The Indian Act’s contribution to murdered and missing Indigenous women

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The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is a National Indigenous Organization representing the political voice of Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people in Canada.

In early June, the final report of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry was finally released.

The report determined that the disproportionate level of violence against Indigenous women was genocide that originated from Canada’s colonial ideologies and policies including the Indian Act. It continued that “targeting victims in a gender-oriented manner” destroyed Indigenous communities and left lasting scars.

According to UBC’s Indigenous Foundations website, when the Europeans arrived in North America, they brought with them patriarchal beliefs about the role and importance of women. Europeans believed in universal male dominance. Settler women had few individual rights, were ruled by their husbands and treated as their property.

European patriarchy was imposed on First Nations through the Indian Act, which discriminated against Indigenous women in several ways. First, the Indian Act ruled that to qualify as an Indian, you had to be an Indian male, be the child of an Indian male, or be married to an Indian male.

Whether a woman was an Indian depended on her relationship with a man. Should she marry a non-Indian man, she lost her Indian status. The act’s sexual double-standard was brash for not only did an Indian man marrying a non-native woman keep all his rights, his wife gained Indian status.

What’s more, the Indian Act did not allow Indian women to possess land or martial property. If an Indian woman’s husband passed away or they separated, she and her children could not stay in the family home and left with nothing.

Although Canada was forced by lawsuits and the Charter to amend the legalized gender discrimination of Indigenous women through Bill C-31, inequality still exists in that the generational offspring of an Indian woman that married a non-native man will eventually become ineligible for Indian status.

Another way the Indian Act discriminated against Indigenous women was by excluding them from governance. Traditionally, Indigenous women participated in governance as advisors or decision makers.

The colonial racialization and sexualization of Indigenous women resulted in stereotypes that made violence against them acceptable.

Based on the European patriarchal belief that women were not fit for politics, the Indian Act implemented a male-only elective system. Indian women were not allowed to vote in band elections or hold political office. MORE

Never forget: Yes, there was a genocide. Why don’t we correct the wrong now?

Photo: Justin Trudeau/Twitter

…Today, Canada has a choice. It can continue to look away and praise itself as one of the best places in the world and quietly put the report on the shelf like it has in the past for all the previous reports (the Royal commission on Aboriginal peoples, and the public commission of inquiry into missing women in B.C. in 2012).

Or, it can decide to be courageous and brave and start decolonizing its institutions starting from stopping the abusive and racial profiling practices used by some local police forces, to overcoming the general apathy and complacency of the RCMP, to repealing the mother of all evil, the Indian Act.

Like any radical change, this decolonization process wouldn’t be easy or popular to adopt. Already, most of the major newspapers in Canada are, since the release of the report, aligning with editorial after editorial and opinion after opinion against the word “genocide” used in the report. Many have been acting offended and choosing to focus on the word genocide, while all the crucial issues discussed in the report have seemed already to be once again forgotten.  SOURCE

RELATED:

‘The world should have stopped’: An Indigenous woman responds to Canada’s admission of genocide

Elizabeth May’s Greens Need to Fix Their Indigenous ‘Vision’

Party’s positions are thin, unrealistic and riddled with embarrassing errors.

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Green Party leader MP Elizabeth May joined Will George of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation and others protesting the Kinder Morgan Pipeline last year in Burnaby. But her party’s stance on Indigenous issues badly needs work. Photo: Michael Wheatley/Alamy Live News

The Green Party by-election victory in Nanaimo on May 6th could be called a breakthrough — it is only their second federal electoral victory, and coming days after the near election of a Green provincial government in Prince Edward Island, it shows that increasingly many Canadians are seeing the Greens as a valid alternative. Among those looking seriously at the Green Party for the first time are Indigenous people — who after a litany of disappointments by the Trudeau government, are looking for a new home for their votes.

