A Brief Overview
Both prior to and after confederation, legislation in Canada aimed to push Indigenous women to the margins of the Canadian community. This infographic addresses some of the key pieces of legislation passed in the mid-nineteenth to twentieth century and considers the ways they have impacted the lives of Indigenous people in general and Indigenous women in particular in Canada. For any text in red, click to find out more!
The Gradual Civilization Act
The Gradual Enfranchisement Act
Impact on Women
This Act, passed in 1869, was a direct attack on Indigenous forms of government through the imposition of elected band councils (rather than traditionally hereditary councils) and augmented the regulatory powers of Indian Affairs
Denial of Indigenous Culture
The standards for enfranchisement were premised on Western standards of behaviour and knowledge. Acceptance of enfranchisement, in the minds of the Act's creators, necessitated a disvowal of Indigenous culture
Exclusion from Voting
The right to vote in band elections was denied to women until a revision to the Indian Act in 1951. In contrast to the central place many nations afforded women in decision making, this patriarchal stipulation challenged the role of women in the community.
Indigenous women were marginalized from engagement with Canadian society for the Act limited access to enfranchisement to men. Moreover, women's agency was attacked with the stipulation that once a man was enfranchisement, his wife and children would automatically be as well.
Women who married a non-Indigenous man were to lose their Indian status, as it associated benefits. This policy was in effect until 1985.
Dismissal of Women's Agency
Loss of Status
Training Schools and Female Delinquency
The Davin Report
Many Indigenous Children Placed in Schools
Schools deemed mandatory for children aged 7-15
Over 100 years
The last federally-run school closes
The Juvenile Delinquents
Training School Acts, such as the ones passed in Ontario in the 1930s, reflected the government’s belief in its moral authority to correct those it felt were acting beyond the boundaries of permissible behaviour, the definitions of which remained open to middle-class Euro-Canadian interpretation. While training schools existed for anyone who breached the moral values of dominant society, Indigenous women were subject to higher levels of surveillance, control and stereotypes.
Operating under the false assumption of a hierarchy of races and cultures, this Act, passed in 1857 was an attempt to facilitate the advancement of “primitive” peoples (Indigenous peoples) to the ways of a more advanced civilization (Western culture). Not only did the Act assert the superiority of Euro-Canadian culture its existence implied that the Indigenous culture needed to be systematically removed.