Indigenous Self-Goverment in Canada and Sexual Equality under the Indian Act: Resolving Conflicts between Collective and Individual Rights


Excerpt from article, Page 279:

"This paper will begin with a review of the historical background to the issue of sex discrimination in the Indian Act and the positions of Aboriginal groups on how to resolve it. It will go on to examine section 6(2) of the Indian Act from the viewpoint of sex and race discrimination and of its potential impact on Indian communities. It will end with a discussion of the possible application of the Charter and the relevance of developing international human rights theory.

At an international level, Canada is acutely aware of its vulnerable position when criticizing other nations on their human rights records. The long history of discriminatory treatment of Indigenous people in Canada provides plenty of ammunition. Canadian "Indians"' have enjoyed an unqualified right to vote in federal elections for a scant 30 years, and until 1951 federal law prohibited Indians from engaging in a variety of civil activities such as homesteading, selling agricultural products off reserve, and collecting funds for the purpose of Aboriginal claims litigation. The socio-economic legacy of discrimination and cultural domination continues to be reflected, year after year, in dismal socio-economic conditions: significantly higher rates of suicide, infant mortality, and incarceration, and significantly lower rates of high school completion, life expectancy, and employment.'

Embarrassment over these matters has been even more acute when it has been pointed out that the Indian Act contains elements of sex discrimination - in addition to displacing traditional forms of government with a system of restrictive federal control. The federal Indian Act regulates the use of Indian reserve land and establishes a system of band councils subject to expansive federal powers to override local decisions. Just as importantly, the Indian Act defines the word '.Indian" for the purposes of the Act "Indian status". This definition is used by the federal government to restrict access to many aspects of its Aboriginal affairs programs and policies." (279).

Publication Information

Moss, Wendy. "Indigenous Self-Government in Canada and Sexual Equality under the Indian Act: Resolving Conflicts between Collective and Individual Rights." Queen's LJ 15 (1990): 279-305.

Moss, Wendy
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