TERNTON, Canada (AA) – A new UN report calls on Canada to amend a law that has stripped Indigenous women of Indian status because they married non-Indigenous men.
Yet, while the women lose their status under Canada’s Indian Act, passed in 1876, and therefore their children cannot inherit their mother’s heritage status, Indigenous men can because their designation is not affected no matter who they marry.
“The entire issue stems from the disrespect of indigenous people’s fundamental right to self-identification,” said Corinne Dettmeijer, a member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women that prepared the report.
The UN wants Canada to change the legislation so both Indigenous men and women have the same rights of inheritance status. The government insists the problem was fixed by improvements to the Indian Act in 1985.
But the UN is not buying the government’s assertion.
“(It) continues to affect tens of thousands of descendants of Indigenous women today,” the UN committee said.
“By comparison, descendants of Indigenous Indian grandfathers would never have lost their status and have always been able to pass on their status to their children,” said Dettmeijer.
The report cited a case to back up the claim.
Jeremy Eugene Matson’s grandmother was a member of the Squamish First Nation. She married a non-Indigenous man and was stripped of her Indian status.
That meant Matson and her other children lost their Indian status and therefore could not apply for federal government support. Further, her descendants lost the right to live in Indigenous communities and traditional hunting and fishing granted them by birthright.
While Ottawa said the discrimination has been eliminated, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said more has to be done to address the rights of Indigenous peoples.
“Our government is committed to not just moving forward, but moving faster on ending the unacceptable injustices that too many people still face,” Trudeau said while addressing a group of Indigenous chiefs in December 2020, as reported by Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.