Canada's Original Think Tank

United Nations Human Rights Committee Decision of January 11, 2019

United Nations Human Rights Committee Decision of January 11, 2019

United Nations Human Rights Committee Decision of January 11, 2019

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: 

Honourable senators, I rise today to honour and recognize Sharon McIvor and her son Jacob Grismer for their successful petition at the United Nations Human Rights Committee in a decision released on January 11, 2019. The committee ruled that the hierarchy that exists in the 6(1) provisions of the Indian Act is sex-based discrimination and contravenes Canada’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

This decision is important in that it clearly explains how the hierarchical nature of status in section 6(1) of the Indian Act continues to embed discrimination against descendants of women who married out. Specifically, in addressing the hierarchy of status in section 6(1), the UN Human Rights Committee states:

The committee further recalls that the prohibition on discrimination in the covenant applies not only to discrimination in law, but also to discrimination in fact, whether practised by public authorities, by the community, or by private persons or bodies.

The decision goes on to conclude:

The committee accordingly concludes that the continuing distinction based on sex in section 6(1) of the Indian Act constitutes discrimination, which has impacted the right of the authors to enjoy their own culture together with the other members of their group. The committee therefore concludes that the authors have demonstrated a violation of articles 3 and 26, read in conjunction with article 27 of the covenant.

The committee has given a deadline of 180 days for Canada to provide an effective remedy to the discrimination.

As honourable senators who were here during the debate and study of Bill S-3 know, an effective remedy already exists in Bill S-3, but the relevant provisions have not yet been brought into force. The remedy contained in Bill S-3, which this chamber unanimously endorsed, not only removes the 1951 cut-off but also remedies the hierarchy of Indian status in section 6(1).

Colleagues, this ruling by the UN Human Rights Committee is historic; it reverses the discrimination against Indian women enacted in 1869, 150 years ago. It is 2019. It’s time to eliminate the discrimination against women and their descendants who were denied Indian status because of marriage to non-status men.

We owe Sharon McIvor a great debt for her tireless work to right this wrong and bringing it to a successful conclusion at the UN Human Rights Committee. Thank you.