backed by federal recognition is not limited to the MNO and Bill C-53. In Labrador, the group which for decades had identified as the Labrador Métis Nation shifted to an Inuit identity in 2010 and changed its name to NunatuKavut Community Council (NCC). President Natan Obed of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), in supporting the Innu Nation in its opposition to a Memorandum of Understanding between the federal government and the NCC, stated: 

“NCC is a shape-shifting non-Indigenous organization that is part of the alarming trend of non-Indigenous people and groups co-opting Indigenous identities, cultures, and experiences to secure financial resources and rights.”

Likewise the Chiefs of Ontario and MMF have noted that the alleged root ancestors of MNO’s “new historic” Métis communities were in fact First Nations individuals. In their search for legitimacy, identity thieves will not hesitate to appropriate other people’s family members as well.

Canada’s willingness to deal with illegitimate claims of bodies such as MNO and NCC is an affront to the integrity of Indigenous governments and their fundamental right to define their own citizenship systems and rights-holders. It threatens to erode the hard- won rights and benefits of Indigenous peoples and divert resources away from the needs of their communities into the hands of fraudulent claimants.


Given the threat of identity theft now confronting all Indigenous peoples, the Chiefs of Ontario (COO) and the Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) will be co-hosting the upcoming Indigenous Identity Fraud (IIF) Summit in Winnipeg on May 14 & 15, 2024.

The IIF Summit will focus on the ongoing issues related to Bill C-53 and the Metis Nation of Ontario, the true national scale of the problem of collective Indigenous identity fraud, and options for a coordinated response to the theft of Indigenous identity by fraudulent organizations.  It is imperative that we protect section 35 rights and legitimate rights-holders.