Gender discrimination persists in Canada's Indian Act, United Nations committee rules - APTN NewsAPTN News

Gender discrimination persists in Canada’s Indian Act, United Nations committee rules

The Canadian Press
Despite government efforts over the years to fix the situation, Canada’s Indian Act still discriminates against Indigenous women when it comes to passing on their status to their descendants, the United Nations Human Rights Committee ruled this week.

The committee found the act violates Canada’s international obligations and urged Ottawa to put an end to the differential treatment of an estimated 270,000 women and their descendants.

The complaint came from Sharon McIvor, 70, and her son Jacob Grismer, 47, both of Merritt, B.C., who argued they had not been treated as “real Indians” because of flaws in the Indian Act, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this week called a “colonialist relic.”

“This decision is a game-changer for First Nations women and for Canada,” McIvor said in a statement. “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.”

McIvor’s grandmother was a member of the Lower Nicola Band _ part of the Nlaka’pamux Nation _ who married a non-Indigenous man. As a result of prevailing rules that determined Indian status on the basis of male lineage, their daughter was ineligible for registration as an Indian.

As a result, neither McIvor nor her siblings were deemed to be Indians because their ineligible mother married a non-Indian. McIvor would also marry a non-Indian and had three children, including Grismer.

The federal government changed the Indian Act in 1985 in response to complaints and various court decisions in an effort to address the overt gender discrimination. However, McIvor and Grismer argued the changes didn’t remedy their situation but instead continued the “existing preference for male Indians and patrilineal descent.”

According to their complaint, McIvor can only pass on partial Indian status to her son, who also married a non-Indian, but no status to her grandchildren. Her brother, on the other hand, can pass on full status to his children as well as his grandchildren.

“The committee notes that Sharon McIvor is treated differently from her own brother under the Indian Act,” the committee said.

In addition, McIvor said she had suffered from the stigma of being a lesser-status Indian, while Grismer said he, too, experienced “isolation and stigmatization” despite spending his life in the territory of his forebears.

In response to the complaint, the federal government said it made changes to the Indian Act in both 2011 and again in 2017 to deal with gender issue _ although not all the 2017 changes are in effect pending consultations with First Nations.

“(Canada) regrets the historical discrimination and other inequities to which Indigenous women and their descendants have been subject,” the committee report cites the government as saying.

McIvor and Grismer countered that Ottawa was wrong to claim a “sub-class” of Indian no longer exists under the act, specifically in Section 6 (1). While the changes have improved the situation, they argued they are still victimized.

“The 1985 act as amended in 2011 still excludes from eligibility for registration status Aboriginal women and their descendants who would be entitled to register if sex discrimination were completely eradicated from the scheme,” they told the committee.

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

The federal government had no immediate comment.

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4 Responses to “Gender discrimination persists in Canada’s Indian Act, United Nations committee rules”

  1. abitawis@hotmail.com'
    A Nishinabe January 18, 2019 at 4:23 pm #

    As First Nation peoples, why are we still playing the colonial Court game of trying to have the Indian Act modified by the Nation State of Canada in order to be “classified” as “Status” Indians? Shouldn’t we be using our precious time and scant resources instead to have this discriminatory assimilationist piece of racist legislation imposed on us simply abolished? The State has no business in determining who we are as First Nation peoples. Canada has committed itself that it would implement the UNDRIP which is very clear in that regard.

    We as, Indigenous peoples, have the exclusive collective right to determine for ourselves who our citizens are. We also have the individual right to belong and be citizens of our respective Indigenous Nation and this, without any discrimination whatsoever.

    Isn’t that where our fight should really be as sovereign Nations?

  2. a*******@hotmail.com'
    A Nishinabe February 19, 2019 at 9:25 pm #

    As First Nation peoples, why are we still playing the colonial Court game of trying to have the Indian Act modified by the Nation State of Canada in order to be “classified” as “Status” Indians? Shouldn’t we be using our precious time and scant resources instead to have this discriminatory assimilationist piece of racist legislation imposed on us simply abolished? The State has no business in determining who we are as First Nation peoples. Canada has committed itself that it would implement the UNDRIP which is very clear in that regard.

    We as, Indigenous peoples, have the exclusive collective right to determine for ourselves who our citizens are. We also have the individual right to belong and be citizens of our respective Indigenous Nation and this, without any discrimination whatsoever.

    Isn’t that where our fight should really be as sovereign Nations?

  3. Jennylacroix9@gmail.com'
    Jenny January 17, 2019 at 11:05 pm #

    Discrimination is still playing a role on reserves for enfranchised people. Although there may be extensive proof of heritage, names were removed or never entered on reserve lists and the Bands refuse to accept these members. Over 1200 people are affected by this and the only solution may be to allow for the creation of new bands.

  4. j************@gmail.com'
    Jenny February 19, 2019 at 9:18 pm #

    Discrimination is still playing a role on reserves for enfranchised people. Although there may be extensive proof of heritage, names were removed or never entered on reserve lists and the Bands refuse to accept these members. Over 1200 people are affected by this and the only solution may be to allow for the creation of new bands.