Indigenous Citizenship/Membership Verification Guidelines

University of Waterloo Indigenous Citizenship/Membership Verification Guidelines

1. Overview

1.1. Background

The University of Waterloo recognizes that an exclusive reliance on self-identification of Indigenous identity is no longer working due to the number of fraudulent claims that have emerged in recent years. Self-identification remains an essential step to claiming Indigenous identity, however it is only the first step of a process of identity verification. A process of confirming citizenship or membership in an Indigenous community is required to properly process claims to Indigenous positions, awards, funding, and admissions to Indigenous specific programs. To support this process, the University will implement through these guidelines and rely primarily upon a second step of Indigenous membership/citizenship verification through documentation. If an Indigenous claimant does not have documentation due to the impact of colonial policies and practices or other reasons, they must demonstrate their kinship ties and their life story by providing verifiable evidence of their family and community relations.

1.2. Rationale

The University recognizes that the legacy of colonialism, residential schools, the forced removal of Indigenous children from their families during the Sixties Scoop and daily experiences of racism faced by First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples has created significant barriers to accessing employment and education opportunities. Indigenous focused employment and education opportunities are a necessary means of addressing historic and contemporary barriers to access, as well as to ensure that Indigenous voices, knowledge, and experience inform University teaching, research, administration, and service delivery. The prevalence of false claims of Indigenous identity has clearly demonstrated that an exclusive reliance on self-identification does not work. Moreover, the consequences of false identity assertations are significant for Indigenous students, faculty, staff, and the University generally, which include but are not limited to the following considerations:

i.    Identity Appropriation is Fraud
Questions of identity and belonging to community are fraught with complexity as many Indigenous peoples reconnect with family and nation due to colonial endeavours that sought deliberately to separate Indigenous peoples from their territories, families, and cultures. However, the intentional appropriation of an identity knowing it to be false for the purpose of professional and/or material gain constitutes fraud. Redress is required to the extent that false claims of Indigenous identity inflict real harms on current and prospective Indigenous employees and students, and the University generally.

ii.    Colonial Displacement
Identity fraud is akin to the forms of theft that colonial governments and institutions have historically perpetrated through the appropriation of Indigenous territories and resources. The colonial enterprise has sought to deprive and displace Indigenous peoples from their cultures and territories. Similarly, Indigenous identity appropriation deprives self-determining Indigenous communities of control over identification and membership within their communities and displaces Indigenous individuals from access to limited professional and educational spaces, funding, and networks.

iii.    Trust and Emotional Damage
Identity fraud can inflict a personal or emotional toll that affects relationships between University employees and with students. Honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness are expected in all aspects of the University’s work including relationships between colleagues and between instructors/supervisors and their students. In addition to feelings of anger, confusion and re-traumatization, false claims of Indigenous identity can undermine the trust that is essential to collaborative relationships between University colleagues, as well as undermine the confidence and sense of legitimacy that students have in the work that they have conducted with a supervisor who has misrepresented their identity to the academic world and to the wider public.

iv.    Integrity/Reputational Damage
As public-facing institutions build reputations based on excellence and integrity in teaching and research, identity fraud can damage a university’s reliability as a setting that can support Indigenous students, conduct research that is respectful of Indigenous communities and can be held to the highest ethical standards. Where identity fraud has been perpetrated and/or tolerated at an institution, it is reasonable to question the integrity of the learning environment as well as the quality of the scholarship that has been produced by that institution.

v.    Lack of Accountability
Broadly speaking, Indigenous communities uphold the tenet ‘nothing about us without us,’ and the process of Indigenizing universities is intended to ensure that the voices which speak at the tables of governance, research and teaching are authentically Indigenous and belong to the communities that they claim to represent. Individuals who falsely claim that they are Indigenous position themselves as ‘thought leaders’ who are capable of speaking to and shaping research and policy agenda that have a direct bearing on the lives of Indigenous communities to which they have no accountability.

