Indigenous Suffrage | The Canadian Encyclopedia

Indigenous Suffrage

Mary Two-Axe Earley
  1. January 01, 1400

    Organizations  Politics 

    Mi’kmaq Grand Council

    Made up of male representatives from across Mi’kmaq territory, the council is governed by a grand chief and rules by consensus. The role of chieftain is often handed down from father to son. (Note: The exact date of this event is unknown. The date provided here is an estimate.)

  2. January 01, 1400

    Organizations  Politics 

    Blackfoot Confederacy

    A confederacy of Siksika (Blackfoot) nations is organized around bands. Each band has a male leader responsible for decision-making. He governs by consensus. (Note: The exact date of this event is unknown. The date provided here is an estimate.)

  3. January 01, 1500

    Ayenwahtha Wampum Belt

    Organizations  Politics 

    The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy is Active

    Formed by five nations, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy is considered one of the earliest examples of a participatory democracy. (Note: The exact date of this event is unknown. The date provided here is an estimate.)

  4. January 01, 1500

    Huron-Wendat People

    Organizations  Politics 

    Huron-Wendat Village Councils

    Civil and war-related affairs among the Huron-Wendat are determined by respective village councils. Decisions are reached by consensus. All men over 30 are council members but women have little-to-no say in council affairs. (Note: The exact date of this event is unknown. The date provided here is an estimate.)

  5. April 12, 1876

    Indian Act


    Indian Act

    The Indian Act is introduced. The Act aims to eradicate First Nations culture in favour of assimilation into Euro-Canadian society. The Act also reinforces that Status Indians must voluntarily give up status and treaty rights to vote federally. Status Indian women are barred from voting in band council elections.

  6. January 01, 1885


    Electoral Franchise Act

    The original draft of the Act gave federal voting rights to some women, but under the final legislation, only men can vote. The Act gives some Reserve First Nations with property qualifications the right to vote, but bars Chinese Canadians.

  7. January 01, 1885


    Status Indians Enfranchised in Nova Scotia

    Federal legislation put forward by Sir John A. Macdonald extended voting rights to Status Indians in eastern Canada who met existing property requirements. The federal legislation was repealed in 1898, but, unlike other provinces, Nova Scotia did not subsequently enact laws disqualifying Status Indians from voting provincially.

  8. May 24, 1918


    Women Granted Right to Vote in Federal Elections

    Many Canadian women are granted the right to vote in federal elections, but First Nations women can only vote if they give up their status and treaty rights.

  9. February 26, 1920


    Indian Act Amendment Allows for Forced Enfranchisement of Status Indians

    The Indian Act is amended to allow for the forced enfranchisement of First Nations whom the government thought should be removed from band lists. Enfranchisement was the most common of the legal processes by which First Nations peoples lost their Indian Status under the Indian Act.

  10. January 01, 1924


    Status Indian WWI Veterans Granted Right to Vote

    Male Status Indian veterans of the First World War gain the right to vote in federal elections without losing their status and treaty rights. 

  11. January 01, 1924


    First Nations Veterans Granted Right to Vote

    The federal franchise was extended to Status Indian veterans of the First World War, including those living on reserves.

  12. January 01, 1934


    Dominion Franchise Act

    Inuit and First Nations persons living on reserves are disqualified from voting in federal elections, except for First Nations veterans who had previously received the vote.

  13. July 24, 1942


    Birth of Gloria George

    Native Council of Canada president Gloria George, who became the first woman to lead a major aboriginal political organization, was born at Hubert, BC.

  14. January 01, 1944


    Status Indian Servicemen and their Spouses Enfranchised

    During the Second World War, the federal government extended the right to vote to Status Indians who served in the war and their spouses.

  15. January 01, 1944



    Status Indian WWII Veterans Granted Right to Vote

    Status Indian veterans who served in the Second World War and their spouses are permitted to vote in federal elections without losing status, with some conditions.

