Caterina Petrolo’s Journey: Advocate for Indigenous Rights in Canada

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Caterina Petrolo's Journey: Advocate for Indigenous Rights in Canada

For Caterina Petrolo her journey into advocating for Indigenous rights in Canada is deeply personal and rooted in her common law partner’s struggle to obtain his Indigenous status. This connection has led her to explore the history, culture, and challenges faced by Indigenous peoples, motivating her to make a difference in their lives.

Caterina’s relationship with her common law partner began in 2003. He had a unique background – his biological parents were Indigenous, but he was given up for adoption as a newborn in 1972. Raised by a loving and nurturing white family on the East Coast, he always knew he was adopted and born as an Indigenous child. However, he faced challenges in obtaining his Indigenous status due to the circumstances of his adoption.

At the age of 19, while volunteering with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and under the guidance of a police officer, he decided to apply for his Indigenous status. This decision marked the beginning of a long and arduous journey. The Canadian government, citing his adoption as a barrier, presented him with countless obstacles. The “Indian Northern Affairs – adoption unit” made the process nearly impossible, demanding numerous repetitive forms and making frivolous and unethical requests. Year after year, he faced denial.

In 2009, Caterina Petrolo, with her persistent personality, decided to step in and help him achieve his goal. Little did she know that she would encounter the complexities and challenges of dealing with bureaucratic processes. Following the government’s lead, she submitted a statutory declaration from his biological mother, affirming his Indigenous heritage. However, even with all the supporting documents, his application was denied once again, leaving them at a frustrating dead end.

In October 2020, Caterina decided to make one final attempt. This time, she took a more assertive approach, refusing to accept the past behaviors and practices of the adoption unit. She demanded fairness and transparency in the process. The new members of the adoption unit agreed to review the extensive file before requesting additional documents. Finally, after years of persistence and determination, Caterina and her partner received the news they had been waiting for – his certificate of Indigenous Status was granted. It was a journey that began in 1992, spanning 29 long years.

Throughout their years together, Caterina witnessed firsthand the mistreatment of Indigenous people and the challenges they faced. She saw how Indigenous communities lived on reservations and felt a deep desire to contribute to helping them move forward. She firmly believes that many of the injustices, challenges, and failures in areas such as health, clean water, and housing are a result of the Canadian government’s actions and policies.

Motivated by her personal experiences and her partner’s journey, Caterina enrolled in Indigenous studies at the University of Alberta. Her goal is to learn about the histories, cultures, and contemporary issues of Indigenous peoples. Caterina is deeply interested in social justice, and these courses are helping her gain a deeper understanding of the ongoing struggles for Indigenous rights. Moreover, she believes that this knowledge can provide a framework for advocating for Indigenous peoples’ rights and contribute positively to the world.

Caterina Petrolo and her journey is a testament to the power of personal connection and persistence in advocating for Indigenous rights. Her story highlights the importance of understanding and addressing the challenges faced by Indigenous communities in Canada. As she continues her studies and advocacy work, Caterina is determined to make a meaningful difference in the lives of Indigenous peoples and contribute to a more just and inclusive society.

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