Indian Act Status Inequities

LEGAL Indian Act Status Inequities

The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) has advocated for the removal of discriminatory registration provisions from the Indian Act, as well as the adoption of Bill S-3, to address outstanding sex-based inequities in registration.


  • NWAC is committed to end sex-based discrimination in the Indian Act and has tirelessly lobbied for Indigenous women to have the same rights as Indigenous men to pass down status to their children.
  • NWAC supports the revised Bill S-3 (An Act to Eliminate Sex-Based Discrimination in the Indian Act) was enacted in December 2017, and the additional amendments made in 2019, and is pleased to see further amendments to eliminate sex-based discrimination in the Indian Act. However, NWAC remains concerned that the “No Liability” clause has remained in the legislation, hindering Indigenous women’s access to justice and Charter damages.
  • NWAC believes that the Indian Act is diametrically opposed to many of the rights and principles of United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and will assume a leadership role in the transition from the Indian Act to UNDRIP.


Bill S-3 refers to an Act, passed in December 2017, that the initial purpose was to fix the sex-based discriminatory registration provisions within the Indian Act. The Bill S-3 amendments to the registration provisions of the Indian Act were designed to address the section 15 Charter violations identified in Descheneaux. The registration provisions, which took effect pursuant to Bill S-3 clause 15(1), resolved the inequality to some of the grandchildren of Indigenous women who were denied their status as a result of the 1985 amendments to the Indian Act

NWAC will continue to hold the government accountable for its commitments to all Indigenous women and will work to ensure that non-status women and their descendants who lost status due to discrimination in the Indian Act are included in consultations on Bill C-38, tabled in 2021. NWAC will continue to work toward the repeal and replacement of the Indian Act’s membership sections.


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