1.3. Purpose

The purpose of these guidelines is to ensure that Indigenous-focused admissions, positions, awards, and funding are provided to individuals who are able to demonstrate a relationship, through citizenship or membership, to a rights-bearing Indigenous community. Expressions of identity and belonging are based on more than personal sentiment and who a person purports to be but are more importantly rooted in who claims that person. However, these guidelines also affirm that some flexibility is warranted, particularly in situations where the imposition of colonial practices and policies have alienated people from their communities who may not have access to citizenship or membership documentation. While fraudulent identity claims can create harm, it also needs to be recognized that the rigid application of citizenship/membership requirements can have harmful impacts. These guidelines are not intended to ‘police’ identity assertions or impose unreasonably punitive measures on false identity claims. They are intended to provide a clear guiding framework to ensure that Indigenous voices and modes of citizenship/membership documentation and evidence that are acknowledged by Indigenous communities are used to safeguard access to Indigenous opportunities and spaces.

2. Definitions

2.1. Aboriginal

“Aboriginal” is an outdated collective term referring to First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. However, the term Aboriginal is still used as it is the legal term in the Canadian Constitution. Aboriginal has largely been replaced by Indigenous, which is used internationally.

2.2. Indigenous

While the term “Indigenous” has become more commonly used around the world, it is contested by some because it does not acknowledge the unique identities or distinct rights of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples. 

2.3. First Nation

“First Nation” refers to the Indigenous people of Canada who are neither Métis nor Inuit. The term First Nation can be used to refer to a single band or the plural First Nations for many bands. This term is also used to refer to federally recognized communities in the place of the term reserve.

This term came into common usage in the 1970s to replace the term “Indian" and “Indian band” which many find offensive. Although First Nations has replaced “Indian” in common language, there are some legal reasons for its continued use due to its inclusion in the Constitution Act, 1982 and the Indian Act.

2.4. Métis

“Métis” refers to a distinct Indigenous people with a unique history, culture, language, and territory. They are descendants of individuals born of relations between First Nations people and European settlers. While the initial children of these unions were individuals who simply possessed mixed ancestry, subsequent intermarriages between these individuals resulted in the creation of the Métis Nation.

The Métis National Council adopted the following definition of “Métis” in 2002: “Métis means a person who self-identifies as Métis, is distinct from other Indigenous Peoples, is of historic Métis Nation Ancestry and who is accepted by the Métis Nation” ( /citizenship).  Some people may refer to themselves as Métis but upon further research, they might fit more into non-status Indian or First Nation than Métis.

2.5. Inuit

“Inuit” are the Indigenous people living primarily in Inuit Nunangat, the Inuit homeland. Inuit Nunangat is comprised of four regions in Canada: The Inuvialuit Settlement Regions (Northwest Territories), Nunavut, Nunavik (Northern Québec) and Nunatsiavut (Northern Labrador). The term Inuit translates to “the people” in Inuktitut, the Inuit language. Therefore, saying “Inuit people” is redundant. The word Inuk is to be used when referring to an individual Inuit person. The word Inuuk is to be used when referring to two people; for three or more people, use Inuit.

2.6. American Indian and Alaskan Native

Under U.S. law and federal regulations, an “American Indian” refers to “…any individual who is a member or a descendant of a member of a North American tribe, band, Pueblo or other organized group of native people who are indigenous to the Continental United States, or who otherwise have a special relationship with the United States or a State through treaty, agreement, or some other form of recognition. This includes any individual who claims to be an Indian and who is regarded as such by the Indian tribe, group, band, or community of which he or she claims to be a member” (Title 45 CFR § 1336.10 – Definitions).

“Alaskan Native” refers to “a person who is an Alaskan Indian, Eskimo, or Aleut, or any combination thereof. The term also includes any person who is regarded as an Alaskan Native by the Alaskan Native Village or group of which he or she claims to be a member and whose father or mother is (or, if deceased, was) regarded as an Alaskan Native by an Alaskan Native Village or group” (Title 45 CFR § 1336.10 – Definitions).

2.7. Citizenship/Membership

The terms “citizenship” and “membership” are used to describe an individual’s relationship to a community. Many Indigenous peoples wish to emphasize their existence as nations. Those who emphasize their nationhood, generally prefer to use the term citizenship. That said, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples uses the term membership. These guidelines use both terms interchangeably.

