“We Won”: Two words that represent the end of a 143-year struggle for the elimination of sex discrimination in Canada’s Indian Act.
The Trudeau government is expected to formally announce this week that it will put the 6(1)a clause into force before the fall federal election, inside sources have told JOURNEY Magazine. The clause, which was added as a part of Bill S-3 (An Act to Amend the Indian Act), if it becomes law, will end the Act’s last vestiges of sex discrimination.
UPDATE: See “Delayed Bill S-3 amendments will be in force before election, says minister’s office.” www.cbc.ca/news/indigenous/bill-s3-indian-act-sex-discrimination-
Maryam Monsef, Member of Parliament for Peterborough-Kawartha and Minister of Women and Gender Equality and Minister of International Development could not be reached for comment at this time.
“We won,” said Lynn Gehl, an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe writer, litigant, and advocate living in Nogojiwanong / Peterborough, Ontario. “At least, I’m hopeful. I will believe it when I see it.”
Gehl has led a 17 Tuesdays campaign to spur the federal government to enact the 6(1)a clause before the end of the current Parliamentary session. Every Tuesday since March, Gehl and community members have demonstrated outside Monsef’s Peterborough. Interestingly, Gehl is also responsible for coining the phrase “6(1)a All the Way” as her way to keep the effort alive.
By fully implementing the 6(1)a clause already contained in the Indian Act, all the sex discrimination against Indian women who married non-Indian men pre-1985 will be removed from the Indian Act.
In December, 2017, Canada proclaimed Bill S-3 into law but left core sex discrimination intact. Initially the Senate intervened, and, as a result, Bill S-3 contained provisions that would eliminate the discrimination. But those provisions were not brought into force — the House of Commons voted for a gutted version of the Bill.
As a result, important clauses, while added to the Indian Act, were not proclaimed as law. Rather, they were “delayed”, with the government initiating a “second stage consultation” process with First Nations across the country to discuss the Indian Act. Many experts did not agree with the need to consult on human rights and felt this call for consultation was a delay tactic.
Until this clause is proclaimed as law, Indian women and their descendants will not enjoy equality with their male counterparts with regard to entitlement to status or transmission of status to their descendants.
In essence, men and their descendants born before 1985 were grandfathered in as 6(1)a status registration, but the women who were reinstated in 1985 were only registered as 6(1)c status, where their descendants born before 1985 were impacted sooner by the second generation cut-off rule. For men, the second generation cut-off rule only applies to births after 1985. (See this link for information on the second generation cut-off rule: https://www.lynngehl.com/black-face-blogging/understanding-61a-all-the-way)
The Collaborative Process on Indian Registration, Band Membership and First Nation Citizenship Consultation Plan – the results of the “second-stage consultation” – was recently presented to Parliament.
It noted: “As a result of the historical loss of status or removal of women and their descendants, there are cultural impacts for those individuals, the families they are connected to, and for the communities. This disconnection meant a loss of language and cultural practices. Participants noted that the need for cultural education, cultural awareness, and activities to reinforce cultural connection should be considered.”
And: “In order to address the concerns raised regarding the removal of the 1951 cut off, First Nations strongly stated that the Government must provide support to address the impacts on five main levels: funding and resources for programs and services such as health, education, housing, child and family services, and infrastructure”.
Lynn Gehl believes federal government supports for First Nations, as recommended in the consultation report, will be important to allow them adapt to any changes the 6(1)a clause may bring.
“The main issue is that First Nations need the resources such as health care, education, housing, cultural infrastructure, and land to bring the descendants of Indigenous women home,” she said.
By Melodie McCullough