Unknown or unstated parentage

Find out about the policy developed to address unknown or unstated parentage in registration.

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What is unknown or unstated parentage

Parentage is the identity and origins of one's parents, grandparents or other ancestors.

Registration under the Indian Act, is based on parentage and the degree of descent from ancestors who are registered or entitled to be registered. When parentage is asserted in an application for registration, there may be situations where the identity of a parent, grandparent or other ancestor is unknown or unstated. Those types of situations could affect a person's ability to prove entitlement to registration.

What is the Gehl decision

On April 20, 2017, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled that the policy on unknown or unstated parentage was unreasonable: it imposed a high burden of evidence and required an applicant to disclose the identity of a parent, grandparent or other ancestor, even in cases of unknown identity.

The court also found that the policy did not adequately address circumstances where women could not or would not disclose paternity.

To find out more about the Gehl decision, visit Gehl v. Canada (Attorney General), 2017 ONCA 319.

How was the Indian Act amended in response to the Gehl decision

In response to the Gehl decision, the Indian Act was amended to include a new provision that addresses situations of unknown or unstated parentage.

The provision now in force provides flexibility for an applicant to submit various forms of credible evidence from which the Indian Registrar is required to draw every reasonable inference in favour of the applicant in determining entitlement to registration in situations of unknown or unstated parentage.

What is the policy on unknown or unstated parentage

Following the Government of Canada's amendment to the Indian Act, a new policy on unknown or unstated parentage has been adopted to address difficulties in submitting evidence to prove parentage.

These are the rules the Indian Registrar must apply:

1. Flexibility in the types of evidence that can be submitted

Any relevant information can be submitted to establish parentage. For a list of examples, visit Are you entitled to registration through a parent not listed on your proof of birth document.

The Indian Registrar must consider all credible evidence and review it in a way that recognizes the difficulties in getting certain evidence, such as historical evidence. The Indian Registrar must also take into account specific and personal reasons to justify an applicant's inability or unwillingness to establish the identity of a parent, grandparent or other ancestor.

2. Balance of probabilities

Parentage is to be determined on the legal standard of the balance of probabilities. The determination must answer this question: Has it been established that it is more probable than not that the parent, grandparent or other ancestor is entitled to be registered?

In making the determination, the Indian Registrar must draw from the credible evidence every reasonable inference in favour of the applicant.

If an applicant is unable or unwilling to disclose the identity of a parent, grandparent or other ancestor, the Indian Registrar must determine, based on the credible evidence, whether it is more probable than not that the parent, grandparent or other ancestor is entitled to registration. The applicant is not required to establish the identity of the parent, grandparent or other ancestor.

If the credible evidence allows the Indian Registrar to determine that it is more probable than not that the unknown or unstated parent, grandparent or other ancestor is entitled to registration, that parent, grandparent or other ancestor must be considered entitled to registration for the purpose of determining the applicant's entitlement to registration.

If you have further questions on unknown or unstated parentage, contact Public enquiries.

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