Equal Status for Women in the Indian Act

A message from Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action :

Dear Friends and Allies,

We are Senators and Indigenous women leaders with a long history of advocating for equality for Indigenous women in Canada. We write to you today to request your support for the full and final removal of sex discrimination from the Indian Act. We ask you to sign on to this letter to Prime Minister Trudeau by November 7th.

Shocking as it is, Indian women still do not enjoy the same entitlement to full Indian status and the same ability to transmit their status to their descendants as Indian men. This discrimination has existed since the Indian Act was first introduced in 1876. We believe that 141 years of sex discrimination is enough.

We write to you now because the Government of Canada is poised to pass Bill S-3, a revision to the Indian Act, which will, one more time, remove discrimination for some, but leave the core of the sex discrimination in place.

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.

As Indigenous women, we need you to help and support us. Indigenous women cannot be successful in this fight alone. We need the support of our non-Indigenous sisters and allies, as well as of our Indigenous brothers and communities, and we need it now. The Government of Canada wants to pass Bill S-3 before December 15, 2017.

Please join us in fighting to end discrimination against women in the Indian Act. Here's what you can do:

  • Sign on to this letter addressed to the Prime Minister of Canada asking him to remove the sex discrimination from the Indian Act now; to sign on send us an email at bills3@fafia-afai.org 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. Please send your sign on by November 7th. We will keep a continuous list and post it on our website.
  • Contact your Member of Parliament directly, and ask him or her to support removal of the sex discrimination from the Indian Act now. Go to this website to find your MP’s contact information and follow this link for a sample email to send to your Member of Parliament.
  • Contact Senators from your province or territory and ask them to hold firm on their support for the '6(1)(a) all the way' amendment. Go to this website to find Senators' contact information and follow this link for a sample email to send to Senators from your province or territory.
  • Share this email with your membership lists and with your friends and allies. Ask them to sign on and call or write to their MPs and Senators.
  • 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.

Here's who we are:

  • Senator Lillian Dyck, Chair of the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, which heard testimony on Bill S-3 and initiated the '6(1)(a) all the way' amendment.
  • Senator Sandra Lovelace-Nicholas, Member of the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, Petitioner to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Lovelace v Canada, which resulted in the 1981 ruling that the sex discrimination in the Indian Act violates the rights of Indigenous women to their culture.
  • Jeannette Corbiere-Lavell and Yvonne Bedard, plaintiffs in Lavell, Bedard v Canada, which resulted in the now infamous 1973 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that the sex discrimination in the Indian Act did not violate Canada's Bill of Rights.
  • Sharon McIvor, Plaintiff in McIvor v Canada, which resulted in the 2009 British Columbia Court of Appeal ruling that won status, or improved status, for about 35,000 previously excluded Indigenous women and their descendants.
  • Dr. Lynn Gehl, Plaintiff in Gehl v Canada, which resulted in the 2017 ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeal that the unstated paternity policy of the Registrar of Indian and Northern Affairs was unreasonable. 

Not one of us, to this day, is entitled to full 6(1)(a) status under the Indian Act.

Please help us to achieve equal status for Indian women and their descendants now.