(Lheidli T’enneh Territory, Prince George, BC – August 22, 2019) – The BC Assembly of First Nations released the following statements regarding the implementation of Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Indian Act in response to the Superior Court of Quebec decision in Descheneaux v. Canada, and the removal of discrimination against First Nations women from the Indian Act:
For far too long First Nation women have known what fear looks like, what discrimination and racism looks like, what oppression looks like. With the end of the sex-based discrimination through the Indian Act and the implementation of Bill S-3 First Nation women will know what “hope” looks like, and we can now take our rightful place in our communities and Nations – Dr. Gwendolyn Point, BCAFN Elder Representative.
I am extremely pleased that the final provisions of Bill S-3 have now been brought into force, finally ending discrimination against First Nations women from the Indian Act. First Nations societies will now continue to grow and rebuild without these opposing external laws that have been forced upon First Nations women and communities. The long history of discrimination against Indigenous women in Canada contributed toward the assimilation of our people and destabilized our communities through diminishing membership rolls; and impaired the maintenance and protection of the legal status of our present and future citizens. We celebrate and raise our hands in gratitude to the many people who worked diligently to make this significant change – Regional Chief Terry Teegee.
The discrimination against First Nations women and their descendants through an imposed sex-based hierarchy was first introduced by the 1985 Indian Act in section 6(1)(a) and section 6(1)(c) and has, before now, been continued and left unchallenged by the amendments of 2011 and 2017. On January 11, 2019, the UN Human Rights Committee released its decision on a petition filed by Sharon McIvor and Jacob Grismer. The UN Committee ruled that Canada was actively discriminating against First Nations women and their descendants by refusing to grant full 6(1)(a) status, on the same terms as First Nations men and their descendants. The committee called on Canada to ensure that section 6(1)(a) of the 1985 Indian Act be amended to allow the registration of all persons who were previously not entitled to be registered under section.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples further affirms the Government of Canada’s obligation to take meaningful action to address this issue:
(1): Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture;(2): States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of and redress for:
a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;
b) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or of their cultural values or ethnic identities;
c) Any form of forced population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining any of their rights;
d) Any form of forced assimilation or integration;
e) Any form of propaganda designed to promote or incite racial or ethnical discrimination directed against them.
For more information contact: Annette Schroeter, Communications Officer, BCAFN, (250) 962-1603.