Phoenix Alec of the Penticton Indian Band dances at the close of the British Columbia Joint Gathering on January 19, 2017. Photo: Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada

Bill to end discrimination against indigenous women closer to passage in Canada

A bill to end decades of gender-based discrimination against indigenous women is inching closer to passage in Canada.

An indigenous woman who marries a non-indigenous person loses her rights under the Indian Act, a national law, and her descendants lose the same rights. The same restriction doesn't apply to indigenous men, CBC News reported.

"I have the right to live a traditional and cultural life that I should be able to pass on to my kids," Lisa Cooper, the president and chief of the Native Council of Prince Edward Island, told CBC. "It shouldn't be up to the government to decide who's an Indian and who's not an Indian."

Bill S-3 changes the situation by eliminating the discriminatory provision in the Indian Act. The measure cleared the Canadian Senate last week, The New York Times reported.

“I should be able to pass on my status but I can’t because of gender discrimination,” Lynn Gehl told The Times.

In the landmark case, McIvor v. Canada, the highest court in British Columbia ruled that the gender-based provision was illegal. The Canadian government was supposed to start making changes within a year.

Eight years later, it took another case, Descheneaux v. Canada, to prompt more comprehensive changes. Bill S-3 is expected to clear the House of Commons next month. The administration of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau supports the efforts.

According to the Native Council of P.E.I., more than 1 million indigenous women and descendants could gain status under the Indian Act, although the organization said the exact figures aren't clear.

Read More on the Story:
Indigenous women on P.E.I. applaud changes to Indian Act (CBC News November 15, 2017)
Canada Moves Closer to Gender Equity for Indigenous Women (The New York Times November 14, 2017)
'Essential step': Liberals move to end sex-based status discrimination in Indian Act (CBC News November 8, 2017)
Proposed bill to end sex-based discrimination in Indian Act a long time coming: FSIN chief (CBC News November 9, 2017)