  16. January 01, 1948


    Changes to Elections Act Regarding Race

    The federal Elections Act was changed so that race was no longer grounds for exclusion from voting in federal elections. While Japanese Canadians were enfranchised, First Nations peoples would not gain that right until 1960.

  17. January 01, 1948


    Amendments to Dominion Elections Act

    Race is no longer grounds for exclusion from voting in federal elections. However, Status Indians still have to give up their Status in order to vote.

  18. January 01, 1949


    First Nations Gain Right to Vote in British Columbia

    Status Indians in British Columbia were granted the right to vote in provincial elections.

  19. January 01, 1949


    First Nations Win Right to Vote Provincially

    Except in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, Status Indians had been barred from voting provincially. Beginning with British Columbia in 1949 and ending with Quebec in 1969, First Nations peoples gradually win the right to vote in provincial elections without losing status or treaty rights.  

  20. March 03, 1949


    Birth of Elijah Harper

    Cree politician, consultant, policy analyst Elijah Harper was born in Red Sucker Lake, MB. The first Indigenous member of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, Harper also served as the minister of Northern Affairs. From 1993 to 1997, he represented the riding of Churchill in the federal Parliament. Harper is best known for the role he played in scuttling the Meech Lake Accord, where he cited the lack of adequate participation and recognition of Indigenous people in that process.

  21. January 01, 1950


    Inuit Enfranchised

    The Inuit were enfranchised without restrictions. However, the geographic isolation of northern communities meant that many did not have the opportunity to vote until ballot boxes were placed in all Inuit communities for the 1962 federal election.

  22. January 01, 1950


    Inuit Granted Right to Vote

    Inuit are granted the right to vote in federal elections, but the isolation of several communities means many cannot access polling stations. Later reforms increase access to ballot boxes.

  23. January 01, 1951


    First Nations Women Granted Right to Vote in Band Council Elections

    Changes to the Indian Act grant First Nations women the right to vote in band council elections.

  24. January 01, 1951


    First Nations Women Gain Right to Vote in Band Council Elections

    Changes to the Indian Act granted First Nations women the right to vote in band council elections. Prior to European contact, Indigenous women had traditionally played important roles in community decision-making.

  25. January 01, 1952


    First Nations Gain Right to Vote in Manitoba

    Status Indians in Manitoba were granted the right to vote in provincial elections.

  26. January 01, 1954


    First Nations Gain Right to Vote in Ontario

    Status Indians in Ontario were granted the right to vote in provincial elections.

  27. January 31, 1958


    James Gladstone Enters the Senate

    James Gladstone took his seat in the Senate. A member of the Blood Tribe of the Blackfoot Nation, Gladstone became Canada's first Aboriginal Senator two years before First Nations, Métis and Inuit persons gained the right to vote in Canada.

  28. January 01, 1960


    First Nations Gain Right to Vote in Saskatchewan

    Status Indians in Saskatchewan were granted the right to vote in provincial elections.

  29. July 01, 1960

    In Hiawatha Council Hall on Occasion of a Federal By-election


    Right to Vote for Status Indians

    Status Indians receive the right to vote in federal elections, no longer losing their status or treaty rights in the process. (See also Indigenous Suffrage in Canada.)

  30. July 01, 1960

    In Hiawatha Council Hall on Occasion of a Federal By-election


    First Nations Can Now Vote in Federal Elections

    First Nations peoples receive the right to vote in federal elections while retaining their status and treaty rights. However, they are still excluded from voting in some provinces.

  31. January 01, 1963


    First Nations Gain Right to Vote in Prince Edward Island

    Status Indians in Prince Edward Island were granted the right to vote in provincial elections.

  32. January 01, 1963


    First Nations Gain Right to Vote in New Brunswick

    Status Indians in New Brunswick were granted the right to vote in provincial elections.

  33. January 01, 1965


    First Nations Gain Right to Vote in Alberta

    Status Indians in Alberta were granted the right to vote in provincial elections.

