Liberal Party amendments would ensure full equality for First Nations women

April 29, 2010

OTTAWA – The Liberal Party was successful in passing an amendment to Bill C-3 at a committee this week that will ensure that Parliament, once and for all, eradicates gender discrimination under the Indian Act’s provisions concerning entitlement to status.

The amendment passed at the Aboriginal Affairs Committee, despite Conservative members voting against it – showing once again the Harper government’s penchant for treating Canada’s First Nations women as second-class citizens, Liberal MPs said today.

”The Harper government has denied all attempts to eradicate this gender discrimination – just as they have spent four years ignoring pleas for a full investigation into the hundreds of murdered or missing Aboriginal women and girls,” said Liberal Aboriginal Affairs Critic Todd Russell. “Clearly, they don’t view First Nations women as worthy of their attention.

“Our amendment guarantees gender equity in the Indian Act by ensuring that no descendent of a status woman is relegated to lesser status, or no status whatsoever. We are calling on the government to support this when it comes to a full vote in the House.”

The Liberal amendment to Bill C-3 addresses the long-standing injustice that has denied some direct descendants of First Nations women the entitlement to full status under the Indian Act. Direct descendants of status men born before April 17, 1985, have always had full entitlement to status, but the descendents of status women who married non-status men, and those that were born out of wedlock, are discriminated against simply because they descend from a woman.

Bill C-3 responds to a court ruling in the 25-year fight by Sharon McIvor against the government of Canada, but does the bare minimum required. The grandchildren of status women who married non-status men, born between September 4, 1951 and April 17, 1985, would gain status under the legislation, but other gender discrimination would remain.

“The Harper government has refused to eliminate all residual discrimination, first by appealing the initial Court ruling in the McIvor case, then by shutting down debate in the House on a motion that would have expanded the scope of Bill C-3, and finally by voting against our proposed amendment in committee,” said Liberal Status of Women Critic Anita Neville.

“They have gone to great lengths to write this bill in the narrowest possible terms. The way it is now, some descendants of status women would become more equal than others. If they do not support our amendment, it means continued gender discrimination for First Nations women.”

The Liberal amendment to Bill C-3 responds to unanimous testimony at the Committee, which called on Parliament to amend the bill to remove all residual gender discrimination.

“The Conservative government must respect the voices of witnesses, including Sharon McIvor and national and regional Aboriginal organizations like the Assembly of First Nations and Native Women’s Association of Canada, and stop its denial of gender equality,” said Mr. Russell.