Why would Quebec and Canada tolerate the trampling of people's basic individual rights by a policy based on bloodline? The Quebec government is looking the other way on the pretext that Indian affairs is under federal jurisdiction, and no one raised a question in the National Assembly. Last week, Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl lamely said that, even though he didn't like the band council's decision, he couldn't do anything since the move is legal and the first nations are “sovereign” on their lands.
The answer is actually easy in the case of the Federal government. The Federal government is busily entrenching exactly the same concept in the Indian Act for a much wider range of matters and cannot be seen to even suggest that there is a Charter or Human Rights problem. Last year the British Columbia Court of Appeal ordered the Federal to bring the definition of status in the Indian Act into compliance with the Charter. In doing so it identified a very narrow problem and skirted the much broader problem that the Indian Act incorporates a definition of Indian status which is a classic "blood quantum" approach -- that is, if you have enough non-Indian ancestors in the last two generations you are off the list.
This rule is draconian. It does not matter how culturally "Indian" you are or how connected to your community you are, if your momma or your poppa is not status and your parents are similarly "impure" -- you are off the list. You could have spent every day of your life on reserve but you are not an Indian. If you have a white dad but your sister has an Indian dad, she is on the list and you are off the list -- even if you lived on the reserve and she lived off. You could feel entirely a part of the community and be entirely engaged with the community but in the eyes of the Federal government you are no more an Indian than I am.
Being off the list means a number of things -- it means no a tax exemption, no automatic rights of membership and -- and this is why the Federal government is so circumspect about this issue -- no federal funding for medical, dental or education. You are officially the Province's problem and the Federal treasury is relieved off any issues related to you whatsoever. Likewise the funding levels for the band as whole can be cut back and treaty settlements can be made smaller as there are fewer Indians to deal with.
Thus Chuck Strahl cannot speak out about this because Chuck Strahl needs this. Despite requests by many aboriginal people to do away with the blood quantum rules and move toward rules based upon community membership, the Federal government has consistently (and this is true of Liberal governments as well) turned a deaf ear. To actually act on this problem would mean that the Federal government would not be able to look forward to the "Indian Problem" being solved by romance. Instead it would have to address its own race based discrimination in the status provisions of the Indian Act.
This issue, contrary to what Ms. Gagnon says, does not go back to just 1981. In fact, when one of the very first predecessors to the Indian Act was passed in the 1800's there were two Indian Acts passed -- one for Upper Canada and one for Lower Canada and each had a different definition for Indian. In Upper Canada it was a wider, community based definition that did not discriminate on the basis of sex. In Lower Canada it was similar to the present definition in the Indian Act with the old marrying out rule built in (that is, a woman who married out lost their status). Why the difference? Because the Mohawks at Kahnawake were unhappy about the number of non-Mohawks on their land.