June 14, 2017
(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde stands for gender equality and is calling for a thorough and effective response to end discrimination under the Indian Act’s treatment of entitlement to Indian status and band membership.
Bill S-3 has passed second reading in the House of Commons and has been referred to the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs for further study. S-3 is the government’s response to the decision called Descheneaux which identified gender-based discrimination under the Indian Act.
National Chief Bellegarde said the Indian Act is collapsing under its own colonial weight. The current debate over the scope of amendments to be included in S-3 is further proof of that.
“We understand that, in the next phase of its engagement with First Nations, the government planned to consult on longstanding issues of discrimination not captured by the government’s current proposed amendments,” said National Chief Bellegarde. “However, Canada and First Nations can no longer wait. We must end the debate, now!”
The Assembly of First Nations has unequivocally embraced the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN Declaration) and its commitment to eliminate all forms of discrimination.
Chief Denise Stonefish, Chair of the AFN Women’s Council said, “I encourage all First Nations leadership to re-assert inherent jurisdiction over citizenship in ways that respect and honour women. Our traditions are diverse but whether it is tradition or whether it is international human rights standards, gender equality and the elimination of all forms of discrimination is the right thing to do.”
The AFN is aware that one approach being called for is commonly known as “s.6(1)(a) all the way.” As long as the Indian Act remains on federal statute books, it is Canada’s responsibility to eliminate all forms of discrimination created by it. This includes the government’s responsibility to find the most effective technical path to accomplish this goal.
“Ultimately, we all know that the path to gender equality and the path to self-determination does not lie in the Indian Act. We must move beyond the Indian Act by asserting our jurisdiction and creating our own citizenship laws. At each step, First Nations governments must have access to the requisite fiscal, land and other resources to provide the basics of government and essential services to all of our citizens,” said National Chief Bellegarde.
The AFN is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Updates.
For more information, please contact:
Press Secretary – National Chief’s Office
613-241-6789 ext. 222
613-241-6789 ext. 254
Bilingual Communications Officer
Tel: 613.241.6789, Ext. 382