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e-3281 (Indigenous affairs)

Initiated by Vivian Hermansen from Campbell River, British Columbia

Original language of petition: English

Petition to the House of Commons

  • The Government of Canada's website says the processing time for a Secure Certificate of Indian Status (SCIS) is sixteen weeks for complete applications, when in fact wait times are between six months and two years;
  • It takes ten business days for a Canadian passport when applying in person, and twenty business days by mail;
  • These are both secure federal government documents and should have the same standards for processing time;
  • The Government of Canada has made a statement of commitment to achieving reconciliation with Indigenous peoples of Canada based on recognition of rights, respect, cooperation, and partnership as the foundation for transformative change;
  • The current process for obtaining a SCIS does not reflect the spirit of reconciliation; and
  • The current wait times are an example of systemic racism being perpetrated by the Government of Canada.
We, the undersigned, citizens of Canada, call upon the House of Commons to:
1. Explore all options including alternative solutions such as the hiring of additional staff dedicated to processing applications for a SCIS; and
2. Take no longer than the equivalent time needed to process a Canadian passport, namely, twenty business days.

Response by the Minister of Indigenous Services

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Pam Damoff

The Minister of Indigenous Services Canada would like to thank the Member from North Island-Powell River and the petitioner for raising the issue of processing times for the Secure Certificate of Indian Status (SCIS).  

The department is committed to processing applications for the SCIS in an efficient and timely manner. It is important to note that the issuance of a SCIS is separate than the application processing for Indian Status.

The SCIS, also known as the secure status card, was introduced in 2009 to reduce instances of fraud and identity theft by including security features and a photo. It has further evolved to provide other client service features, including a machine-readable zone to facilitate Canada–U.S. border crossing. The SCIS is issued by the Department to confirm registration of Indian Status and facilitate access to associated programs, rights, services and benefits. An individual must be registered and provide proof of registration with their application to receive a secure status card.

The Department’s service standard is sixteen weeks for issuing an SCIS. The current processing time is eight weeks to receive the SCIS once Indian Status has been confirmed. Over the last three fiscal years, the Department has consistently met its service standard above 90% of the time. There is no cost to the applicant. 

In addition to the SCIS, there are two other options for those registered under the Indian Act to confirm their status. First Nations issue the paper laminate Certificate of Indian Status (CIS) at band offices across the country. This service is offered on demand with little or no wait time. An individual seeking confirmation of Indian Status may also request a Temporary Certificate of Registration Document, normally issued within 24 hours by one of the departmental points of service.

Difference Between Indian Status Application and the Secure Certificate of Indian Status

It is important to note that there is a difference between Indian Status and the SCIS, which provides proof of Indian Status. If an SCIS applicant is already registered under the Indian Act, the SCIS will be issued within the 16-week service standard or faster. Individuals applying to be newly registered for Status may submit a registration application and a SCIS application at the same time. A SCIS will be issued upon registration as a status Indian under the Indian Act.

Processing time for applications for registration under the Indian Act is generally between six months and two years, depending on the complexity of the file and the completeness of the application. While some applications can be processed quickly (e.g. registration of a child with two parents already registered), others require more genealogical research and further information from the applicant. The six month to two-year wait time is associated with the registration portion of the application and establishing entitlement to Indian Status under the Indian Act, not the SCIS card issuance itself. As noted, if an SCIS applicant is already registered under the Indian Act, the SCIS will be issued within the 16-week service standard or faster.   

Status cards, either the SCIS or CIS, are optional. A third of all registered individuals with Indian Status have chosen to apply and receive the SCIS. The CIS issued at band offices remains more popular. As of April 2021, out of approximately 1,026,000 registered Status Indians, 328,400 had a valid SCIS. In comparison, there are nearly 560,000 paper-laminated CIS in circulation.

Secure Certificate of Indian Status Service Offering and Improvements

Like many Government of Canada services, the processing of applications for the SCIS was impacted by COVID-19 related health restrictions for several months. The Department is now back to normal processing times that existed prior to COVID-19 and is on track to increase the number of applications processed per month in the months ahead.

The application process for the SCIS has been streamlined and, in modernizing the Department’s service offering, we are investing in digital solutions to increase efficiency and improve client service.

The development and launch of a mobile photo app in 2019 was designed to simplify the application process for the SCIS. The photo app, now in its third release, allows applicants to take the requisite passport quality photo – for free and from anywhere- with a smartphone and submit it online as part of their SCIS application. 

In addition, applicants who present in person at the departmental service kiosk in Gatineau, QC can now submit an application for the SCIS electronically (on line) as an alternative to a paper application.  In the coming months, this service will be expanded to all 16 departmental service kiosks and over time, this option will be made accessible to the public access through the internet. This initiative will result in efficiencies by making the application process faster and help reduce the rate of error.

The Department is also increasing the number of partnerships it has with First Nation organizations, in order to make its services, including the SCIS application process, more accessible and client focused.  

The Issuance of the SCIS Compared to a Passport

The petition seeks a commitment to the same processing time for the SCIS as the issuance of the Canadian Passport.

It is difficult to compare the SCIS and passport processes, as Passport Canada is one of the few Government of Canada programs operating on a full cost-recovery basis. Passport Program operations are funded and service standards are maintained from fees charged for travel document services.

Both the passport and SCIS are issued after confirmation of entitlement. The SCIS is currently delivered in 40 business days following registration under the Indian Act, while service standards for the issuance of a passport in Canada after entitlement is confirmed is 20 days. 

The modernization and client service agenda of the Department is expected to further reduce the wait time for the SCIS as we are committed to processing applications for the Secure Certificate of Status in an efficient and timely manner. In addition, our Government has been clear - during this time, service providers should accept Status Cards, with identification, even if the renewal date has passed. Our Government will continue to take steps to update and improve the processing times of Status Card administration and renewals.

Open for signature
March 26, 2021, at 2:45 p.m. (EDT)
Closed for signature
April 25, 2021, at 2:45 p.m. (EDT)
Presented to the House of Commons
Rachel Blaney (North Island—Powell River)
April 30, 2021 (Petition No. 432-00896)
Government response tabled
June 14, 2021
Photo - Rachel Blaney
North Island—Powell River
New Democratic Party Caucus
British Columbia