  34. January 01, 1967


    Equal Rights for Indian Women Association Created

    Equal Rights for Indian Women (ERIW) was established in Québec. A provincial organization, ERIW was founded by Mohawk women’s rights activist Mary Two-Axe Earley, who fought the loss of Indian status suffered by Indigenous women married to non-Status Indians. ERIW faced strong resistance from male leaders in First Nations communities.

  35. January 01, 1968


    Voice of Alberta Native Women's Society Founded

    The Voice of Alberta Native Women's Society (VANWS) was founded by Indigenous activists, including Métis war veteran Bertha Clark Jones, to advocate on behalf of Status and Non-Status women in the years before Bill C-31 made it possible for those who had lost their status in marriage to regain it. VANWS would evolve into the Native Women's Association of Canada, which has been active since 1974.

  36. June 25, 1968


    Leonard Marchand Elected to Federal Office

    Leonard Marchand, member of the Okanagan Nation, became the first Indigenous person to be elected to the federal Parliament since Louis Riel.

  37. January 01, 1969


    First Nations Gain Right to Vote in Québec

    Status Indians in Québec were granted the right to vote in provincial elections.

  38. January 01, 1970


    Voting Age is Lowered to 18

    Parliament passes legislation lowering the federal voting age from 21 to 18. This adds two million Canadians to the electoral rolls.

  39. January 01, 1971


    Inuit Tapirisat of Canada

    The Inuit Tapirisat of Canada (Tapirisat, meaning Brotherhood in English) was founded. The ITC was created by an organizing committee of Inuit who decided it was time to speak with a united voice on various issues concerning development of the Canadian North and preservation of Inuit culture. In 2001, the ITC was renamed the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

  40. January 01, 1971


    Ontario Native Women’s Association Established

    The Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA), a non-profit organization, was established. Working to empower Aboriginal women, the ONWA aims to build connections with government in the fight for equality and ensure the preservation of culture and heritage. Noted Aboriginal women’s activist Jeannette Lavell was a founding ONWA member.

  41. January 01, 1972


    Indian Rights for Indian Women Established

    Indian Rights for Indian Women, an organization with a nation-wide scope, was established in Alberta. After meeting with Aboriginal women’s activist Mary Two-Axe Earley, First Nations women in Alberta began to organize opposition to the discriminatory Indian Act. Two-Axe Earley was the group’s vice president for several years.

  42. August 27, 1973


    Supreme Court Rejects Equal Status for First Nations Women Married to Non-Aboriginals

    The Supreme Court ruled that the Canadian Bill of Rights did not apply to the Indian Act section that determined Aboriginal women married to non-Status Indians lost their Indian status. Activist Jeannette Lavell challenged the Indian Act claiming it discriminated on the basis of sex, a Bill of Rights violation (see Lavell Case).

  43. January 01, 1974


    Quebec Native Women Inc. Established

    Québec Native Women Inc. (QNW) was founded. The bilingual QNW represents Indigenous women from Quebec. Working to achieve equal rights for all Aboriginal women, the QNW promotes issues such as non-violence and justice. It is a member organization of the Native Women’s Association of Canada.

  44. January 01, 1974

    Native Women's Association of Canada


    Native Women's Association of Canada Founded

    The Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) was founded by Indigenous women and their allies, including non-Indigenous feminists active in the women’s movement. Members concerned themselves with the preservation and continuation of Indigenous culture on a local level, while focusing nationally on addressing the inequity in status conditions for women under the Indian Act. NWAC's first president was Métis war veteran and activist Bertha Clark Jones.

  45. August 22, 1974


    First Assembly of the Native Women’s Association of Canada

    The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) convened its first assembly. The NWAC, a non-profit organization, brought together 13 Aboriginal women’s groups from across Canada. It represents mainly First Nations and Métis women, with the aim to achieve equal opportunities and influence policy initiatives impacting its members.

  46. January 01, 1976


    Nunavut Land Claims Presented to Government

    The Inuit Tapirisat of Canada submitted a formal land claims proposal to the Government of Canada.

