Bill S-3: Eliminating known sex-based inequities in registration

Find out what the Government of Canada is doing to ensure equity between the sexes in registration.

Bill S-3 now fully in force

On August 15, 2019, the 1951 cut-off date was removed from the registration provisions.

The third and final report to Parliament on the review of the implementation of S-3 was tabled on December 11, 2020.

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Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Indian Act in response to the Superior Court of Quebec decision in Descheneaux c. Canada (Procureur général)

On December 22, 2017, changes were made to the Indian Act by Bill S-3, An Act to amend the Indian Act in response to the Superior Court of Quebec decision in Descheneaux c. Canada (Procureur général), to address known sex-based inequities in registration.

More amendments came into force on August 15, 2019, after the Government of Canada held national consultations with First Nations and Indigenous groups during the collaborative process on Indian registration, band membership and First Nation citizenship. Throughout those engagements, the Government of Canada gathered input on proposed legislative changes to the registration provisions in the Indian Act and implementation options.

Discussions also touched on broader issues relating to the Indian Act. To find out more about the issues raised during the consultations, visit Remaining inequities related to registration and membership and Getting out of the business of Indian registration.

While all known sex-based inequities in the registration provisions have now been eliminated, the Government of Canada continues to collaborate with First Nations and other partners to address the remaining inequities in registration.

This video briefly outlines the changes Bill S‑3 brought about in the registration provisions:

How S-3 changed the Indian Act

How S-3 changed the Indian Act

Transcript: How S-3 changed the Indian Act

Indian status in Canada is governed by the Indian Act. It defines how a person is entitled to be registered. Registered persons are eligible for rights, services and benefits.

Historically, sex-based criteria in the Indian Act caused long-lasting inequities. Canada made changes to the Act in 1985 and 2011 to remove a number of sex-based inequities.

Following engagement with First Nations, further changes were made to the Indian Act in 2017 and 2019 under S-3. These legislative changes addressed outstanding sex-based inequities in registration.

S-3 extends entitlement to descendants of women impacted by sex-based discrimination dating back to 1869. This entitles generations of First Nations people to Indian status.

These changes could mean that you, or someone you know, may be entitled to registration. To know if you are entitled to registration, ask yourself:

  • Did my mother, grandmother, or great-grandmother lose status due to:
    • marriage to a non-entitled man before April 17, 1985?
    • being born outside of marriage between an entitled father and non-entitled mother between September 4, 1951 and April 16, 1985?
  • Did one of my parents, grandparents or great-grandparents:
    • lose status because of their mother's marriage to a non-entitled man before April 17, 1985?
    • have their name removed from the Indian Register or from a band list because their father was not entitled to status?

To find out if you are entitled to registration and for information on how to apply, visit: Indian status.

To find out more about Bill S-3, visit The Government of Canada's response to the Descheneaux decision.

What changes did Bill S-3 bring to the Indian Act

Bill S-3 addresses known sex-based inequities in the registration provisions of the Indian Act for these situations:

Are you now entitled to registration under Bill S-3

Generations of persons, including those who may have been previously denied entitlement, are now entitled to registration.

These videos depict possible scenarios in which the legislative changes may affect you or someone you know:

Scenario 1: Eligibility for Indian status under S-3

Scenario 1: Eligibility for Indian status under S-3

Transcript: Eligibility for Indian status under S-3 (Scenario 1)

Narrator: Indian status in Canada is governed by the Indian Act. It defines how a person is entitled to be registered.

Registered individuals have access to services and benefits offered by federal, provincial and territorial governments.

In 2017, S-3 was partially brought into force. It sought to address outstanding sex-based inequities in registration in the Indian Act. Further amendments under S-3 were made in 2019. Entitlement for Indian status is now extended to descendants of First Nations women impacted by discrimination.

Individuals who were denied status in the past because of sex-based inequities are invited to reapply.

Dakota: Hi, I'm Dakota.

My mom applied for status in 2011 and became registered. My great-grandmother lost status following her marriage to a non-entitled man. She and my grandpa were entitled in 1985.

I also applied in 2011 but was denied.

Do the changes in S-3 impact me?

Narrator: Yes! S-3 impacts the ability for someone to pass entitlement status to additional generations.

