Any Tuesday, at a Cabinet meeting, the Government of Canada can remove the sex discrimination from the Indian Act that has been there for 143 years. They can do it any Tuesday because, in 2017, when the Indian Act was being amended one more time, the Senate of Canada insisted that all sex discrimination should be removed. Because the Senate intervened, Bill S-3 contains provisions that would eliminate the discrimination once and for all. But those provisions have not been brought into force. Cabinet can decide to bring them into force by Order in Council, at any regular meeting…any Tuesday.
Until the outstanding provisions are proclaimed, Bill S-3 maintains the decades old sex-based hierarchy between Indian men and their descendants and Indian women and their descendants. This hierarchy has existed since 1876, and amendments to the Indian Act in 1985, 2010, and 2017 have not removed it. Indian women and their descendants still do not enjoy equality with their male counterparts with regard to entitlement to status or transmission of status to their descendants. This violates the right of First Nations women to equality and to equal enjoyment of culture.
First Nations women and their descendants who have repeatedly challenged this discrimination, Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations and individuals, women’s, human rights, labour and faith groups, have joined together to call on the Government to remove the sex discrimination immediately, before the election. The signers of this letter say 143 years of discrimination against First Nations women and their descendants is enough. Read the letter here.
UN Human Rights Committee Rules Indian Act Still Discriminates Against First Nations Women
Over the last twenty years, many United Nations treaty bodies have urged Canada to remove the sex discrimination. The latest UN intervention came in January 2019, when the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled on Sharon McIvor’s petition, and found that the sex discrimination in the Indian Act violates Canada’s obligations under international human rights law to ensure equality for women and equal enjoyment of culture. The UN Human Rights Committee directs Canada to remove the sex discrimination fully and finally, and to ensure that First Nations women and their descendants are granted full 6(1)(a) status on the same basis as First Nations men and their descendants.
The UN Human Rights Committee ruling on Sharon McIvor’s petition is here.
For background information on Indian Act sex discrimination, click here.
The Senate of Canada champions sex equality for First Nations Women
On February 28, 2019, the Senate of Canada passed a motion unanimously calling on the Government of Canada to bring into force the outstanding provisions of Bill S-3 in order to eliminate the remaining sex discrimination in the Indian Act.
This motion was introduced by Senator Lillian Dyck, who is a First Nations woman, a member of the Gordon First Nation in Saskatchewan, and the first female First Nations Senator in Canada. She is one of the Famous Six and she introduced this motion.
That the Senate, in light of the decision made by the United Nations Human Rights Committee of January 11, 2019, which ruled that ongoing sex-based hierarchies in the registration provisions of the Indian Act violate Canada’s international human rights obligations, urge the federal government to bring into force the remaining provisions of Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Indian Act in response to the Superior Court of Quebec decision in Descheneaux c. Canada (Procureur general), which would remedy the discrimination, no later than June 21, 2019.
Senator Lillian Dyck, and allied Senators Marilou McPhedran and Kim Pate, posed questions to the Government Leader in the Senate regarding Bill S-3 and the UN McIvor decision. Read this excerpt from Senate question period here (It is the section that starts at “Indian Act – Elimination of Sex Based Discrimination”)
Supporters of Immediate Elimination of Sex Discrimination from the Indian Act:
The Senate of Canada
Native Women’s Association of Canada
Quebec Native Women/ Femmes Autochtonnes du Québec
Ontario Native Women’s Association
B.C. Assembly of First Nations
Amnesty International Canada
Amnistie Internationale Canada Francophone
National Council of Women
Canadian Federation of University Women
Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action
Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund
Canadian Labour Congress
Canadian Association of University Teachers
Public Service Alliance of Canada
Canadian Union of Public Employees
Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, C. M.
Senator Sandra Lovelace-Nicholas
Dr. Lynn Gehl
Dr. Pamela Palmater
Dr. Cindy Blackstock
Dr. Dawn Harvard Lavell
United Nations Human Rights Committee
United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences
…And hundreds more organizations and individuals (see letter).
Here are 6 things you can do:
I am contacting you to call for the immediate removal of all sex discrimination from the Indian Act. I urge you to bring the outstanding sections of Bill S-3 into force before June 21, 2019. Discrimination against First Nations women has no place in Canada.
Email addresses and telephone numbers:
[email protected]; telephone: 613-992-4211
[email protected] and aadnc.minister.aandc@
[email protected]; telephone: 613-995-6411
[email protected]; telephone: 613-943-6636
Since its inception, the Indian Act has accorded privileged forms of Indian status to male Indians and their descendants. By comparison, Indian women and their descendants have been treated as lesser in worth, and as second-class Indians.
On June 1, 2017, the Senate of Canada unanimously passed an amendment to Bill S-3. This amendment, which has been dubbed the ‘6(1)(a) all the way’ amendment, would, for the first time, entitle Indian women and their descendants to full 6(1)(a) Indian status on the same footing as Indian men and their descendants.
The Government of Canada has rejected this equal status amendment and wants the Senate to pass Bill S-3 without eliminating all the discrimination against First Nations women and their descendants. Learn about the Famous Six and read their message here.
Find background information on Indian Act sex discrimination and Bill S-3 here and follow this link to register and watch the webinars hosted by the Canadian Women’s Foundation and FAFIA on the Indian Act.
Please join us in fighting to end discrimination against women in the Indian Act. Here’s what you can do:
Here is the letter addressed to the Prime Minister, with all the signatures!
To join our network or if you have any questions, email: bills3fafia-afai.org