A lawsuit has been launched in Regina to hold the federal government accountable for some of the losses experienced by Aboriginal women due to the Indian Act before Bill C-31, An Act to Amend the Indian Act, was introduced.
According to an article in thesun.com, lawyer Tony Merchant has filed a suit calling for $2.7 billion to be paid to the grandchildren of women who lost their status due to discriminatory sexist rules in the Indian Act. Before Bill C-31, the Act legislated that Aboriginal women who married non-Aboriginal men automatically lost their status (however the same was not true for Aboriginal men who married non-Aboriginal women). In essence, the Indian Act is a piece of identity legislation that fundamentally disrupted indigenous communities by introducing the power relationship of patriarchy. When status was removed from women the immediate effects were loss of benefits including (but not limited to) health care & post-secondary education and removal from home communities. The long term effects, including loss of identity have been far more diverse and substantive.
“Understanding how colonial governments have regulated Native identity is essential for Native people, in attempting to step away from the colonizing frameworks that have enmeshed our lives, and as we struggle to revive the identities and ways of living that preceded colonization.”
– Bonita Lawrence, Gender, Race, and the Regulation of Native Identity in Canada and the United States: An Overview, published in Hypatia 182, (2003), p. 4.
For a more detailed analysis of the Indian Act and Women’s empowerment, read this paper by Katrina Harry