LEAF supports the removal of sex discrimination from the Indian Act

The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) supports the Government of Canada’s full implementation of Bill S-3, which eliminates sex inequalities in the Indian Act.

The Indian Act historically denied First Nations women the right to pass on their status to their children without proof of an Indian father. While some small corrections were made over time, until now First Nations across Canada continued to be denied status due to discriminatory requirements. This meant that they were unable to access specific government supports, and were forcibly disconnected from their culture and heritage.

The implementation of Bill S-3 means that up to 450,000 Indigenous women and their descendants could now be legally entitled to registration under the Indian Act. This is an important step towards ending the systemic discrimination against First Nations women that subjects them to disproportionate levels of violence, poverty and incarceration, and profound marginalization.

This accomplishment reflects decades of hard work of by Indigenous women and feminists in the Canadian court system, at international rights bodies, and through advocacy for legal reform. Indigenous women such as Mary Two–Axe Early, Jeannette Corbiere Lavell, Yvonne Bedard, Sandra Lovelace, Sharon Donna McIvor and Lynn Gehl must be congratulated and acknowledged for their crucial role in ending sex discrimination under the Indian Act. LEAF has been proud to play a supporting role in this struggle, including through litigation with the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) at the Supreme Court of Canada, litigation at the Ontario Court of Appeal, and ongoing advocacy.

The removal of sex discrimination in the Indian Act is one step towards implementing the Calls for Justice of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. LEAF will continue to ally itself with Indigenous women and feminists, and advocate for the fulfillment of the Inquiry’s Calls for Justice.


Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)

The Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF) works to advance the substantive equality rights of women and girls through litigation, law reform, and public education. Since 1985, we have intervened in landmark cases that have advanced equality in Canada—helping to prevent violence, eliminate discrimination in the workplace, provide better maternity benefits, ensure a right to pay equity, and allow access to reproductive freedoms. For more information, please visit www.leaf.ca


For media inquiries, contact:

Kat Owens, Project Director 

Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF)

T: 416 595 7170 ext 2007

E: k.owens@leaf.ca