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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

Press Release: 143 Years of Sex-Based Discrimination Through the Indian Act Finally Comes to an End

143 Years of Sex-Based Discrimination Through the Indian Act Finally Comes to an End After Decades of Advocacy

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(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, B.C. – August 19, 2019) For over 143 years the status and registration provisions of the Indian Act have been wielded as a colonial tool of assimilation to undermine the cultural integrity and legal status of Indigenous peoples. For decades First Nations women and their descendants have had to fight a long and winding battle to dismantle the sex-based discrimination that has been perpetuated by these provisions. On August 15, 2019, these women, advocates, and communities celebrated a momentous victory for gender equality as the Government of Canada finally brought the outstanding provisions of Bill S-3 into force. These final Bill S-3 provisions will eliminate remaining sex-based inequities from the Indian Act and abolish the 1951 cut-off from the Indian Act registration provisions. Fundamentally, the implementation of the Bill S-3 provisions means that generations of First Nations will no longer have to confront systemic barriers to equal protection and recognition under the law; Indigenous women will no longer have to fight to be treated equally as transmitters of status, and their descendants will no longer be denied their status rights. However, bringing the provisions of Bill S-3 into full effect has been an arduous, delayed, and frustrating process. For women like Sharon McIvor, it is a result of years of fighting to be heard and treated equally. In 2010, Sharon McIvor filed a complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Committee over the remaining sex discrimination in the Indian Act. The Committee ruled that Canada is obligated to remove the discrimination and ensure that all First Nations women and their descendants are granted Indian status on the same footing as First Nations men and their descendants. It is because of women like Sharon that communities and families will no longer be torn apart by false divisions and the denial of status. McIvor stated: "Today I am relieved, and happy. It has been a long struggle. We had to win the fight for equality for First Nations women both legally and politically, and it took a lot of work by a lot of people. The sex discrimination in the Indian Act has been a very effective tool of assimilation that even modern Canadian governments were not ready to give up. The sex discrimination has helped Canada keep the pool of 'Indians', to whom Canada owes fiduciary duties, small. I am proud to say that I have helped in my own way to bring this shameful part of colonial history to an end. I want to thank all the First Nations women who have worked for this day, my lawyer Gwen Brodsky, and all my allies, especially the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action." Dr. Pamela Palmater, Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University, stated: "The credit for this victory goes to Mary Two-Axe Early, Jeanette Corbiere Lavell, Yvonne Bedard, Sandra Lovelace, Sharon McIvor, Susan & Tammy Yantha, Stephane Descheneaux, Lynn Gehl, Jeremy Matson and the many, many Indigenous women who fought their entire lives, together with their human rights allies, to end sex discrimination against First Nation women and children. Despite all of the struggles, resources and effort it took to advocate for their rights, they persisted. These warrior women need to be acknowledged for their sacrifices and victories fighting Canada in domestic and international courts. Sharon McIvor can well be considered the grandmother to thousands of babies who would never have been registered or included in their First Nations but for her persistence in the face of repeated federal denial of her rights and breach of Canada’s own constitution. Their hard work will mean a big difference for thousands of First Nation children." Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, stated: “Indigenous women in Canada face an enduring system of discrimination, violence, and injustice. As the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Calls to Justice affirms, substantive changes are needed to support our women and girls. The removal of the sex-based hierarchy entrenched in the Indian Act is a pathway forward to achieving this and properly recognizing and respecting the Indigenous women who are at the foundations of our cultures, communities, governments, and nations.” Shelagh Day, Chair, Human Rights Committee, Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action stated: "Canada has been involved in a massive violation of the human rights of First Nations women, by privileging men and the paternal line of descent in the Indian Act since 1876. We welcome the coming into force of the final provisions of Bill S-3, which eliminate the 143 years of discriminatory treatment of First Nations women and their descendants. Finally, after a long struggle, First Nations women have achieved formal equality in the law." -30- Media inquiries: Sharon McIvor: 250-378-7479 Dr. Pamela Palmater: 905-903-5563 Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer, UBCIC: 250-320-7739 Shealgh Day, FAFIA: 604-872-0750   UBCIC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. The Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action is an alliance of more than sixty Canadian women's organizations dedicated to the realization of women's human rights. Dr. Pamela Palmater is the Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University For more information please visit www.ubcic.bc.ca

PRESS RELEASE: Canadian Women’s Rights Groups Welcome the Report made by Ms. Dubravka Šimonovic

Canadian Women’s Rights Groups Welcome the Report made by Ms. Dubravka Šimonovic, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, to the Human Rights Council

 

Please see the PDF version with all background information. 

