INAC's Unstated Paternity Policy and 6(1)a All the Way
From 1876 through 1985, when a woman registered as a status Indian married a white man, she and their children were denied Indian status registration; at the same time, when a man registered as a status Indian married a white woman, he could pass on status registration to her and their children.
In 1985, the Indian Act was amended to remove this sex discrimination. The argument was that this legislative remedy would bring the Indian Act in line with section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, these changes have come under criticism. Indigenous advocates have pointed out that sex discrimination continues through the second-generation cut-off rule and the way it is applied faster to re-instated Indian women and their children born before 1985. Further, a new form of sex discrimination was created known as “unknown and unstated paternity” - when a father did not sign his child’s birth certificate, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) assumed he was a non-Indian man.
Lynn Gehl, Ph.D., is an Algonquin Anishinaabe-kwe advocate, artist, and writer. She’s spent more than 30 years working on a Charter challenge regarding sex discrimination in the Indian Act as it relates to INAC’s unstated paternity policy. Lynn was denied status because her paternal grandfather is unknown. In April 2017, Lynn was granted the lesser form of status known as 6(2) registration. We spoke to Lynn about her court challenge.