Rumours are circulating that former Liberal justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould is considering a run with the Greens in the next election. Before being expelled from the Liberal caucus, Wilson-Raybould was at the heart of that party’s reconciliation agenda. The legitimacy she and other Indigenous candidates brought, together with Liberal promises to Indigenous people, and outreach efforts resulted in the largest Native vote in Canadian history.

Wilson-Raybould’s appearance at Green Party leader Elizabeth May’s wedding on April 22nd may be a sign that she is getting ready to do for May in 2019 what she did for Trudeau in 2015.

However, it will take much more than the mere presence of Wilson-Raybould to make the Green Party an appealing place for Indigenous voters, because while some Native people are considering voting Green, it’s clear from their platform that the Green Party has given next to no consideration to Native people or our issues.

Among those policies is a promise aboriginal to “set a date for the Repeal of the Indian Act, ideally in less than 10 years, to allow all nations and interested parties to prepare.”

No one likes the Indian Act, but asking First Nations governments to prepare policy and bureaucracy to do the job of every single part of it in less than 10 years is asking for the impossible. Such an imposition would, in an instant, require 600-plus bands with populations ranging from a few dozen to a few thousand to create inheritance policy, land codes, taxation regimes, membership codes, human rights regulation, conflict resolution policies, election codes, public housing authorities, education authorities, child welfare authorities, fish and game regulation, agricultural regulation, and on and on and on. MORE

 

Gender discrimination and the Indian Act

 

The Indian Act (1876-to Present) is the piece of legislation that not only defines the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the Settler Canadian government but also serves to regulate the membership of indigenous communities and access to reserve lands and services by dividing indigenous people into status and non status Indians.  The Act, which was designed with the twin goals of controlling and assimilating Indigenous peoples into the Canadian body politic, did so by slowly bleeding indigenous communities of women and their children. This was done in part by imposing patriarchal understandings of family and inheritance on indigenous societies and sidelining traditional governing structures in favour of Bands and Band Councils (which banned women’s participation until 1951 when the Indian Act was amended).

 

How The Government Decided Who and Who Was Not An ‘Indian’

To qualify as a ‘Status Indian’ under the act you needed to be a man who was believed to have indigenous lineage and belong to a Band, the child of a ‘Status Indian’ or married to a ‘Status Indian’.  Under the Indian Act women became entirely dependent of their fathers and husbands for their Status as well as their band membership and made heterosexuality mandatory. If a woman married a man who had ‘Status’ and was a member of a different band she and her decedents would then become members of the husband’s band. If a woman married a ‘Non Status’ indigenous man or a non-indigenous man she and all of her decedents lost their ‘Status’ in perpetuity. A startling number of women and their children were struck off the register and were denied access to their communities and their cultures through these provisions of the Act.  Later amendments saw women who had married men belonging to different bands being forcibly enfranchised if they were widowed or abandoned by their spouse. As a woman’s status was intrinsically tied to her husband’s status a severing of that relationship left women without access to their adopted bands and reserves and without the legal standing to rejoin their birth community.  SOURCE

Ending sex discrimination in the Indian Act through ‘6(1)a All the Way’
First Nation Women Leaders & Advocates Call for End to Sex Discrimination

What Justin Trudeau doesn’t understand about Indigenous-government relations

OPINION: By offering Jody Wilson-Raybould the position of Minister of Indigenous Services, the prime minister signalled that he still has a lot to learn about reconciliation, writes Charnel Anderson

Jody Wilson-Rabould

Former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould serves as an MP for the riding of Vancouver Granville. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

One of the federal Liberal government’s stated priorities is to renew the relationship between Indigenous peoples and Canada. It’s among the most important relationships to this country, according to Justin Trudeau — but recent events involving Jody Wilson-Raybould call into question the prime minister’s commitment to reconciliation.

Last Wednesday, during his testimony to the justice committee about the SNC-Lavalin affair, the prime minister’s former top aide, Gerald Butts, revealed that, in January, Trudeau had asked Wilson-Raybould — then the attorney general — to lead Indigenous Services Canada. The offer was more than a political faux pas: it demonstrated an unmistakable ignorance about the government’s relationship with Indigenous peoples. It was an offer she could, and did, refuse.

