The AMC Applauds Indigenous Services Minister’s Proposed Bill-C38 Addressing Assimilative Enfranchisement Policies in the Indian Act
December 15, 2022
Treaty One Territory, Manitoba
Treaty One Territory, Manitoba – The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) releases this statement on the proposed legislation Bill C-38 – an Act to amend the Indian Act. The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is pleased Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu proposed Bill C-38 to the House of Commons in Ottawa yesterday. Bill C-38 addresses the involuntary assimilative enfranchisement policy, which forced First Nations citizens to give up their status under the Indian Act.
Enfranchisement caused First Nations citizens to lose their treaty rights and Indian status. This resulted in many losing their ties to their Nations, their ability to live on reserve, receive supports from their reserve, and lose their inherent Treaty rights such as hunting and fishing to feed their families. The process was often involuntary, such as when First Nations citizens completed a university education, joined the medical or legal profession, became a priest or a minister, met the “fit” or “civilized” enfranchisement requirements, and when First Nations women married non-First Nations men, or as a means of removing children from residential school enlisting. Bill C-38 aims to amend the status of First Nations citizens whom this enfranchisement affected. Enfranchised First Nations citizens will be entitled to registration under the Indian Act and can pass on that entitlement to their descendants to the same degree as those without family histories of enfranchisement.
“Historically, Canada has failed to ensure First Nations rights, provide adequate support to applicants, and make full reparations for the sex-based discrimination caused by registration,” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick. “Although this is a move in the right direction, this only shines a light on the inherent issue of the Indian Act itself. Citizenship law should be determined by each First Nation, not the Government of Canada.”
The Indian Act has profoundly disrupted First Nations’ inherent right to determine citizenship. The policies of the Indian Act were inherently sexist and discriminatory, disregarding how First Nations understood and defined their citizenship. The AMC has consistently stated that Canada continues to intrude on First Nations’ inherent jurisdiction in the area of citizenship through the definition of “Indian” under the Indian Act. “Canada must recognize First Nations jurisdiction to identify their citizenship in accordance with each First Nations’ inherent laws. Federal identification through the Indian status and Indian register should be abolished,” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick.
“I welcome consultation in 2023 with Patty Hajdu, minister of Indigenous Services, to make further progress in First Nations citizenship and registration,” said Grand Chief Cathy Merrick.
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Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
About the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs
The AMC was formed in 1988 by the Chiefs in Manitoba to advocate on issues that commonly affect First Nations in Manitoba. AMC is an authorized representative of 62 of the 63 First Nations in Manitoba, with more than 151,000 First Nation citizens in the province, accounting for approximately 12 percent of the provincial population. AMC represents a diversity of Anishinaabe (Ojibway), Nehetho / Ininew (Cree), Anishininew (Ojibwe-Cree), Denesuline (Dene) and Dakota Oyate (Dakota) people.