June 27, 2019, Ottawa Where Press Conference, Thursday June 27, 2019 11:30 a.m. 135-B Press Conference Room The 135-B Press Conference Room is located in West Block on Parliament Hill. Who The Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA) is joined by the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic (BSCC), the Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA), Women’s Shelters Canada (WSC), Women’s Sexual Assault Centre Renfrew County, the National Association of Women and the Law (NAWL), Dr. Pam Palmater, Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University, Myrna Dawson, Director of the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability in welcoming the Report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur (SR) on violence against women, its causes and consequences on her visit to Canada. Why As national women’s rights experts, we were consulted during the April 2018 visit by the Special Rapporteur, during which she gathered evidence for her report. We welcome the SR’s Recommendations to Canada for improving its record on violence against women prevention and response. And echo the urgent tone struck by her finding that “Indigenous women from First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities face violence, marginalization, exclusion and poverty because of institutional, systemic, multiple intersecting forms of discrimination not addressed adequately by the State.” What Canada has a long and well-regarded role in international legal circles for its stated commitments to gender equality and its history of commitment to international human rights standards. As the SR notes in her report, “Canada has a long-standing record of support at the United Nations to issues related to violence against women, including the establishment of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences as the main sponsor of the mandates founding resolution of 1994. The first mandate’s official visit to Canada to gather first-hand information on the situation of violence against women coincides with the commendable decision by the Government to proclaim itself as a feminist government and to adopt feminist foreign and international assistance policies. Despite such commitments the mandate holder notes that women lives’ in the country are still marked by systemic gender-based violence, especially concerning Indigenous and other women who encounter multiple forms of discrimination” [emphasis added]. Media Contacts: Cyndia Mondésir, 613-804-2963;  communications@fafia-afai.org Amanda Dale, Director, FAFIA, 416-453-1916; director@fafia-afai.org

PRESS RELEASE: COALITION CALLS ON CANADA TO DELIVER EQUALITY FOR INDIGENOUS WOMEN AND GIRLS

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June 3, 2019 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

COALITION CALLS ON CANADA TO DELIVER EQUALITY FOR INDIGENOUS WOMEN AND GIRLS

Today, a coalition of civil society organizations is calling on all governments in Canada to end deeply embedded racism, sexism, and violence against Indigenous women and girls following the release of the National Inquiry’s Final Report. The coalition, made up of the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA), Canada Without Poverty (CWP) and Dr. Pamela Palmater, Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University, was granted standing at the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Women. “To Canada's shame, the National Inquiry's Final Report has exposed the devastating effects of colonization, racism, and sexism on Indigenous women and girls” said Dr. Pamela Palmater. “Over time, colonizing governments have built a structure of laws, policies and practices that treat First Nations, Métis and Inuit women as lesser human beings – sexualized, racialized, and disposable – because of their sex and their Indigeneity. The result is high rates of violence, exploitation, rapes, disappearances, and murders.” “The job of governments now – all governments in Canada – is to dismantle this deeply embedded discrimination against Indigenous women. That can only be done through strategic, concerted, and coordinated action that is grounded in human rights. Actions must be planned, measured, and monitored,” said FAFIA Human Rights Chair Shelagh Day. "The first step," said Day "must be recognition that Indigenous women and girls have equal rights in Canada. As the National Inquiry found in its first recommendation, released April 12, 2019, recognizing the human rights of Indigenous women requires the Government of Canada to immediately eliminate sex discrimination from the Indian Act." "This 143-year-old sex discrimination in the Indian Act is identified by First Nations women leaders, and all experts, including the National Inquiry, as a root cause of the violence," said Dr. Palmater. "Canada cannot end the violence while it still maintains, in law, the sex discrimination that causes it. As the National Inquiry has said: Indigenous women are independent rights holders. Canada must uphold their rights." The coalition welcomed the National Inquiry's recommendation of a coordinated National Action Plan to address the causes and effects of the violence. As key components of the National Action Plan, governments must address:
  • the social and economic disadvantage of Indigenous women and girls;
  • the damage caused to Indigenous women and girls by the child welfare system;
  • police violence, and failures to protect Indigenous women and girls;
  • bias in the justice system;
  • overcriminalization and incarceration of Indigenous women and girls; and
  • supports for families of murdered and disappeared Indigenous women and girls.
“This week at the Women Deliver Conference, Canada is presenting itself as ‘a leader on gender equality’, but the fact is that Canada is not a leader on equality for Indigenous women and girls,” said CWP’s Policy Director, Michèle Biss. "Canada can only become a leader if all governments, together, take on the broad project of strategically addressing the inequality, marginalization and violence that constrain and threaten the lives of Indigenous women and girls.” The coalition’s final submission to the Inquiry can be found here:

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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 First Nations. As well as teaching and writing, Dr. Palmater provides advice directly to First Nations and serves as an expert, appearing before various domestic and international investigatory bodies on government laws, policies, and practices that affect Indigenous peoples. 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. 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. For more information or interview requests, please contact: Dr. Pamela Palmater Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University Email: ppalmater@politics.ryerson.ca Shelagh Day, Chair, Human Rights Committee Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action Phone: 604-872-0750 |Email: shelagh.day@gmail.com Michèle Biss, Policy Director and Human Rights Lawyer Canada Without Poverty Phone: 613-697-8743 Email: michele@cwp-csp.ca