Wilson-Raybould, a member of We Wai Kai Nation, in British Columbia, hasn’t been shy about her opposition to the Indian Act, which she would have been tasked with administering had she taken up Trudeau’s offer. In 2016, she said that “the Indian Act is not a suitable system of government; it is not consistent with the rights enshrined in our constitution, the principles set out in [the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples], or calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”

On the face of it, Trudeau’s desire to appoint an Indigenous person to lead ISC may seem fitting — who better to administer the government’s Indigenous portfolio than an Indigenous person who is aware of the cultures and values of Indigenous peoples in Canada? But even a cursory look at relations between this country and Indigenous communities over the past 150 years reveals why this interpretation is misguided.

Truth comes before reconciliation.

It’s worth reminding readers that the Indian Act, first passed in 1876, was designed to assimilate Indigenous peoples.

This is what Sir John A. Macdonald — who, for nearly 10 years, beginning in 1878, was the Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs (the 19th-century equivalent of Minister of Indigenous Services) — had to say about the Indian Act: “The great aim of our legislation has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the other inhabitants of the Dominion as speedily as they are fit to change.”

The Canadian government has historically tried to wipe out Indigenous people’s cultures: that is the basis of Indigenous-government relations; it’s also the reason why more than one Indigenous person has told me that they’re vehemently opposed to working in the public sector.  MORE

21 Things You May Not Have Known About The Indian Act

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Since its creation in 1876, the Indian Act has shaped, controlled, and constrained the lives and opportunities of Indigenous Peoples, and is at the root of many enduring stereotypes. Bob Joseph’s book comes at a key time in the reconciliation process, when awareness from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities is at a crescendo. Joseph explains how Indigenous Peoples can step out from under the Indian Act and return to self-government, self-determination, and self-reliance and why doing so would result in a better country for every Canadian.

“The great aim of our legislation has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the other inhabitants of the Dominion as speedily as they are fit to change.” – John A Macdonald, 1887

The Indian Act has been a lightning rod for criticism and controversy over the years, widely attacked by First Nations people and communities for its regressive and paternalistic excesses.

Here are some of the restrictions and impacts imposed on First Nations (some have since been removed in revisions of the Act).

The Indian Act:

    1. denied women status;
    2. introduced residential schools;
    3. created reserves;

MORE

First Nations in Canada Are Demanding Property Rights

Changing or abolishing the Indian Act in order to allow private land ownership may seem like a logical solution, but it’s not without its criticisms.


A boy plays on a broken-down RV on the Cote First Nation, near the town of Kamsack, Saskatchewan. Zachary Prong/Reuters

Currently, in southern Manitoba’s Sandy Bay First Nation—a place where winter temperatures often dip below -40 F—people are living in rat-infested homes without heat or reliable electricityRampant mold in northern Ontario’s Cat Lake First Nation is seriously damaging people’s health. In Attawapiskat, some people live in uninsulated sheds. Neskantaga First Nation has had a boil-water advisory for 25 years. In Nunavut, tuberculosis infection rates among Inuit are 26 times the national average due to overcrowded housing. Most people can’t afford to do better; 80 percent of reserves have median incomes below Canada’s poverty line.

Not all Indigenous people in Canada live on reserves; many have separate land treaties and settlement agreements, while others have yet to reclaim their land. Still, housing shortages are a common problem across most First Nations, Métis, and Inuit territories. This article speaks mainly about First Nations reserves.

Changing, or abolishing, the Indian Act in order to allow land ownership may seem like a logical solution for much of the First Nations housing crisis—but it’s not without its criticisms, either.

Many Indigenous people believe that private ownership brings with it a looming threat of foreclosure, which could ultimately chip away at Indigenous territories and rights. It could also disrupt the communal spirit of many communities. MORE