Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, addresses a crowd gathered for an agreement-in-principle signing on Sunday, July 22, 2018. (Beth Audet/Black Press Media)

First Nations women finally to be treated equally under Indian Act: Bennett

Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action thanked the feds

First Nations women will finally be treated the same as men under the Indian Act, enabling them to obtain the same status and category of membership as their male counterparts and their descendants, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett said Friday.

Past provisions within the long-controversial Indian Act meant women lost their status when they married non-Indigenous men, while men who married non-Indigenous women kept their status, Bennett said.

But with the remaining provisions of the legislation known as S-3 coming into force, descendants born before April 17, 1985, who lost their status or were removed from band lists due to marriages to non-Indian men dating back to 1869 can now be registered as First Nations members.

When a modern registry was created in 1951, registries from individual Indian Act bands were merely folded into the modern registry so the women who lost their status were not contained within it, Bennett said.

“What we are saying now is that … there will be now gender equality for all of the women even before the registry was created and their descendants,” Bennett said in an interview.

On Friday, the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action thanked Bennett for “finally removing the sex discrimination in the Indian Act.”

On Twitter, the group said the move amounts to a “great first step” towards implementing the recommendations from the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and it is looking forward to working on a national action plan to respond to the inquiry’s calls to action.

ALSO READ: Memories of trauma, assault and resilience shared at MMIWG inquiry in B.C.

Registration in the Indian Act affords First Nations individuals federal benefits and services, including access to post-secondary education funding and non-insured health benefits. Parliament passed it in 1876, giving the federal government enormous power over the control of registered First Nations people, bands and the reserve system.

Critics have long complained that since its inception, it has treated women unfairly, particularly when it comes to the ability of women to pass on their status to their descendants.

Advocates have been fighting to address sex discrimination in the Indian Act for a very long time, Bennett said Friday, adding they will finally be able to see their persistence has paid off and the government is righting a historical wrong.

“We now have an obligation to these people in their section 35 rights and that we need to be able to make sure they’re able to exercise their rights in a timely manner and that that money will be made available as they register,” she said without specifying an expected dollar figure.

S-3 was in response to a Quebec Superior Court decision that ruled certain sections of the Indian Act related to registration status violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

ALSO READ: Billboard posted along B.C.’s Highway of Tears to remember missing and murdered Indigenous women

The case was brought by Stephane Descheneaux of the Abenaki community of Odanak, about 40 kilometres northwest of Drummondville, Que.

Descheneaux was unable to pass on his Indian status to his three daughters because he got it through his Indigenous grandmother, who lost her status when she married a non-Indigenous man.

Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Construction snafu delays Arrow Lakes hospital renos

Arrow Lakes Hospital rebuild now expected to be finished this spring

New ‘hub’ model takes regional approach to doctor recruitment in West Kootenay

Kootenay-Boundary a provincial leader in effectively attracting doctors to work here

Nakusp taking part in project to reduce wildfire risks

Trust provides over $1 million to protect communities

Permitting process pushes back completion for Slocan fibre-optic line

Work may not be done until summer 2021, more than a year after initial completion date

New ‘hub’ model takes regional approach to doctor recruitment in West Kootenay

Kootenay-Boundary a provincial leader in effectively attracting doctors to work here

HIGHLIGHTS: Day one and two at the 2020 BC Winter Games

Athletes had sunny – but cold – weather to work with in Fort St. John

Governor general says multiple solutions needed for ‘complicated’ overdose issue

Julie Payette met at a fire hall with firefighters and police officers as well as politicians and health experts

Landlord ordered to pay $11K after harassing B.C. mom to move days after giving birth

Germaine Valdez was pressured to move just a few days after giving birth by C-section to her child

Heart attacks strike B.C. husband and wife just over one year apart

Courtenay couple share personal stories to bring awareness to heart month

‘Nothing surprises us anymore:’ U.S. border officials find brain in package

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents found the brain packed in a glass mason jar in a Canada Post shipment

Adapting to love along the Columbia River

One man starts a GoFundme to help his partner with health costs caused on the trip where they met

B.C., Ottawa sign sweeping 30-year deal for northern caribou habitat

West Moberly, Saulteau co-manage new protection on two million acres

Eyes on police after Trudeau orders blockades torn down, injunctions enforced

The RCMP in B.C. have sent a letter to the traditional leaders of the Wet’suwet’en Nation

B.C. massage therapist suspended following allegations of sexual misconduct

While suspended, Leonard Krekic is not entitled to practice as an RMT in B.C.

Most Read