Grand Council Chief proposes Matrimonial Rights and Equity Law

NIPISSING FIRST NATION (September 25, 2006) – The Anishinabek Nation leadership didn’t take much time off in the summer, moving forward on a number of significant initiatives that have great implications with Anishinabek Nation communities.  This includes the development of Matrimonial Rights and Equity Law to deal with the complex and difficult issue of division of real matrimonial property.
The Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, The Hon. Jim Prentice has taken steps to address the issue of equity and real matrimonial property on-reserve.
This has always been an issue for many First Nations people as the Indian Act prohibits non-status individuals from owning property on-reserve.  When “mixed marriages” dissolve or the spouse with Indian Status dies, often the non-status spouse is unable to obtain equity from the matrimonial home and other marital assets.  There have been reports of some First Nations forcing spouses and children out of the home and off the reserve following dissolution of the marriage or death of the status spouse.
Unfortunately, the Government of the day is approaching this from a typical conflict point-of-view, equitable division of marital assets and pitting the rights of women and children against the rights and jurisdiction of the First Nation.
“This government, when it sat in opposition, used scare tactics and worse case scenarios to bring light to this issue. This is not an issue of women and children,” said Grand Council Chief John Beaucage.
Grand Council Chief Beaucage has been talking with members of the Anishinabek Nation Women’s Council, the AFN Women’s Council and women Chiefs about this controversial issue.
“Our women have been very clear about this.  This is about status and citizenship.  Our First Nations have the right to define who our citizens are and provide our own solutions in this area.”
The Anishinabek Nation will be meeting with Wendy Grant-John, the Minister’s Special Advisor on Real Matrimonial Property.  Grand Council Chief Beaucage will be proposing the passing of an Anishinabek Nation law to address these issues.”
“In all cases, the children will always be the priority, and in most cases, non-status spouses would be considered citizens and be subject to Anishinabek Nation law and citizenship codes.

Grand Council Chief Beaucage hopes that the
Matrimonial Rights and Equity Law will be ratified under the Governance Final Agreement that the Anishinabek Nation is currently negotiating with Canada.
“Equity and fairness will be at the heart of the law, rather than a focus simply on land transactions.  Land will always be held in trust by the First Nations government.  That is the basis of our communal society,” added Grand Council Chief Beaucage.

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