Canadian natives march for equality

Canada’s Indian Act has had more than 20 major changes, but First Nations leaders say it is still an instrument of gender discrimination and bureaucratic genocide.

With a proposed new amendment to the 1876 act – Bill C-3 – a group of Native women are on a month-long, 300-mile protest march to tell the federal government that the latest fix to the Victorian-era law will not end Canada’s institutionalized discrimination against First Nations people, especially women.

The Amun March – “amun” means “a large gathering” – began May 4 on the reservation in Wendake, the territorial lands of the Huron-Wendat First Nation near Quebec City, and was scheduled to end June 1 in front of the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa.

Through the Indian Act, Canada’s federal government made First Nations people wards of the state and took control of all aspects of their lives and communities. The act provided for government registration of Natives, and the government continues to register First Nations people today.

Those granted “Indian status” are entitled to health, education and other social services. But the act’s overarching theme was “assimilate or die.” Natives could seek Canadian citizenship if they renounced their rights, privileges, culture, languages and traditions.

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