In April 1985, Bill C-31 was enacted. The purpose of the bill was to bring gender equity under the Rights and freedom of the Canadian authority. Modification of various sections like Indian status and band membership of the Indian Act was proposed. The three primary goals of the bill were to address gender discrimination, restoration of Indian Status to those who had been discriminated and to allow self-government through Bands.
There was gender discrimination in India. A woman, who would get married to a man, who is not Indian would lose her state of belonging. If the woman got married to an Indian man who belonged to a band different from hers, then her standing in her band would be lost. She now becomes part of the group which her husband belongs to. Her status lawfully belongs to that of the husband. Also, she is separated from her family and heritage whether she is married to a man who is Indian or one who is not an Indian man. The Indian Act was against discrimination of Indian women. Status of any woman who married a man who is not Indian was removed under section 12 (1) (b) (Lawrence & Bonita 2003). A clause known as 'double mother' was introduced under section 12(1)(a)(iv). If the mother and grandmother of a child have Indian status due to marriage, then the state of the child will be lost despite the father or grandfather of the child having the Indian status.
The status of a woman who is Indian is lost if her husband abandoned her or died. She is disqualified from the husband's band, and she is no longer allowed to live in her band's properties or use resources of the groups. She would not also go back to the previous band. She lost her Indian status rights and community connections. Indian men would not be denied status not unless in a lengthy and involving legal process. Two court cases challenged the Indian discrimination act. In 1970, Jeannette Corbille was married to a non -Indian man. She charged the bill in 1971 with violation of equality. In her first trial, she lost the case but won on appeal.
In 1964, the state of belonging was lost by Yvonne Bedard because her husband was not Indian. After separation, she tried to return to her previous band but found out that she and children were not entitled to the group. They no longer had Indian status and had no rights to reserved land. She sued her band and won the case. Bedard and Lavelle lost the 'marrying out' cases; they shed some light on the Indian Act. Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal women's group pressured the Canadian government. Section 15 of the constitution of Canada talks about equality and is against discrimination regardless of gender, race, and sex and many more. Lovelace vs. Canada influenced the amendment.
Addressing of gender discrimination act happened during the passing of BC-31. Enfranchisement was abolished by the Indian Act in 1985. Those whose status was removed through emancipation were restored. Those who attained their Indian rank through marriage rather than descent, their situation was terminated. The amendment saw 106,000 Indians losing their status and 127,000 having their status restored. New registered communities were 27% and the increase in state increased by 19% in the first five years(Eberts & Mary 2010) Indians were classified into 6(1) - Indians whom their children can inherit their status and 6(2) those whose state cannot be inherited by their children, yet they have Indian status, not unless the other parent also has a condition.
Wives would inherit status from their Indian husbands before 1985. Their children, as a result, are considered to be under 6(1). However, if a woman gets married to a non-Indian, their children are in 6(2) group. A 'second generation cutoff' was created. Criticizing the amendments has been done since they have not adequately addressed the legal problems. They only deferred the removal of Indian status by groups.
The band was an association of families living together and did not go beyond a few dozens. The families were equal and shredded power equally. Those who lead were people who had knowledge and excellent skills. Power was horizontal between the people of the same gender and adults. Decisions were made equally. In 1985, the Indian Act was socially pressured to grant the Aboriginal self-government. The act was amended, and Indian status was separated from band membership. The bands were given the responsibility of developing and managing their group. The federal government continued to control the Indian Status. Membership of band required one to generate a membership code which would be submitted to INAC (Furi, Megan & Wherret 2003). Also, the list of all people who were included in the membership band was to be presented. Funds are provided by INAC for only Indian status and not band members. Therefore, groups can determine their membership but cannot freely access resources.
Most people were entitled to their rights and benefits which were granted by Indian status due to reinstatement of status. Recovery caused more straining in band resources than before. British Columbia for example, private housing that was limited. This limitation is because the sizes of reserves are petite and the waiting list can take very long. The housing list would become extremely long if individuals who were reinstated also required housing. The main reason as to why band membership was separated from the Indian status was to decrease the likelihood of those whose status was restored to be denied by band members. The federal did not, however, allocate their resources to the bands to support the members who were being added in the group (Bill, 1985).
Lawrence, B. (2003). Gender, race, and the regulation of Native identity in Canada and the United States: An overview. Hypatia, 18(2), 3-31.
Eberts, Mary. "McIvor: Justice Delayed-Again." Indigenous LJ9 (2010): 15.
Furi, M., & Wherrett, J. (2003). Indian status and band membership issues.
Bill, C. (1985). 31, An Act to Amend the Indian Act. RSC
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