News

Overhauling the Indian Act

Could a Quebec court ruling change the legislation forever?

For his entire life, Stéphane Descheneaux struggled with his identity.

Descheneaux comes from Indigenous ancestry and his relatives are members of the Odanak First Nation, but Descheneaux doesn’t qualify as status under Canadian law, thanks to the Indian Act.

The Act made it so that if an Indian woman marries someone non-Indian, she’d lose her status. That provision of the legislation was later amended but the effects have continued.

“They lost everything, these women, when they got married, it was all taken away from them,” Descheneaux said. “That must have been hard but we never spoke about it. It was always taboo, always a sensitive subject.”

Descheneaux always felt like he didn’t fit anywhere, like he was on the outside looking in, and struggled.  Questions about his own identity were answered when a ruling by the Quebec Superior Court this month gave him and his three daughters Indian status.

And according to a story in the Montreal Gazette, this court ruling could affect thousands of Canadians.

As part of the legal decision, the Quebec court has given the federal government 18 months to close loopholes existing in the Indian Act that violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This could end up being a big deal, and mending legislation that has disproportionately affected, and discriminated against, Indigenous women for generations.

Read more about the court decision and Descheneaux’s story, via the Montreal Gazette, here.

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