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

Hockey 4: Simply for the love of hockey

No scores kept, no MVPs named — in Hope they just play for fun

Update: Southbound Coquihalla single lane re-opens after semi flips

The Merritt to Hope southbound stretch closed after accident around 9 a.m. on long weekend Friday

PHOTOS: At least 17 trees found damaged in East Sector park

The Fraser Valley Regional District is investigating the incident

Hope Film Club to screen Scorcese classic Goodfellas

Film is ‘breathless and brilliant’ and celebrating its 30th anniversary

Highway 1 crash in Langley slows westbound commuters

Crash occurred between 232nd Street and Glover Road

VIDEO: Ottawa wants quick, peaceful resolution to pipeline protests, Trudeau says

The protests have manifested themselves as blockades on different rail lines across the country

Woman charged after alleged fuel thefts, ramming of RCMP car in B.C. Interior

Suspect wanted for crimes allegedly committed in Kelowna, Salmon Arm and 100 Mile House

No dramatic shifts expected as B.C. government tables new budget today

Finance Minister Carole James has promised to stay the course when she tables the budget in the legislature

Surrey RCMP recover $80,000 worth of stolen bikes, weapons

Police found the property after executing two search warrants in Newton

AFN national chief calls for calm on Wet’suwet’en crisis, rail blockades

Hereditary chiefs in the Wet’suwet’en First Nation oppose the natural-gas pipeline

Federal, B.C. ministers seek meeting with Wet’suwet’en in hope of blockade solution

Coastal GasLink signed agreements with all 20 elected band councils along the pipeline route

Flight to evacuate Canadians from cruise ship ‘expected’ to depart Japan on Thursday

Canadians seeking to return to home by commercial means will be subject to the Quarantine Act

VIDEO: Giants win 10th straight on home ice in Langley

Family Day was about spending time with the fans and dazzling them with a 3-2 victory over Seattle

Most Read