The Indian Act was created to assimilate Indigenous peoples and their communities. Over the years, its amendments have been complex and purposefully confusing, enforcing sex-based inequities. In December 2017, Bill S-3 was passed with the purpose of fixing sex-based discrimination registration provisions within the Indian Act. Known problems within the Indian Act were fixed but several discriminatory issues remain unaddressed. Discrimination of women remains present in hierarchy of status between men and women, unstated parentage, band membership issues and situations relating to sperm donors, surrogacy and fertility treatment. Equal rights of men and women are guaranteed under section 35 of the Constitutional Act, 1982 and recognized under article 44 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) yet the Indian Act provides different circumstances and conditions for Indigenous men and women.
The federal government has completed a collaborative consultation process with Indigenous peoples to address the known sex-based inequities and broader issues of discrimination in Indian registration 1 as required by Bill S-3.2
On June 12, 2019, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, tabled her report on the government’s consultations under Bill S-3 to Parliament. While the Minster’s Special Representative’s final report, annexed to the Minster’s report, called for the immediate coming into force of the provisions of Bill S-3 that would remove the 1951 Cut-off, the “Next Steps” of the Minister’s report stated only that the government would develop an implementation plan for the removal of the 1951 Cut-off.3