2.8. Employee

“Employee” includes all faculty, professional librarians, and staff (permanent, contract and casual), student employees, post-doctoral fellows, visiting scholars, research chairs, adjunct faculty, researchers, and retired employees using University of Waterloo facilities or resources for University business or research.

3. Guiding Principles and Objectives

The University of Waterloo committed to decolonization and Indigenization in the 2023 – 2028 Strategic Plan. Reconciliation guided by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 10 principles is a priority for the University. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission believes that for Canada to flourish in the 21st century, reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canada must follow specific principles, which are:

i. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is the framework for reconciliation at all levels and across all sectors of Canadian society.

ii. First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, as the original peoples of this country and as self-determining peoples, have Treaty, constitutional, and human rights that must be recognized and respected.

iii. Reconciliation is a process of healing of relationships that requires public truth sharing, apology, and commemoration that acknowledge and redress past harms.

iv. Reconciliation requires constructive action on addressing the ongoing legacies of colonialism that have had destructive impacts on Aboriginal peoples’ education, cultures and languages, health, child welfare, the administration of justice, and economic opportunities and prosperity.

v. Reconciliation must create a more equitable and inclusive society by closing the gaps in social, health, and economic outcomes that exist between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians.

vi. All Canadians, as Treaty peoples, share responsibility for establishing and maintaining mutually respectful relationships.

vii. The perspectives and understandings of Aboriginal Elders and Traditional Knowledge Keepers of the ethics, concepts, and practices of reconciliation are vital to long-term reconciliation.

viii. Supporting Aboriginal peoples’ cultural revitalization and integrating Indigenous knowledge systems, oral histories, laws, protocols, and connections to the land into the reconciliation process are essential.

ix. Reconciliation requires political will, joint leadership, trust building, accountability, and transparency, as well as a substantial investment of resources.

x. Reconciliation requires sustained public education and dialogue, including youth engagement, about the history and legacy of residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal rights, as well as the historical and contemporary contributions of Aboriginal peoples to Canadian society.

In addition, these guidelines acknowledge that the University:

i. Is committed to ensuring that Indigenous positions, awards, funding, and admissions to Indigenous specific programs are offered to and occupied by Indigenous candidates.

ii. Recognizes that an exclusive reliance on self-identification has caused harm to Indigenous Peoples through fraudulent claims of Indigenous identity.

iii. Recognizes its responsibility to respond to the concerns expressed by Indigenous communities to end fraudulent claims to opportunities and resources meant to empower Indigenous people and address historical and current inequities and injustices.

iv. Understands that Indigenous citizenship/membership can only be verified by legitimate Indigenous communities and governments.

v. Will be guided by an Indigenous Verification Advisory Committee (IVAC) in cases where verifiable documentation is not available.

vi. Will ensure that appropriate training and resources are available to implement the verification process.

4. Scope

The provisions of these guidelines apply to all applicants who self-identify as Indigenous to Turtle Island (also known as North America) for Indigenous specific positions for employment, awards, scholarships, bursaries, special seats, and/or admissions.

These guidelines apply to all members of the University community including, but not limited to, students, researchers, employees, members of governing bodies, Elders, Cultural Advisors, Knowledge Keepers, and any person participating in University business or activities (e.g. service provider, contractor, volunteer).

5. Indigenous Verification Advisory Committee (IVAC)

The IVAC will function in an advisory capacity to the Associate Vice-President Indigenous Relations and will meet at least once per semester, and more frequently if necessary to:

  • Provide a forum for consultation on citizenship/membership practices campus-wide;
  • Advise University leadership on council activities, discuss new developments, and findings from other institutions;
  • Review documents and/or evidence that have been provided by applicants through the process outlined in Section 7 (Procedures) and forwarded to the committee by the Office of Indigenous Relations. If the IVAC determines that any documentation or evidence submitted by an applicant is incomplete or questionable, the IVAC will arrange to meet with the applicant to discuss their identity claim and address questions from the committee.

The Committee will strive to have at least one representative from each of the three Indigenous groups as named in the Constitution Act, 1982 as a member of the IVAC, specifically First Nations, Métis, and Inuit (FNMI).