FIRST NATIONS WOMEN LEADERS DEMAND AN END TO INDIAN ACT SEX DISCRIMINATION BEFORE THE ELECTION

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Ottawa, April 9th - "The sex discrimination in the Indian Act must be eliminated before the election is called," said Sharon McIvor, who filed a successful petition with the UN Human Rights Committee, challenging the sex discrimination. "First Nations women and their descendants still do not have the same right to Indian status and to transmission of status as their male counterparts. I do not have the same full Indian status as my brother, and that is only because I am a woman. This discrimination is a disgrace to Canada, and the Government of Canada knows it has to end." Today in Ottawa First Nations rights advocates, Sharon McIvor, Dr. Pamela Palmater, and Jeannette Corbiere Lavell joined with Francyne Joe, President of the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC), Dawn Lavell Harvard, President of the Ontario Native Women's Association (ONWA) and Viviane Michel, President of the Quebec Native Women's Association (QNW) and with Senator Lillian Dyck, to call on the Government to end the discrimination before the election. They also released an open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau, and Ministers Bennett, Lametti, and Monsef, signed by over 600 organizations and individuals, calling for an end to the discrimination. Because of the insistence of the Senate of Canada, the latest amendment to the Indian Act, Bill S-3, includes provisions that would eliminate the core sex discrimination, but these provisions are not in force. They can be brought into force by Order-in-Council, that is, by a Cabinet decision, any Tuesday. "We are calling on the Government of Canada to do this, now, before the election, "said Senator Lillian Dyck. "The Senate of Canada unanimously supports this. The discrimination must end." Francyne Joe, President of the Native Women's Association of Canada, said, "First Nations women have waited and waited for it to be our turn, for our lives and concerns to be important enough to grab the attention of Government. The Government must show their concern for us, especially before the election. Stop our treatment as second-class human beings, just let us be equal in law." "We want the immediate implementation of the United Nations Human Rights Committee’s ruling on Sharon McIvor's petition," said Dr. Pamela Palmater. "The UN Committee ruled on January 11, 2019 that the sex discrimination in the Indian Act violates the rights of First Nations women to the equal protection of the law and to the equal enjoyment of Indigenous culture. These rights are guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," said Dr. Palmater. "They are also guaranteed by UNDRIP. We recall Prime Minister Trudeau's words to the UN General Assembly in
September 2017. He said 'the world expects Canada to adhere strictly to international human rights standards, including UNDRIP, and that’s what we expect of ourselves too.' That's what First Nations women expect of Prime Minister Trudeau now." "This sex discrimination has done terrible harm to First Nations women, their children and their communities over decades," said Dawn Lavell Harvard. "Because my mother, Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, lost her Indian status by marrying out, I have watched this damage through my own life. Women have been tossed out of their communities, from their places, languages, and cultures, and families are torn apart. Women have been deemed to be lesser parents, unable to pass on status in the way men can, and branded as traitors for 'marrying out'. Communities themselves are forced to discriminate against their own people because they are only provided with financial transfers to support those with status. Surely it is time to begin to heal this harm. That can only begin by finally entitling First Nations women to the same status as their male counterparts." "Soon the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls will release its report" said Viviane Michel. "The Government of Canada needs to respond to their report quickly to show us that Indigenous women are not second class, not disposable, and to demonstrate that the Government understands that treating Indigenous women as lesser human beings, in law, has deadly results. Both the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have found, in their investigations of murders and disappearances in Canada, that Indian Act sex discrimination is a root cause of the violence. One thing the Government of Canada can do immediately to respond to the crisis of murders and disappearances is to eliminate the discrimination from the Indian Act." "I have been fighting this sex discrimination for fifty years now," said Jeannette Corbiere Lavell. "Before I join my ancestors, I think I should have equal Indian status with Indian men. I stand for justice for First Nations women now."

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Contact information: Sharon McIvor: 250-378-7479/bearclaw@shaw.ca; Pamela Palmater: 905-903-5563/ppalmater@politics.ryerson.ca; Dawn Lavell Harvard: contact Andre Morriseau, Communications Manager, 647-970- 7661/amorriseau@onwa.ca; Francyne Joe: contact Director of Communications, Lucy Juneau, 343-997-3756, ljuneau@nwac.ca,
Jeannette Corbiere Lavell: lavelljeannette@gmail.com Senator Lillian Dyck: contact Nicholas1.Salahor@sen.parl.gc.ca 613-995-4318 (office) 613-761-0600 (cell) Shelagh Day (FAFIA): 604-872-0750/shelagh.day@gmail.comFor further information, see: http://fafia-afai.org/en/solidarity-campaign/#tab-3

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