Native Women's Association to ask Supreme Court to advance women's equality rights as it decides jurisdiction of Indigenous child and family services
December 8, 2022
Ottawa – The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) will ask the Supreme Court of Canada to “explicitly advance Indigenous women’s equality” as guaranteed in the Constitution in deciding a case related to the jurisdiction of the provision of Indigenous child and family services.
The Court must determine whether An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, a federal law that came into force in January 2020 and affirms the rights of Indigenous peoples to exercise jurisdiction over child and family services, unjustifiably infringes on provincial jurisdiction over those services. The Quebec Court of Appeal (QCCA) has held that the Act is constitutional, and that regulating child and family services is a generic right that extends to all Indigenous peoples because self-determination is key to achieving reconciliation, which is an aim of Section 35 of the Constitution.
The NWAC will argue that the Court must also interpret Section 35 of the Constitution in light of substantive equality guarantees for women, and that it should set a test to ensure that laws affirm and comply with those guarantees.
The NWAC submits that the new approach to child and family services promoted by the QCCA must redress Indigenous women’s historic and systemic disempowerment, and it must advance reconciliation between Indigenous women and the Crown. It will also argue that this approach is required under Canada’s international human rights commitments including the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
NWAC aims to affirm the constitutional rights of Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ peoples to reverse their historic disadvantage under colonization and their ongoing harms as described in the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.