The grandchildren of women who lost status may be entitled to registration or a category amendment. This means that they may be able to pass entitlement to their children and their future generations.

There are some variables that may impact your eligibility, including:

  • your date of birth
  • the date of birth of your parents
  • the marital status of your parents or grandparents

Dakota: Considering these changes from S-3, should I reapply for status?

Narrator: Yes! While some people were previously denied status, the changes have extended status, in some cases, for generations.

Like Dakota, you or someone you know could also be newly entitled to status.

To find out more about entitlement to registration and how to apply, visit: Indian status.

Scenario 2: Eligibility for Indian status under S-3

Scenario 2: Eligibility for Indian status under S-3

Transcript: Eligibility for Indian status under S-3 (Scenario 2)

Indian status in Canada is governed by the Indian Act. It defines how a person is entitled to be registered. Registered persons are entitled to rights, services and benefits.

Recently, changes were made to the Indian Act to address outstanding sex-based inequities in registration. These legislative changes also streamlined the approach to entitlement decisions of individuals with unknown or unstated parentage.

Meet Janelle.

Janelle applied for status in the past but was denied because her father was not listed on her birth certificate and she could not provide the required evidence to prove her relationship to him.

What can Janelle do?

With the recent changes from S-3, there is more flexibility in the type of evidence to prove parentage.

Beyond a birth certificate, the Indian Registrar must consider multiple credible evidence that determine parentage.

This information can include but is not limited to:

  • an amended birth certificate with parental information
  • statutory declarations from family members, close relatives, Elders or community members
  • church, school, or hospital records
  • court documents
  • band council resolutions
  • census records
  • statutory declarations and affidavits

In fact, Janelle is not required to disclose the identity of her father to be entitled to registration.

When a person is unable or unwilling to disclose the identity of a parent, grandparent or other ancestor, the Registrar must decide whether the person is more likely than not entitled to be registered based on the evidence presented.

This standard of proof is called the balance of probabilities and is applied in all situations, including unknown and unstated parentage.

This means that Janelle has more options on information she can provide to demonstrate her parentage when applying for status.

While some people were previously denied status and past entitlement decisions may have been negative in cases of unknown or unstated parentage, the recent changes to the Indian Act have created more opportunities to accept a wide variety of evidence to support parentage.

Like Janelle, you or someone you know could be newly entitled to status today.

To find out more about entitlement or how to apply, visit: Indian status.

How Bill S-3 has changed the Indian Act

This infographic shows how you or someone you know could now be entitled to registration as a result of Bill S-3:
This infographic shows how you or someone you know could now be entitled to registration as a result of Bill S-3
Description: How Bill S-3 has changed the Indian Act

The Government of Canada has made changes to the Indian Act several times since 1985 to remove sex-based inequities in registration.

The most recent of the changes under Bill S-3 were made in 2017 and 2019 and extend entitlement to descendants of women affected by sex-based discrimination dating back to 1869.

These changes could extend status to generations of First Nations.

These changes could mean that you or someone you know may be entitled to registration.

  • Did your mother, grandmother, or great-grandmother lose status due to:
    • marriage to a non-entitled man before April 17, 1985?
    • being born outside of marriage to an entitled father and non-entitled mother between September 4, 1951 and April 16, 1985?
  • Did one of your parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents:
    • lose status because of their mother's marriage to a non-entitled man before April 17, 1985?
    • have their name omitted or deleted from the Indian Register or from a First Nation membership list because of their non-entitled father?

(PDF version, 110 KB)

Reporting to Parliament

Bill S-3 also required that the Minister of Indigenous Services report to Parliament on:

  1. the design of the consultations
  2. the status of the consultations
  3. the implementation of the bill

The Government of Canada's engagement with First Nations and Indigenous groups

In keeping with the commitment to reconciliation and a renewed nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples, the Government of Canada has committed to work with First Nations and other partners in making legislative changes to address registration concerns as well as broader issues.

Since the full implementation of Bill S-3, the Government of Canada has continued to engage with First Nations and Indigenous groups and address remaining inequities in registration.

The Government of Canada has also developed a national monitoring approach to identify, evaluate and assess the effects of Bill S-3. To find out more about those activities, visit Implementation of Bill S-3: Outreach on recent changes to registration.

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