6. Interpretation of Guidelines 

The University recognizes the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the principle of Indigenous self-determination. The AVP Indigenous Relations will make the final determination on the appropriate interpretation of these guidelines.

7. Procedures

7.1. Student Admissions/Financial Awards/Seats

Applicants to awards, funding, and admissions to Indigenous specific programs will be asked to self-identify and applications will note that documentation or evidence must be submitted with the application. If the documentation or evidence provided cannot be verified by the Office of Indigenous Relations, the application will be referred to the IVAC for a decision.

The University will ensure that:

i. The student opportunity is posted as a designated opportunity, where only Indigenous applicants will be considered.

ii.The Admissions and Student Awards and Financial Aid Offices will collect current documentation or evidence required to verify identity through the Quest website.

iii.The documentation or evidence will be provided to and reviewed by the Office of Indigenous Relations, who will make the determination on identity verification. The Office of Indigenous Relations may request additional information from the applicant in order to complete their assessment and/or consult with internal or external resources, as appropriate.

iv.The Office of Indigenous Relations will confirm the outcome of their assessment to the Admissions and Student Awards and Financial Aid Offices.

v.Documentation or evidence related to the identity verification process will be retained in accordance with applicable privacy legislation and document retention procedures for comparable student records.

7.2. Employee Hiring

Advertisements for Indigenous specific positions for employment will ask applicants to self-identify and state that verification will be required if an applicant is invited for an interview. The documentation or evidence provided will be reviewed by the hiring manager in collaboration with the Office of Indigenous Relations. If there are questions about the documentation or evidence, the IVAC will be asked to review what has been provided. The IVAC may request additional information and request a meeting with the applicant.

The University will ensure that for Indigenous specific positions:

i. The position is posted as a designated hire, where only Indigenous applicants will be considered.

ii. The posting for the position will state that applicants are required to provide current documentation or evidence to verify their Indigenous identity and will be expected to elaborate on any materials provided if invited to an interview.

iii. The identity verification process will be conducted on short-listed applicants only, prior to the applicant being invited to an interview.

iv. Human Resources will collect the documentation or evidence required to verify identity in accordance with these Indigenous Citizenship/Membership Verification Guidelines.

v. The documentation or evidence will be reviewed by the Office of Indigenous Relations and will make the determination on identity verification. The Office of Indigenous Relations may request additional information from the applicant in order to complete their assessment and/or consult with internal or external resources, as appropriate. If there are questions related to the documentation or evidence submitted by the applicant, advice and guidance may be sought from the IVAC.

vi. The Office of Indigenous Relations will provide the outcome of their assessment in writing to Human Resources and will communicate with the Committee Chair/Hiring Manager.

vii. Only applicants whose identity has been positively verified will proceed to the interview stage of the hiring process.

viii. Documentation related to the identity verification process will be retained in accordance with document retention procedures for recruitment files and employment files

8. Identity Verification Documentation/Evidence

8.1. Documentation

The University recognizes that identifying who is and who is not a member of an Indigenous community must be done by the community, not by the University. For that reason, the identity verification process outlined in section 7 will rely on students and applicants for employment submitting the following accepted citizenship/membership documentation that show they are an enrolled citizen/member of that community. Accepted documentation may include:

  •  A copy of a valid Indian Status or Treaty card;
  •  A copy of a citizenship card from a Métis registry recognized by the Métis National Council (Métis Nation of Ontario, the Manitoba Métis Federation, the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan, the Métis Nation of Alberta and the Métis Nation British Columbia);
  • A copy of a citizenship card from a Métis Settlement General Council community.
  • A copy of an Inuit enrolment card issued by any one of the four Inuit modern treaty bodies—Nunavut, Nunatsiavut, Nunavik or Inuvialuit;
  • Written confirmation of nationhood in a federally recognized band council which has its own citizenship code.
  • American Indian or Alaskan Native citizenship documentation from tribes that are state or federally recognized or recognized by the National Congress of American Indians.

Documentation submitted through this process must be current. Citizenship/membership cards that have passed an expiration or renewal date will not be accepted and the applicant will be disqualified from consideration for the designated opportunity.

