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.