The federal government has returned to court once again to seek more time to pass amendments to the Indian Act to eliminate gender discrimination in the rules on entitlement to Indian registration (often referred to as “Indian status”). The government failed to pass Bill S-3: An Act to amend the Indian Act (elimination of sex-based inequities in registration) before the court mandated deadline of July 3, 2017, when the suspension of the court’s declaration of the invalidity of sections 6(1)(a), (c) and (f) and 6(2) of the Act was set to expire. These sections were declared invalid in Descheneaux v Canada on the basis that they violated the equality guarantee in section 15 of the Charter.
The July 3, 2017 deadline was already an extension of the court’s original deadline of February 3, 2017. On June 27, 2017, the Quebec Superior Court denied the federal government’s request for a second extension of 6 months. Canada appealed and on July 3, 2017 leave to appeal was granted along with a temporary extension of time to August 9, 2017 when the appeal will be heard. The decision on leave to appeal is available in French here. The temporary extension has averted a potential halt to processing of Indian status applications under the existing sections 6(1)(a), (c) and (f) and 6(2) of the Act, but means that those who will become entitled under the new rules in Bill S-3 are facing further delay in obtaining the Indian status that has been denied to them on a discriminatory basis.
For more on the development of Bill S-3 and the federal government’s failure to meet the previous court deadline see our post here.