B.C. Band Regains Right to Control Membership
To a large degree, the sovereignty that tribes in the United States have over their membership is often taken for granted. In Canada, the difference has been stark. Until 1985 and the passage of Bill C-31, only the federal government of Canada based in Ottawa could decide who was a member of any First Nation (Band). Prior to Bill C-31, the government could remove any woman who married out of the Band; if you went into military service you were removed; if you became a doctor or a lawyer, you were out as well. Bill C-31 was adopted and for the first time Bands could determine their own membership providing a Band election took place confirming their desire to control it. Sadly, the quorum hurdle was so high that it was near impossible for many Bands to meet it.
Then in a 2008 Federal Court judgment, a decision was made that only a majority of the qualified voters of a Band had to vote, and only a majority of them needed to vote for the change, thus paving the way for Bands to take control from Ottawa and put it into their own hands.