Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde Says Federal Decision to Remove Sex-Based Discrimination from Indian Act Welcome but Renews Call for First Nations to Establish Processes to Move Beyond Indian Act

OTTAWA, July 28, 2016 /CNW/ - In response to the Superior Court of Quebec decision in Descheneaux et al., v. Canada, the Government of Canada today announced its intent to eliminate discriminatory sex-based language in the Indian Act. Sex-based discrimination undermines the fundamental human rights of First Nations women and girls. To that end, Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde says this move is long overdue but highlights the ongoing need for First Nations to exert jurisdiction, create our own laws and move beyond the Indian Act entirely.

"First Nations women have waited far too long for the government to acknowledge and respect their rights," said AFN National Chief Bellegarde. "Today's decision is a step in the right direction, but the Descheneaux case is yet another reminder that the Indian Act is outdated and discriminatory. This cannot simply be about amendments, but about working together to move beyond the Indian Act in a way that respects First Nations rights and is consistent with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples."

Previous attempts in 1985 and 2010 to address discrimination in the Indian Act through amendments failed, serving only to create new problems.  In addition to work aimed at moving beyond the Indian Act, the AFN is calling for a comprehensive review of all federal laws and policies to ensure they respect First Nations rights, Treaties, title and jurisdiction as well as gender equality rights.

"It is a simple fact that First Nations women are entitled to the same rights and respect as First Nations men under Canadian law and international law," said the Chair of the Assembly of First Nations' Women's Council, Denise Stonefish. "The reality of discrimination continues today with every baby born of First Nations heritage.  It will not stop because an engagement process‎ has been announced today. First Nations women are not inferior, are not less worthy, we are equals. Therefore, policies and laws based on termination of our rights and identity must end."

As the courageous work of Sharon McIvor and Stephane Descheneaux, among others, has brought to light, sex-based discrimination in the Indian Act directly violates the equality rights of Indigenous women as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and international human rights law. Likewise, this language and the culture it fosters act as a tool of assimilation.

The Assembly of First Nations seeks to express its solidarity with Ms. McIvor and the Native Women's Association of Canada for their tireless work on this case, and in building a fairer and more equitable world for Indigenous women living in Canada. The AFN maintains that all discrimination based on sex or gender is unacceptable.

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nation citizens in Canada.  Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.

SOURCE Assembly of First Nations

For further information: Media contacts: Jenn Jefferys, Communications Officer, +1 613-222-9656, jjefferys@afn.ca; Alain Garon, Bilingual Communications Officer, +1 613-292-0857, agaron@afn.ca


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