Opinion: Playing politics with Native women's lives
" For a moment, enter into the life of a typical First Nation woman living on-reserve in Canada: If statistics are accurate, you are one of the poorest segments in society; also, you are unlikely to wield any authority within the power structure of the band; and you are probably not a chief or a councillor — you are more likely to be the victim of violence at the hands of a lover or husband.

Now imagine your marriage falls apart. Forget about staying in your home — the title to the home is most probably not in your name. That’s because the certificates of possession given by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, which give title to property on a reserve, are usually given to men.

Further, you are told by a lawyer that laws providing for an equitable distribution of assets upon separation do not apply to reserves. And if you have children, you fear for your custody rights as these are also not well protected.

Not content for a lesson in constitutional law, you evaluate your options: Given the lack of protection for most on-reserve First Nation women, you have none.

To continue the thought experiment, imagine the federal government is trying to pass a law that would make it easier for you to access the court system to reclaim property and some dignity from your lost marriage. Then, you hear that major aboriginal organizations have lined up to oppose this bill because they feel they were not “consulted” enough — or because the bill does not come with pots of money. It would seem these organizations are playing politics with your life."

Get the Story:
Joseph Quesnel: Native bill puts women's rights before First Nation politics (The National Post 5/29)

B.C. Court of Appeal Decision:
McIvor v. Canada (April 6, 2009)

B.C. Supreme Court Decision:
McIvor v. Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (June 2007)

Related Stories:
Court rules in Indian Act case over woman's rights (04/09)