Indian Women and the Law in Canada

Minus, Citizens; Jamieson, Kathleen
Publisher:  Indian Rights for Indian Women, The Advisory Council on the Status of Women, Ottawa, Canada
Year Published:  1978  
Pages:  108pp   Price:  Free  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX873

This report examines section 12 (1) (b) of the Indian Act.

Abstract:  This report examines section 12 (1) (b) of the Indian Act. For the past 109 years application of this section has discriminated against Indian women on the grounds of race, sex and marital status. Presently, an Indian woman who marries a non-Indian is stripped of her Indian status. She is therefore denied the right to live or own property on her reserve, and she and her children are cut off from social and cultural ties of her heritage. In particular elderly women, widows and deserted mothers with small children are suffering because they are being evicted from their reserves. Indian men who marry non-Indian women are not penalized.

This section of the Act was initially applied as a tool for enfranchisement, in order that by law Indians would eventually become "civilized", full Canadian citizens. In 1973 Jeanette Lavell contested her loss of status before the Supreme Court of Canada. Indian leaders opposed the Lavell claim in order that they might use the Act as a political level when negotiating with the government. They were not prepared to see any part of the Act changed until the whole Act could be revised. The government's acceptance of this confirmed that "Indians" meant only males. Lavell lost her case, but succeeded in surfacing both the moral and legal implications in the application of this discriminatory law. The group has in the meantime acted on interim measures. They have requested that the government a) stop evictions of Indian women and children from reserves; b) suspend implementation of Section 12 (1) (b) until the whole Act is revised; (c) allow Indian women an official voice in joint NIB-government negotiations. All three of these requests have been denied. At present they have no legal recourse and Indian women remain Citizens Minus.

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