Indian status could be extended to hundreds of thousands as Bill S-3 provisions come into force

Removal of 1951 cut-off was delayed for more than a year for consultations


Sharon McIvor speaks at a news conference in Vancouver in 2015. She and her son Jacob Grismer filed a petition to the UN Human Rights Committee in November 2010 over sex discrimination in the Indian Act. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

The federal government extended eligibility for Indian status to potentially hundreds of thousands of people Thursday by bringing into force the final provisions of legislation aimed at removing sex discrimination from the Indian Act.

Bill S-3 received royal assent over a year ago. However, some of its provisions aimed at eliminating all remaining sex-based discrimination before the creation of the modern Indian registry in 1951 were delayed coming into force to allow for a consultation process with First Nations.

The delay had been criticized by many women, including Sharon McIvor, who had made a complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 2010 over remaining sex discrimination in the Indian Act.

The committee’s decision in January said Canada was obligated to remove the discrimination and to ensure that all First Nations women and their descendants were granted Indian status on the same footing as First Nations men and their descendants.

“It just left me speechless,” said McIvor of the news that the provisions were now in force.

“I’m extremely pleased and I’m extremely pleased for all the people.”

McIvor said she was worried the government wouldn’t follow up on its promise to eliminate the remaining sex inequalities in the Indian Act because a report, filed in May, recommended the government move on the issue by June. MORE

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Women leaders rip Ottawa for not ending Indian Act discrimination

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Women leaders were in Ottawa Tuesday demanding an end to sex discrimination in the Indian Act.

It was supposed to have been taken care of in a bill passed last year called S-3.

But there is still unfinished business because a compromise between the house and senate to pass S-3 is still unresolved.

“Canada is an outlaw,” says Pam Palmater. “It’s an outlaw with regards to failing to uphold the basic human rights of equality for Indian men and women.”

Palmater was one of several leaders asking for an order in council – a vote in the federal cabinet that is approved by the Governor General.

Sharon McIvor says it would immediately make S-3 complete.

“Any given Tuesday the cabinet can make us legally equal to our male counterparts.”

Bill S-3 was supposed to do away with any lingering discrimination faced by women passing on status to their children after they marry non-Indigenous men.

The House of Commons wanted to keep a cut-off date of 1951 meaning those born before would still face trouble passing on status.

“The fact that we’re all here fighting for this makes absolutely no sense when we have a government that says there’s no relationship more important than the one with Indigenous peoples,” Palmater said.

“Unless they meant only Indigenous men.” MORE