8.2. Evidence

The University recognizes that many Indigenous people may no longer possess connections to their families, cultures, languages, or communities through the assimilationist policies of colonial institutions and/or displacement from ancestral territories. In circumstances where an applicant for Indigenous specific positions for employment, awards, scholarships, bursaries, special seats, and/or admissions does not possess the documentation listed in section 8.1, they may submit a self-declaration statement about their relationship to a legally recognized Indigenous community, nation, or people. The statement must provide specific, verifiable information about: 

  • The applicant’s Indigenous identity;
  • The First Nations, Métis, or Inuit community to which they claim connection including information about their treaty, scrip, land claim, settlement agreement and territory or region;
  • Familial relationships and ancestral connections to that community;
  • The circumstances that explain why they are not able to access and provide documentation that connects them to that community.

A reference letter from an official community representative (e.g. elected or hereditary chief, band councilor, community council president or councilor, assembly member, or a senior non-elected official within a First Nations, Métis, or Inuit government body) is required. The letter must clearly indicate whether the applicant has been acknowledged or accepted by the Indigenous community to which they claim a connection.

The evidence provided will be reviewed by the Office of Indigenous Relations, who will make the determination on identity verification. The Office of Indigenous Relations may request additional evidence from the applicant in order to complete their assessment and/or consult with internal or external resources, as appropriate. If there are questions related to the evidence submitted by the applicant, advice and guidance may be sought from the IVAC.

9. Compliance

Applicants for Indigenous specific positions for employment, awards, scholarships, bursaries, special seats, admissions who are not able to verify their claims of Indigenous identity to the satisfaction of the University will be disqualified from consideration for the designated opportunity.

If an enrolled student is found to have provided falsified documentation or evidence to support an application and subsequent to receiving admission, an award, scholarship, bursary, and/or a special seat, they are subject to Policy 71 – Student Discipline.

If a successful candidate for employment is found to have provided falsified documentation or evidence during the hiring process for their position, they will be subject to disciplinary consequences, up to and including termination, in accordance with the applicable laws, memoranda, collective agreements, contracts, and/or University policies.  

10. Confidential Disclosure 

For Indigenous membership/citizenship claims that have occurred before these guidelines came into effect, verification will be required where there is a legitimate reason to question the authenticity of that claim and where that prior assertion has resulted in material advantage, or where the absence of verification would be otherwise contrary to the principles recognized in these guidelines and University policies.

University employees who believe they have specific, verifiable evidence of Indigenous identity fraud as defined in these guidelines may disclose such concerns by bringing the matter to the attention of the AVP Indigenous Relations. Employees are strongly discouraged from making frivolous, vexatious, or extraneous reporting under these guidelines, and may be subject to disciplinary action for such reporting.

The AVP Indigenous Relations is responsible for ensuring that reports of Indigenous identity fraud submitted through their office are brought to the attention of the IVAC in a timely manner. The AVP Indigenous Relations in consultation with the IVAC will determine whether and how to proceed with an investigation of identity fraud.

All disclosures made under these guidelines and all investigations arising out of such disclosure will be handled in a timely, confidential, and sensitive manner and will not be disclosed or discussed with anyone other than those individuals with a legitimate need to know. All individuals involved in investigations arising from such disclosure shall keep the details and results confidential and not disclose any information without authorization.

The University prohibits reprisals for good-faith reporting of identity fraud and will respond promptly to any concerns regarding reprisals or unfair treatment linked to this type of disclosure.

11. Confidentiality and Privacy

The University recognizes that the privacy of the individuals affected by these guidelines is of the utmost importance. Confidentiality is to be ensured and information is to be managed as prescribed under legislation (see FIPPA and Policy 46 – Information Management).

12. Third-Party Requests for Verification

University employees or students may seek Indigenous-focused opportunities (i.e. research funding, scholarships, bursaries, awards, special seats, employment, committee appointments or admissions) from organizations that are external to the University of Waterloo. The University of Waterloo upholds the principle that identifying or acknowledging who is and who is not a member/citizen of an Indigenous community must be done and communicated directly by the Indigenous community, and not by the University. As such, the University will not vouch, affirm or attest to the citizenship/membership of a former or current employee or student when requested by individuals or organizations that are external to the University of Waterloo.

