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Peterborough activists pushing for change to Indian Act gather outside MP’s office

First Nations women continue to fight for gender equality in Peterborough
Peterborough activists pushing for change to Indian Act gather outside MP's office.

A group of people gathered outside MP Maryam Monsef’s office in Peterborough on Tuesday to fight for First Nations women who have lost their status under the Indian Act.

Activist and author Lynn Gehl said gender discrimination continues to be part of Canada’s Indian Act. For the last three Tuesdays, she and about a dozen others have been in front of Monsef’s office to speak out about the issue.

“We’ve been working really hard to have Canada eliminate all the sexist discrimination in the Indian Act. We’ve gone through 50 years of litigation,” she said.

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According to Gehl, Canada’s Indian Act discriminates against Indigenous women when it comes to passing on their status to descendants. She is asking that all Indigenous people keep their full status, even after marriage to a non-Indigenous person.

Gehl said she has been fighting this battle for decades.

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“Prior to 1985, women lost status when they married out, and in 1985, they amended the Indian Act to bring it in line with the charter, but although they reinstated the women who married out, their children and grandchildren continue to have sex discrimination imposed on them,” said Gehl.

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Gehl is a prime example of this. She has been granted a lesser form of Indian status.

Under the act, men can pass on full Indian status to their children and grandchildren, but women cannot.

“I’m here in support of Lynn Gehl’s 30-plus-year court battle to get the status that she should have had from the beginning,” said one supporter, Miriam Lyall.

Lyall added: “I think that if the government doesn’t take action currently, it will continue and deny rights to Indigenous women and their descendants.”

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Gehl believes the law should be changed.

“All Justin Trudeau has to do is issue an order in council and those clauses will be proclaimed as law, and all the sex discrimination will be removed,” she said.

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Gehl says she will continue to be outside Maryam Monsef’s office every Tuesday until June 30 unless the change to the Indian Act is made sooner.

Global News has reached out to Monsef for comment but has yet to receive a response.