Who we are

FAFIA is an alliance of women's organizations at the national, provincial, territorial, and local levels.

What we do

Our mandate is to advance women’s equality in Canada by working for the full implementation of the international human rights treaties and agreements that Canada has ratified.

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Bill S-3

Bill S-3

Since its inception, the Indian Act has accorded privileged forms of Indian status to male Indians and their descendants, but not to Indian women and their descendants. On June 1, 2017, the Senate of Canada unanimously passed an amendment to Bill S-3. This amendment, ‘6(1)(a) all the way’ would, for the first time, entitle Indian women and their descendants to full 6(1)(a) Indian status. The Government of Canada has rejected this equal status amendment and wants the Senate to pass Bill S-3 without eliminating the sex discrimination. We invite you to learn more about this issue and join us in fighting to end discrimination against women in the Indian Act.

Go to the Bill S-3 page

Sign on now and end sex discrimination in the Indian Act!

1. Please sign on to this letter addressed to the Prime Minister of Canada, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, and the Minister of Justice asking them to remove the sex discrimination from the Indian Act now; to sign on, send us an email at communications@fafia-afai.org by March 20 with your name, if you are signing as an individual, or the name of your organization, and/or the name of all the individuals at your organization that would like to sign on. We will keep a continuous list and post it on our website at the end of the deadline.

2. For background information on Indian Act sex discrimination, please go here.

3. To see the UN decision, please go here.

Press Release: Coalition calls for urgent action to stop violence against Indigenous women and girls 

Click here for the PDF version.

February 6, 2019


OTTAWA – A coalition of human rights organizations has released their report of recommendations to the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in which they call for a crisis-level response to the increasing rates of violence against Indigenous women and girls.

The Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA), Canada Without Poverty, and Dr Pamela Palmater, the Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University, made their oral submissions to the National Inquiry and filed written submissions in December of last year. In the report, made public today, the group calls for urgent, comprehensive, and transformative action from all levels of government in Canada.

"Canada is in the midst of a human rights crisis of its own making. Discriminatory laws, policies, and practices have created an infrastructure of violence and Indigenous women and girls are dying because of it,” said Dr. Palmater.

“Simply tweaking programs and services or making minor amendments to laws will not end the violence. We need immediate, radical and strategic action - substantive remedies that match the scope and character of the human rights violations.”

Shelagh Day, Chair of the Human Rights Committee of FAFIA, said “Indigenous women, civil society organizations, and international human rights authorities have repeatedly urged Canada to act strategically and urgently. So far, Canada's responses have been un-coordinated, piecemeal, and ineffective. Our coalition is calling for a national co-ordinated action plan to attack the root causes of the violence with resources to support change and timelines for implementation. Nothing less will do.”

“This is a human rights crisis in Canada,” said Leilani Farha, Executive Director of Canada Without Poverty. “This ongoing violence is a failure to protect the human rights of Indigenous women and girls, and now we need human rights action on the part of the Canadian government. We expect our governments to live up to the international and domestic commitments they have made to treat Indigenous women and girls as equal human beings, worthy of dignity, respect, and protection.”

"The extreme violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls is no accident," added Dr. Palmater. “Historic and current practices of institutions and governments result in Indigenous women and girls being treated as lesser human beings– sexualized, racialized, and disposable. Governments have to be willing to take responsibility, to be accountable, and to dismantle laws and practices that perpetuate the violence. Indigenous women's lives depend on it."

The recommendations from the National Inquiry will be issued in April 2019. The coalition’s written and oral submissions made to the National Inquiry can be found at: http://fafia-afai.org/wp- content/uploads/2019/02/MMIW-Inquiry-Report-FINALFeb52019.pdf


Canada Without Poverty (CWP) is a non-partisan, not-for-profit, and charitable organization dedicated to ending poverty in Canada. For nearly 50 years, CWP has been championing the rights of individuals experiencing poverty and marginalization through research, awareness-building campaigns, public policy development, and educational programming. See more at: www.cwp- csp.ca.

The Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA) is an alliance of more than sixty women’s organizations, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, with specialized expertise on women’s human rights. FAFIA is dedicated to advancing the equality of all women, and to ensuring that Canadian governments respect, protect, and fulfill the commitments to women that they have made under international human rights law.

Dr. Pamela Palmater holds the Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University and is one of Canada’s leading authors and commentators on current laws and policies that impact Indigenous peoples and Nations. As well as teaching and writing, Dr. Palmater provides advice directly to First Nation communities, and serves as an expert, appearing before various domestic and international investigatory bodies on government laws, policies, and practices that affect Indigenous peoples.