  47. January 01, 1976


    Nunatsiaq Riding Created

    A federal riding was created in the Northwest Territories. Called Nunatsiaq, it represented territory that now comprises Nunavut.

  48. August 14, 1978


    Dene Nation

    The Indian Brotherhood of the Northwest Territories became the Dene Nation during the 8th Dene National Assembly held in Fort Norman, NT.

  49. July 19, 1979


    “Indian Women’s March” Protests the Indian Act

    Twenty-eight women from the Tobique First Nation’s women’s group organized a 160 km walk from the Oka Reserve in Québec to Ottawa. They aimed to bring national attention to gender discrimination in the Indian Act.

  50. July 30, 1981


    UNHRC Decision Highlights Indian Act Discrimination

    The United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) presented its decision on the Lovelace case. Sandra Lovelace, of the Maliseet First Nation, argued that losing her Indian Status after marrying a non-Status Indian was discriminatory. The UNHRC declared Lovelace’s status loss tantamount to cultural interference.

  51. January 01, 1982

    Organizations  Politics 

    Tungavik Federation of Nunavut Established

    The Tungavik Federation of Nunavut (TFN) was established in order to negotiate a land claims agreement with the Government of Canada.

  52. April 14, 1982


    Northwest Territories Plebiscite

    The majority of voters (56 per cent) chose to divide the Northwest Territories in two in a territorial plebiscite. The division would create a mainly Inuit eastern territory. Over 80 per cent of the territory’s Inuit voted, more than 80 per cent of whom voted in favour of the creation of Nunavut. The results of the plebiscite were not binding federally.

  53. March 30, 1984


    Pauktuutit, the Inuit Women’s Association, Established

    The Inuit Women’s Association, known as Pauktuutit, was incorporated. The national organization seeks to represent the needs of Inuit women, advocating on their behalf in federal policy initiatives. These include social justice issues such as violence against women, and health issues such as promoting traditional midwifery practices.

  54. June 17, 1985


    Bill C-31, An Act to Amend the Indian Act, Passed

    Since the mid-1800s the status of women had been tied to that of their husbands. Therefore, if a Status Indian woman married a non-Status Indian man, she would lose her status and if a non-Status Indian woman married a Status Indian man, she would acquire status. Bill C-31 removed these discriminatory provisions.

  55. November 21, 1988


    First Indigenous Woman Elected to Federal Government

    Ethel Dorothy Blondin-Andrew, member of the Dene Nation, became the first Indigenous woman elected to the House of Commons.

  56. November 14, 1991


    Cournoyea Elected Premier of NWT

    Nellie J. Cournoyea, of Inupiaq heritage, was elected premier of the Northwest Territories, making her the first Indigenous woman to hold the position of government leader.

  57. January 01, 1992


    Métis Women’s National Council Formed

    The Métis Women’s National Council (MWNC) was established as an organization separate from the Métis National Council, which was formed in 1983. The MWNC aims to promote understanding of the traditional roles played by Métis women, and to raise awareness of socio-cultural issues impacting Métis women and their children.

  58. May 04, 1992


    Nunavut Boundary Plebiscite

    A plebiscite was held in order to confirm the boundary between the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Fifty-four per cent voted in favour of the proposed boundaries.

  59. August 16, 1992


    Gros-Louis Elected Grand Chief

    The Huron-Wendat Nation of Wendake (located near Québec City) elected Jocelyne Gros-Louis as Grand Chief. She was the first woman to be named as the leader of a First Nation in Canada.

  60. November 03, 1992


    ​Inuit Accept the Terms of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement

    A majority of Inuit beneficiaries voted to accept the terms of the proposed Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. In tandem with the Nunavut Act, the land claims agreement led to the creation of the territory of Nunavut.

  61. November 12, 1992


    Inuit Endorse Nunavut

    The Inuit endorsed the creation of Nunavut, a semi-autonomous territory, in a referendum.

