“If Truth and Reconciliation mean anything to the Prime Minister, and if he is truly the feminist he professes to be, it is time to end the discrimination against First Nations women in Canada." — Elisabeth Ballermann, NUPGE Secretary-Treasurer
Ottawa (01 Nov. 2017) — In 1876, the Indian Act was passed and accorded privileged forms of First Nations status to First Nations men and their descendants compared to First Nations women and their children. In essence, for the past 141 years, First Nations men have been able to transmit their status to their children and wife, even if the wife was non-First Nations. First Nations women, on the other hand, lost their status if they married a non-First Nations male, and therefore their children were not entitled to status. The act also denied status or gave lesser status to the children of First Nations women who could or would not name the father because of rape, incest, father’s denial of paternity or other reasons. Note: While the Indian Act specifically uses the terms Indian and non-Indian, we have chosen to use more current and respectful language.
Federal government given chance to remove discrimination from Indian Act but hasn't taken it
Although there have been amendments throughout the years to the Indian Act (mostly due to court challenges), this discrimination against First Nations women has remained within the act. In 2016, the Liberal government introduced Bill S-3, An act to amend the Indian Act (elimination of sex-based inequities in registration). The bill was introduced to the Senate in October 2016. After reviewing the legislation, the Senate, in June 2017, found that Bill S-3 still contained discrimination against First Nations women. Senators voted unanimously to make a change to the bill which has been dubbed the “6.(1)(a) all the way” amendment.
The Liberal government has not accepted the Senate’s change and has sent the bill back to the Senate for further debate.
FAFIA encourages supporters — Indigenous and non-Indigenous — to push Liberal government to adopt changes
The Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA) has joined with Indigenous Senators and several individuals that have filed cases against the Indian Act to put pressure on the Prime Minister to accept the Senate amendment. One of the women supporting the change is Sharon McIvor, who was the plaintiff in McIvor v. Canada, which resulted in the 2009 British Columbia Court of Appeal ruling that won status, or improved status, for about 35,000 previously excluded First Nations women and their descendants. FAFIA and supporters are asking for the support of their non-Indigenous sisters and allies, as well as their Indigenous brothers and communities.
Here’s what they are asking people to do:
- Sign on to this letter addressed to the Prime Minister of Canada asking him to remove the sex discrimination from the Indian Act now; to sign on send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, if you are signing as an individual, or the name of your organization, and/or the name of all the individuals at your organization that would like to sign on. Please send your sign on by November 7. A list will be kept and posted to the FAFIA website.
- Contact your Member of Parliament directly, and ask him or her to support removal of the sex discrimination from the Indian Act now. Go to this website to find your MP’s contact information and follow this link for a sample email to send to your Member of Parliament.
- Contact Senators from your province or territory and ask them to hold firm on their support for the '6(1)(a) all the way' amendment. Go to this website to find Senators' contact information and follow this link for a sample email to send to Senators from your province or territory.
- Share this email with your membership lists and with your friends and allies. Ask them to sign on and call or write to their MPs and Senators.
“If Truth and Reconciliation mean anything to the Prime Minister, and if he is truly the feminist he professes to be, it is time to end the discrimination against First Nations women in Canada. After over 140 years, it is time to amend the Indian Act so that First Nations women and their descendants have the same status as First Nations men and their descendants. After all it is 2017,” states Elisabeth Ballermann, Secretary-Treasurer of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE).
“We are encouraging our members and all Canadians, to sign onto the letter to the Prime Minister to ensure that sex discrimination is ended in the Indian Act immediately,” Ballermann stressed.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. — NUPGE