BC Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould welcomes
introduction of Bill C-3 and calls on the Government of Canada to address
First Nations' jurisdiction over citizenship

WEST VANCOUVER, March 11 /CNW/ - BC Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould welcomes the introduction of Bill C-3, Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act by the federal government today but calls on the government to take immediate steps to address broader issues of First Nations' jurisdiction over the determination of their own citizenship.

Under Bill C-3, the eligible grandchildren of women who lost status as a result of marrying non-Indian men will become entitled to registration as status Indians in accordance with the Indian Act. This legislation has been introduced in response to a ruling by the BC Court of Appeal in the McIvor case, which involved a challenge to the Indian Act by Sharon McIvor and her son Jacob Grismer on the basis that the Act treats the descendants of Indian women and Indian men differently. The BC Court of Appeal ruled that sections 6(1)(a) and (c) of the Indian Act, which denied Indian status to the grandchildren of Indian women who lost their status as a result of marrying non-Indian men were of no force and effect. The Court gave the Government until April 6, 2010, to rectify the discrimination and amend the offending provisions.

"I am pleased the federal government is proceeding with amendments to the Indian Act to address the Court's ruling regarding gender discrimination under sections 6(1)(a) and (c) of the Act" said Regional Chief Wilson-Raybould. "However, there remain many descendants of our respective Nations who are denied full participation in our communities due to the narrow and legalistic definition of who is an "Indian" under the Indian Act. This is not acceptable and the long-term solution does not lie in further tinkering with the Indian Act".

"Our Nations have an inherent right to determine who is and who is not a Citizen of our Nations in accordance with our own laws, customs and traditions" added Chief Regional Chief Wilson-Raybould. "The long term solution to addressing ongoing discrimination in the Indian Act lies is the full recognition of First Nations' jurisdiction over their own citizenship. I call on the Government of Canada to recognize First Nations' jurisdiction over the determination of Citizenship in our respective Nations and to support the implementation of First Nations' Citizenship laws." She continued, "Section 35(1) of the Constitution Act protects the Aboriginal and Treaty rights of First Nations' peoples which includes the right to determine our own Citizenship. This basic right is affirmed in Article 33 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which states, "Indigenous peoples have the right to determine their own identity or membership in accordance with their customs and traditions."

Canada anticipates that approximately 45,000 additional persons will become entitled to registration under the Indian Act if Bill C-3 is enacted. "While the work continues to ensure that our Nations can determine their own Citizenship, including the rights and responsibilities of their Citizens, the addition of 45,000 persons added to the Indian Register under the Indian Act system will inevitably create pressures on the existing resources of First Nations' communities to provide federal programs and services," stated Regional Chief Wilson-Raybould. "In order to facilitate a smooth and responsible implementation of Bill C-3, it is essential that adequate resources be made available to First Nations to avoid any further hardship in First Nations' communities."

BC Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould is elected by the 203 First Nations in British Columbia and holds the national AFN portfolio for Citizenship with Regional Chief Stanley.

SOURCE BC Assembly of First Nations

For further information: For further information: Marcia Guno, Political Aide to the Regional Chief, (604) 922-7733 or marcia.guno@bcafn.ca

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