PEI

'It's our identity': P.E.I. Mi'kmaq woman proud to be getting her full status back

A P.E.I. Mi'kmaq woman is looking forward to getting her full status back under the Indian Act, after a move by Ottawa last week.

Ottawa changes act to end discrimination toward women who lost status after marrying non-Aboriginal men

Judy Clark says she has been lobbying to end sexual discrimination in the Indian Act for 40 years, through her work with the Aboriginal Women's Association of P.E.I. (Laura Chapin/CBC )

A P.E.I. Mi'kmaq woman is looking forward to getting her full status back under the Indian Act, after a move by Ottawa last week.

The federal government implemented provisions of a bill that will end sex discrimination for Indigenous women who lost their status because they married non-Indigenous men. 

Judy Clark said she has been lobbying for the change for 40 years, through her work with the Aboriginal Women's Association of P.E.I. 

She lost her status when she married in 1975, and the change in the rules means a lot to her.

"It's our identity," said Clark.

"It just puts me up to the same level as my brother, who when I was born, we were equal."

Ottawa estimates up to 450,0000 individuals will now have access to benefits under the Indian Act, such as treaty payments, post-secondary education funding and the Non-Insured Health Benefits program. 

"It's all of these women who have been affected that will come now and be able to apply for status, and basically it just brings us up to programs and services," Clark told Island Morning.

'Huge victory'

Ottawa made the changes after Sharon McIvor and her son petitioned the UN in 2010, and the UN found the Indian Act discriminates against Indigenous women. 

Lennox Island Chief Darlene Bernard called it a "huge victory" for Indigenous women and their children.

"It also raises the more important discussion on nationhood and what that should look like for our people," Bernard said in a news release.

"The Indian Act does not determine who is Mi'kmaq."

Chief Junior Gould of the Abegweit First Nation said he looks forward to the full implementation of status for those descendants who have been denied.

"We are also calling on government to address the related land and financial implications for our communities to ensure that our First Nations have the necessary resources as we welcome all newly entitled status members," he said in the release.

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With files from Island Morning

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