Final provisions of legislation to remove gender-based discrimination from the Indian Act, prior to the creation of the modern Indian registry in 1951, were brought into force on August 15 through Bill S-3. Starting August 15th 2019, “All descendants born prior to April 17, 1985 to women who lost Indian status or were removed from band lists because of their marriage to a man without status dating back to 1869 will be entitled to registration, bringing them in line with the descendants of men who never lost status.” Prior to this, women who had Indian status that married non-Indigenous men lost their status and their children were also denied status. This caused major divisions among families, communities and Nations as women became disconnected from their culture and communities. Gaining status would allow individuals access to various federal services and benefits including funding for post-secondary education, treaty payments and Non-Insured Health Benefits.
This major milestone is a result of decades of advocacy and lobbying of Indigenous organizations like the Native Women’s Association of Canada, and Indigenous women and communities. One such woman is Sharon McIvor who, in 2010, who filed a complaint with the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations over gender-based discrimination within the Indian Act. About the milestone, McIvor says she is ‘extremely pleased’. Pam Palmater, Mi’kmaq lawyer and chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University, said the work of women like McIvor, “Will mean a big difference for thousands of First Nations children.”