UN Petition Challenging the Indian Act’s sex-based registration scheme

Sharon McIvor, a CURA community research associate and her son, Jacob Grismer have been involved in a long-standing challenge to the sex-based registration scheme in the 1985 Indian Act. CURA researchers have researched and prepared a petition for consideration under the first optional protocol to the United Nations’ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, complaining that Canada continues to violate international human rights. The petition cites the "longstanding failure of Canada to fully and finally eliminate the sex discrimination from the legislative regime for registration as a status Indian." A decision by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in the matter of the McIvor petition is pending.

Read the McIvor Petition to the United Nations Human Rights Committee

See Canada’s Response to the McIvor Petition

Petitioners’ Comments on Canada’s Response

Canada’s Further Reply to the McIvor Petition

Affidavit of Grand Chief Stewart Philip, Supporting the McIvor Petition


Since 1906, the Indian Act has defined who can be a status Indian based on a patriarchal definition. While Indian women were permitted to have status, they generally could not transmit their status to their children, the transmitting parent was male. This scheme extended to marriage whereby an Indian woman lost status when she married a non-status man but an Indian man who married a non-status woman would retain his status.

In 2009, the British Columbia Court of Appeal released its decision in McIvor v. Canada, finding that the sections of the Indian Act that determine Indian status constitute sex discrimination and are thus contrary to section 15 of the Charter. In March 2010, the federal government introduced Bill C-3, An Act to promote gender equity in Indian registration by responding to the Court of Appeal for British Columbia decision in McIvor v. Canada (Registrar of Indian and Northern Affairs). While Bill C-3 was intended to “fix” the discrimination found in the Indian Act, it still excluded many Aboriginal women from being eligible for status. McIvor joined with other CURA researchers Gwen Brodsky and Shelagh Day to prepare background research and public education on the inadequacies of the the bill, but it received royal assent in December 2010. See details of this effort here.

See also: McIvor v. Canada, Challenging the Indian Act’s sex-based registration scheme