To say that more than a few people were pissed at the attempts of Conservative MPs and senators to address sex discrimination in determining Indian Status through Bill C-3 would be minimizing the problem.
Many are saying C-3 doesn’t fix the problem at all but legalizes it much in the same way the Supreme Court did in 1973. Back then the judges in all their legal wisdom determined there was equality under the law as it discriminated against all Indian women equally. A Status Indian under the Indian Act is “a male Indian, the wife of a male Indian or the child of a male Indian.”
During this time Indian women who married non-Natives had their status taken away and could not pass it on to their children, while Indian men who married “out” or “in” gave their status and band membership to their wives and children and thus to their grandchildren.
The battle for equality moved to the international arena when Sandra Lovelace said Canada violated the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The UN Human Rights Committee agreed with her and said the status provisions deprived women and their children of the fundamental right to enjoy culture in their communities.
Canada, considering its new charter rights under Brian Mulroney, responded with Bill C-31. Of course, Bill C-31 was supposed to fix the gender inequality, but instead continued it by regulating women into 6-1c class while allowing men to have full status with 6-1a class. The newly reinstated Indian had a diminished status.
One would think that another Conservative government having had some experience in this field would be prepared to fix the problem once and for all. This, however, is not the case as C-3 continues to give a preference to men passing on their status.
The estimated 45,000 descendents of Aboriginal women who will be now eligible still will not have equal registration status. The second-generation cutoff will apply to the new status Indians a generation earlier than it applies to descendents of Indian men. Children of women born prior to September 1951 will continue to be denied status while those of a Native man will have status.
Now women from Wendake, Quebec, are on a 500-kilometre march to support the complete removal of sex discrimination from the registration provisions of the Indian Act. So far, they have the support of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, the Assembly of First Nations, the Fédération des Femmes du Québec, and Amnesty International (section canadienne-francophone).
Even the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) is getting into the act. They have stated, “That while Bill C-3: Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act may be well intentioned, it falls short of the mark in addressing sex discrimination.”
To address the underlying problem, the CBA recommends that Parliament take the opportunity to fully eradicate gender inequality in the registration provision of the Indian Act, rather than simply follow the letter of the law outlined in the B.C. Court of Appeal decision.
On March 11, 2010, the Canadian government introduced Bill C-3: Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act to directly address the requirements of the B.C. Court of Appeal decision. They have been granted two extensions concerning C-3. The first extended deadline was July 5 and the latest extension is January 31, 2011.
Unfortunately we’ll probably see another extension as politicians of all parties and Aboriginal leaders and wannabe leaders duke it out, while 45,000 people sit by the sidelines wondering if they’ll ever see status in their lifetime.