Liberals Eliminate Sex Discrimination in Indian Act

UPDATE: Canada’s federal government has brought the outstanding provisions of Bill S-3 into force, as of Aug. 15, 2019. This means the long standing sex discrimination in the Indian Act is finally resolved.

By Dr. Lynn Gehl

On August 1, 2019 Melodie McCullough, editor of Journey Magazine contacted the Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs office inquiring about the Liberal Government’s commitment to issuing an order-in-council that will bring the “6(1)a All the Way” clauses into law and end all the sex discrimination in the Indian Act once and for all. 

Peterborough Support 6(1)a All the Way Photo Credit Nik K Gehl 2019

June 18, 2019, Peterborough residents support Lynn Gehl’s call for “6(1)a all the Way!” outside MP, and Minister of Women and Gender Equality, Maryam Monsef’s constituency office. Photo credit N. Gehl.

As a reminder, these clauses will eliminate all the pre-1951 sex discrimination where the descendants of re-instated Indian women born before 1985 are registered in a lesser status category than the descendants of Indian men born before 1985. In some cases, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren may even be excluded from Indian registration. This is the result of the 6(1)c category Canada created in 1985 when re-instated women were excluded from the stronger 6(1)a category that their brothers, uncles, and fathers were assigned. 

Journey Magazine received this response from Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs:

“Gender equality is a fundamental human right and Bill S-3 eliminates sex-based discrimination from the Indian Act. Provisions dating back to the creation of the modern registry in 1951 are already in force and those related to inequities prior to 1951 were delayed to allow for consultations on an implementation plan.”

“With the Ministerial Special Representative’s consultations concluded and her report tabled in Parliament, we now know what our partners need in a successful implementation plan. Our Government will bring the remaining provisions of Bill S-3, which removes the 1951 cut-off in line with the January 2019 decision of the United Nations Human Rights Committee in the McIvor case, into force within the current mandate.” 

Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs also directed Journey Magazine to read this public dialogue in Parliament that took place in the House of Commons on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 between Robert Falcon Ouellette and Carolyn Bennett that confirms the commitment: 

Mr. Robert Falcon Ouellette (Winnipeg Centre, Lib.): “In 2017, Bill S-3 was finally passed with a delay concerning the 1951 cut-off criteria. The government said it needed time to consult on an implementation plan. The minister’s special representative has completed her consultations and report, which was just tabled in Parliament. Indigenous women and their descendants want to know. When will they finally have their human rights restored?” 

Hon. Carolyn Bennett (Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Lib.): “Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre for his ongoing advocacy on this. Gender equality is a fundamental human right, and Bill S-3 does eliminate the sex-based discrimination from the Indian Act. With the ministerial special representative’s consultations concluded and her report tabled, we now know what our partners need in a successful implementation plan. Work on that implementation plan is well under way, and I can confirm that we will be bringing these provisions into force within the current mandate.”

Here is the link to the Hansard record of this House of Commons debate: 

https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/house/sitting-436/hansard 

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