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Can you imagine being only “half” Canadian? Imagine your father is Canadian, but your mother had emigrated from another country. Upon birth, you are assigned half of a Canadian citizenship. Your children’s potential Canadian citizenship hangs in the balance, dependent entirely on the person with whom you choose to parent.
Does this even make sense?
Would you be surprised to learn that Indigenous peoples in Canada have faced similar barriers in passing status onto their children? Would you be disheartened to find out that it is predominantly women who have been given “lesser” status because of a hierarchy imposed in 1985 which grants 6(1)(a) status to Indian men, yet a less conferrable 6(1)(c) status to women?
What this means in practice is what is referred to as the second generation cut-off rule: after two generations of a status parent having children with a non-status parent, their descendants lose status. The first generation enjoys 6(1) status, while the following generation is bumped down to 6(2) and finally, the third generation is bumped out entirely.
Bill S-3, while initially working to remove all sex-based inequities within the Indian Act, completely overlooks this unfortunate differentiation.
The “6(1)(a) All the Way” amendment remedies a complex, overwhelming and confusing distinction that has plagued Indigenous peoples, especially Indigenous women, for far too long. Essentially, the amendment looks to extend 6(1) status to all individuals who can trace their ancestry to at least one person who is or would ever have been entitled to be a registered Indian before 1985. The Senate put forth Bill S-3 in May 2017 with this amendment, but Minister Bennett stripped it shortly after.
The amendment is not a new idea; the Liberals proposed it in Opposition in 2010. When the former Conservative government committed to a second round of consultations in amending the Indian Act by way of Bill C-3 in light of Sharon McIvor’s case, Liberal MP Todd Russell proposed the amendment to rectify issues caused by the 1951 cut-off date. It was quickly ruled inadmissible by the Speaker of the House as “being beyond the scope of Bill C-3”.
Once again, the government chose to write the bill in a way that responded solely to the ruling in McIvor’s case, pushing the problem onto a future to-do list, as even Russell stated that “hopefully in the future we will be able to deal with these matters.” That time is now.
NWAC is engaging in national consultations to get your input on Bill S-3 and to tell our government to remove all discrimination from the Indian Act right now. Let’s end the tired tradition of telling indigenous peoples “tomorrow” without actually following through.