Debates of the Senate  
2nd Session, 40th Parliament,Volume 146, Issue 49.
  Monday, June 22, 2009
 
National Aboriginal Day and Sharon McIvor
Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, National Aboriginal Day was celebrated on June 21, a day to honour the distinct cultures and significant achievements of First Nation, Inuit and Metis peoples of Canada. Today, I congratulate Sharon McIvor, who has been trying to correct discrimination against First Nations women and their children, still embedded in the 1985 Bill C-31 amendments to the Indian Act. Ms. McIvor has been trying to gain status under the Indian Act for her grandson.

The recent ruling of the B.C. Court of Appeal has verified that discrimination against women in the Indian Act with respect to status continues to exist. The Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs has stated that legislation will be drafted over the next 10 months to rectify this situation.

The ruling also struck down sections 6(1)(a) and 6(1)(c) of the Indian Act, and this has dire implications. Due to this ruling, Chief Wallace Fox of the Onion Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan, estimates that 80 per cent of the members of their First Nation will lose their status as registered Indians.

Over the next 10 months, we must be vigilant to create gender equity with respect to status but not by taking away status from those who were on the Indian registry prior to enactment of Bill C-31 in 1985.

Honourable senators, we are talking about the living reality of our families. The Indian Act has contributed to the breakdown of First Nations families. For example, until 1985, an Indian woman marrying a non-Indian man had to leave her home on the reserve. As a non-Indian, she could no longer live on the reserve. In other words, she had no choice. In today's world, we all believe in choices. Choices should not be denied to someone simply because they are a woman. These women, their children, their grandchildren and so on were separated from their relatives who continued to live on the reserve.

Can you imagine, honourable senators, that if you married someone who was not a Canadian, you would lose your citizenship, be asked to leave your home, and be asked to leave your nation? In essence, this is what the Indian Act did to Indian women.

Honourable senators, Ms. McIvor is appealing the recent court decision, and I commend her strong commitment, determination and steadfast spirit in fighting for gender equity in Indian status.

Thank you. Meegwetch.