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

Adopt-A-Thon seeks homes for Langley shelter cats

A local rescue organization is hosting its first big adoption event of 2020

WEATHER: Rain makes a comeback in weekend forecast for Langley

Periods of rain are expected to begin Friday evening

Tumbling for Christy Fraser

Event marks 27th year in Langley

Exploding enrolment prompts opening of second TWU campus in Richmond

Langley’s faith-based Trinity Western University opens a second campus in Richmond

Woman in Fraser Health region confirmed as sixth COVID-19 case in B.C.

Woman remains in isolation as Fraser Health officials investigate

Fashion Fridays: The 8 best quality online stores! Shop the ultimate sales

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Suspect at large after stealing seaplane before crashing into another in Vancouver

Police responded to the incident at 3:30 a.m. on Friday at Vancouver Harbour

Thumbprint, hairbrush: Franklin wreck in Nunavut waters reveals sailors’ lives

In 2019, the Parks Canada team produced extraordinary images of the HMS Terror

Canadians released from coronavirus-ridden cruise ship in Japan fly home

Those who were cleared to travel are to be screened again at Canadian Forces Base Trenton

Trudeau promises update on blockades as Wet’suwet’en chiefs meet Mohawk supporters

B.C. hereditary chiefs are thanking the Mohawks for supporting them in opposition to Coastal GasLink

Woman missing in Metro Vancouver

Police seek public’s help locating Atefeh Jadidian, last seen in Maple Ridge

Petition seeks to remove B.C. police department from case of murdered 24-year-old real estate agent

American woman starts online petition in hopes of helping Buziak family

Study says flu vaccine protected most people during unusual influenza season

Test-negative method was pioneered by the BC Centre for Disease Control in 2004

Saskatchewan and B.C. reach championship round at Scotties

British Columbia’s Corryn Brown locked up the last berth in Pool B

Most Read