Indigenous women have been living under a regime of sex discrimination in the Indian Act for more than a century. It was in 1869 that Canada first codified the sex discrimination in the Indian Act, where Indian women who married non-Indian men lost Indian status and thus their treaty rights, in a process called ‘enfranchisement.’ The same did not happen to Indian men who married non-Indian women.
Indigenous women have been challenging this since the 1960s, beginning with Mary Two-Axe Early, Jeannette Corbiere-Lavell, Yvonne Bedard, and Senator Sandra Lovelace. Eventually in 1985 this discrimination ended and Canada reinstated the status of women who were enfranchised, but Canada did not allow these women to pass on status to their grandchildren who were born before 1985 ‒ yet Indian men could. This meant the discrimination continued in a new form.
More recently, Sharon McIvor and I have moved through Canada’s court system, challenging this long-time sex discrimination. Despite our over 30 years of effort, and the current Liberal government’s so-called feminist platform, Canada recently passed into law Bill S-3, An Act to Amend the Indian Act, which continues to discriminate against many of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren who were born before 1985 to Indian women who married out.
In pushing this bill forward Canada relied on the pitiful argument that there was the need for consultations before they would implement the full remedy Sharon and I called for, known as the “6(1)a All the Way” clause. In short, this clause would make all the descendants of Indian women once enfranchised the same as the descendants of Indian men. Rights are rights, we argued; they are not something that requires consultations with First Nations Chiefs and Councils.
While Canada enshrined the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that states Canadians are protected from sex discrimination, Canada refuses to eliminate all the sex discrimination in the Indian Act. This discrimination bleeds into, shapes, and undermines Indigenous self-governance efforts when developing our own membership and citizenship codes. This is an act of genocide through insidious cultural means.
Without a doubt, the Minister of Status of Women Maryam Monsef, Member of Parliament for Peterborough—Kawartha, is complicit in this genocide.
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