  62. June 10, 1993


    Nunavut Act Receives Royal Assent

    The Nunavut Act, which established the new territory and its government, received royal assent in Parliament. The territory's Inuit population became beneficiaries under the Nunavut Land Settlement Agreement, which also received royal assent on this day. Nunavut officially became Canada’s third territory on 1 April 1999.

  63. June 02, 1997

    People  Politics 

    First Inuit MP Elected

    Liberal Nancy Karetak-Lindell was elected the first Member of Parliament for the newly-created riding of Nunavut, and became the first Inuit woman elected to the House of Commons.

  64. November 26, 1997


    First Métis Woman Appointed to Senate

    Thelma Chalifoux, an active member of the Métis Nation of Alberta, became the first Métis woman appointed to the Senate.

  65. February 15, 1999


    First Woman Elected to the Nunavut Legislative Assembly

    Manitok Thompson became the first woman elected to the Nunavut Legislative Assembly.

  66. April 01, 1999

    Nunavut Flag


    Nunavut Declared

    The new territory of Nunavut, covering some 2 million sqare kilometers of the eastern Arctic, was declared as part of Canada's first territorial changes since Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949.

  67. May 20, 1999


    Off-Reserve Voting Rights

    The Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously to open Indigenous band elections to off-reserve band members, stating that excluding them violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

  68. September 21, 2005


    First Female First Nations Senator Appointed

    Sandra Lovelace Nicholas, a Maliseet woman from the Tobique First Nation in New Brunswick, became the first First Nations woman appointed to the Senate.

  69. September 04, 2007


    BC's First Aboriginal Lieutenant-Governor

    PM Stephen Harper announced the appointment of Steven Point as BC's first Aboriginal lieutenant-governor.

  70. October 30, 2008


    First Inuit Federal Cabinet Minister

    Leona Aglukkaq was appointed Minister of Health, making her the first Inuk to serve as a senior federal cabinet minister.

  71. November 14, 2008


    Aariak Becomes First Female Premier of Nunavut

    Eva Aariak, the MLA for Iqaluit East and Nunavut's former languages commissioner, defeated Paul Okalik to become Nunavut’s second premier and the territory’s first female premier. She was, however, the only woman in the legislature.

  72. September 10, 2009


    Nicholas Appointed Lieutenant-Governor

    The Honourable Graydon Nicholas was appointed New Brunswick's 30th lieutenant-governor. He was first Indigenous person in the province to hold the honour.

  73. January 10, 2014


    First Indigenous Constitution in Ontario

    Members of the Nipissing First Nation voted in favour of adopting their own constitution, or Gichi-Naaknigewin, believed to be the first such document among First Nations communities in Ontario. Its purpose is to allow the nation to define its membership and create laws. Legal experts say it is unclear, however, whether this constitution will run up against Canadian laws such as the Indian Act, which it is designed to replace.

  74. October 22, 2014


    Winnipeg’s First Aboriginal Mayor

    Métis lawyer Brian Bowman was elected as Winnipeg’s first Aboriginal mayor in the city’s 140-year history.

  75. December 10, 2014


    Perry Bellegarde Elected National Chief

    Perry Bellegarde, former chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and Saskatchewan regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), was elected national chief of the AFN.

  76. October 04, 2015


    REDress Project Calls for Donations

    The REDress Project, an art installation commemorating Canada’s missing and murdered Indigenous  women, asked for the donation of red dresses, and for Canadians to hang their own. Métis artist Jaime Black initiated the project, which has displayed hundreds of red dresses in public spaces such as the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.

  77. May 10, 2016

    Flag of the United Nations


    Canada Supports UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights

    Indigenous Affairs minister Carolyn Bennett announced Canada’s full support of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Conservative government under Stephen Harper had endorsed the declaration in 2010, but with qualifications that gave Canada “objector” status at the UN with respect to the document. Bennett's announcement removed this status. The declaration recognizes a wide range of Indigenous rights, from basic human rights to land, language and self-determination rights.