13. Review

These guidelines will be reviewed annually by the AVP Indigenous Relations in consultation with Office of Indigenous Relations staff and the Indigenous Verification Advisory Committee.


1. Valid Documentation

1.1. Status First Nations Documentation
Information that will help reviewers assess the validity of The Secure Certificate of Indian Status (i.e. Status Cards) can be found on Indigenous Service Canada’s website -

Security features to look for on newer, secure Status Cards include the following:

  • laser-engraved information burned directly into the card,
  • raised letters and numbers on the surface,
  • patterns of extremely fine lines not easily scanned or copied,
  • ultra-violet imaging and printing visible with special equipment,
  • secondary photo image of the cardholder visible from both sides of the card,
  • toll-free number to call to confirm card is valid,
  • machine-readable zone to facilitate crossing the Canada–U.S. border.

Laminated paper status cards continue to be issued by some band offices and will include the following security features:

  • secure holographic foil in the header,
  • micro text below the header,
  • a watermark visible when a light is cast through the card,
  • visible and invisible fibers that can be detected both with the naked eye and a UV light,
  • chemically reactive agents visible when a chemical alteration is attempted.

Refer to Indigenous Service Canada’s website for additional detail and visual examples of valid status cards.

1.2. Métis Documentation

Valid Métis citizenship cards will be issued by one of the following provincial Métis nation bodies (Note: citizenship cards are not issued by the Métis National Council of Canada):

  • Métis Nation of Ontario
  • Manitoba Métis Federation
  • Métis Nation Saskatchewan
  • Métis Nation of Alberta
  • Métis Nation British Columbia

In addition to the provincial Métis nations, there are eight recognized Métis settlements in northern Alberta that are not associated with the Métis Nation of Alberta. These communities issue their own letters or cards as proof of Métis citizenship/membership. The settlements that form the Métis Settlements General Council include:

  • Buffalo Lake
  • East Prairie
  • Elizabeth Lake
  • Fishing Lake
  • Gift Lake
  • Kikino
  • Paddle Prairie
  • Peavine

1.3. Inuit Documentation

Documentation can take the form of either enrolment cards or a letter from one of the four recognized modern Inuit treaty bodies. Inuit are not eligible for a Secure Certificate of Indian Status from the federal government.

1.4. Non-Status First Nations Documentation

According to the federal government, “’Non-Status Indians’ commonly refers to people who identify themselves as Indians but who are not entitled to registration on the Indian Register pursuant to the Indian Act” ( 1100100014433/ 1535469348029). Some Non-Status First Nations people, while they may not be registered under the Indian Act, may be enrolled members of a First Nation. The federal government’s Bill C-31 effectively separated Indian status from band membership to the extent that an individual may not be eligible for registration under the Indian Act, but they may be registered on a First Nation’s band list. Non-status people who are registered on a band list can provide a letter signed by a band administrator confirming their registration.

1.5. Potential Warning Signs

In addition to visual signs of document tampering/alteration, there are several organizations that have been established by people with no verifiable connection to an existing or historic Indigenous community in an effort to claim Indigenous rights that are recognized and affirmed under Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Specifically, reviewers should be aware of the following when presented with documentation that purports to be issued by an Indigenous community:

  • Pan Indigenous organizations: these are bodies that claim to represent First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people throughout Canada or Turtle Island. 
  • Organizations that require a fee for membership: some organizations require nothing more than a one-time or an annual fee for membership with no verification requirements.
  • Eastern Métis organizations: these are self-declared Métis organizations that have emerged in recent years to claim Indigenous rights, often based on members’ claims to a distant Indigenous ancestor that are rooted in little more than shifting family stories. Typically located in Québec and the Atlantic provinces, these associations exist outside the historic Métis homeland and there are no verified historic Métis communities within these regions.
  • Métis ‘locals’: these are organizations that were formed on the prairies and are unaffiliated with any of the recognized provincial Métis nations, the Métis settlements in Alberta, and are not recognized by the Métis National Council of Canada. They have established their own membership criteria that frequently does not require genealogical verification, and many have issued cards to the non-Indigenous friends of registered members.