For more information or interview requests, please contact:

Laura Neidhart
Canada Without Poverty
Phone: 613-293-2446 | Email: laura@cwp-csp.ca

Shelagh Day, Chair, Human Rights Committee Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action Phone: 604-872-0750 |Email: shelagh.day@gmail.com

Dr. Pamela Palmater
Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University Email: ppalmater@politics.ryerson.ca

PRESS RELEASE: UN Rules That Canada's Indian Act Discriminates Against First Nations Women

Please click here for the PDF version of the press release and visit this URL for more information on the decision.

(Vancouver, January 17, 2019) In a decision released January 14, the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled that Canada continues to discriminate against First Nations women and their descendants by denying them the same entitlement to full s. 6(1)(a) status under the Indian Act as First Nations men and their descendants. This long- standing discrimination affects First Nations women's entitlement to status, their right to transmit status, and their equality with First Nations men.

The Committee ruled that Canada is obligated to remove the discrimination and to ensure that all First Nations women and their descendants are granted status on the same footing as First Nations men and their descendants.

Sharon McIvor who filed the petition with the UN Human Rights Committee that resulted in this ruling said, “This decision is a game-changer for First Nations women, and for Canada. If the Government of Canada fulfills its obligations and finally treats First Nations women as equals, it will be a new day for us, for our communities and for Canada. First Nations women have been fighting against this discrimination in the courts and at the UN since 1970. I hope that Canada will now bring this devastating discrimination to an end.”

In December 2017, the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that there are more than 270,000 women and their descendants who would be newly entitled to Indian status if 6(1)(a) status were granted to them on the same footing as Indian men and their descendants. "This is evidence of how profound and damaging the discrimination is" said Dr. Pamela Palmater, Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University. "Sex discrimination in the Indian Act has been a very effective tool of assimilation, defining First Nations women and their descendants out of the pool of status Indians to whom the Government of Canada owes recognition and benefits."

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs stated, “Canada has clung to the sex discrimination in the Indian Act despite years of struggle against it by Indigenous women and their allies, in courts, at the UN, and in Parliament when amendments were being debated. Canada admitted in 2017 that the discrimination continues, and it put provisions into Bill S-3 that would eliminate the discrimination, but it never brought those provisions into force. Canada knows how to fix the discrimination. It just needs to do it. And do it now. On September 21, 2017, Prime Minister Trudeau told the United Nations General Assembly that 'the world expects Canada to adhere strictly to international human rights standards ...and that's what we expect of ourselves too.' That is what we all expect: that Canada will live up to its human rights obligations, now. We look forward to the Government of Canada's response."


Gwen Brodsky: "The UN Human Rights Committee says that Canada is obligated to provide an effective and enforceable remedy. This requires Canada to make full reparations, including: 1) ensuring that Sharon McIvor, Jacob Grismer, and all others excluded by, or granted only a lesser category of status, because of the sex-based distinctions in s. 6 of the Indian Act are granted full 6(1)(a) status; 2) addressing any residual discrimination in First Nations communities that arises from Canada’s sex-based discrimination in the Indian Act; 3) communicating the decision broadly in Canada; and 4) reporting back to the United Nations in 180 days to provide information about the measures it has taken to comply with this decision. This is a very significant remedy and one that requires immediate action."

Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer of the UBCIC: "This decision brings the Government of Canada's current consultation process into question once again. Some of the questions that Canada is consulting about, the United Nations has answered straightforwardly and clearly. All the women and their descendants who have been excluded by sex discrimination must be granted full status, including those born prior to 1951. There should be no delay in moving registration forward quickly and efficiently. The Government of Canada should address any residual discrimination in communities that could be caused because of the addition of new members to communities or Bands, and any need for additional resources, rather than continuing to focus all their energy on trying to force pipelines through and causing further human rights violations. We need this discrimination to end, and end now."

Shelagh Day, Chair, Human Rights Committee, Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action: "This sex discrimination has been in the law in Canada for more than one hundred years. It has had a profoundly damaging effect. The fact that First Nations women have been treated overtly, in law, as though they are the property of men, second class, and not equal, has had the effect of marginalizing First Nations women in their own communities and in the broader society. It is not surprising that in their reports on the crisis of murders and disappearances of Indigenous women and girls, both the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) found that historical Indian Act sex discrimination is a root cause of the shocking levels of violence against Indigenous women. Canada cannot improve the lives of First Nations women and girls, and reduce their risk of violence, until Canada gets rid of Indian Act sex discrimination, completely and for all time."

Contact Information:
Gwen Brodsky: 604-874-9211
Dr. Pamela Palmater: 905-903-5563 Sharon McIvor: 250-378-7479
Shelagh Day: 604-872-0750
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip: 250-490-5314 Kukpi7 Judy Wilson: 250-320-7738

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