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Legislation

Two Senators once denied Indian status fight bill so others can gain rights

By Samantha Wright Allen      

Senators Lillian Dyck and Sandra Lovelace Nicholas are part of a very personal debate over Bill S-3, which has seen the House and the Senate face off over amendments that members in the Upper Chamber insist are necessary to remove sex discrimination in the Indian Act.

Liberal Senator Lillian Dyck wasn't granted Indian status until 1985 when the Charter of Rights and Freedoms prompted changes to the Indian Act that had long said woman like her Cree mother lost status if they married non-First Nations men. Her father, too, faced legislated discrimination through the Chinese head tax and her son, like many grandchildren, wasn't granted status until further changes were introduced in 2010. The HIll Times photograph by Andrew Meade
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Long before Senator Lillian Dyck became the first First Nations woman to sit in the Upper Chamber, white Parliamentarians signed laws stripping women of their Indian status and the ability to confer that legal identity to their descendants. The Saskatchewan Senator can trace discriminatory Canadian legislation through her lineage, an imposed heirloom she passed to her son. The $500 Chinese head tax on her father was equivalent to two years' salary for him when he immigrated as a

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