Indian Rights for Indian Babies: Canada’s “Unstated Paternity” Policy

  • Lynn Gehl


Indigenous women in Canada do not live the privilege of a life free from sex discrimination.  Although Canada’s constitutional beginnings recognized and honoured the sovereignty and jurisdiction of Indigenous Nations, for generations the Canadian government has denied these Nations the right to define who they are.  Through the creation of the legal entity of “Indian” and through conflating it with treaty rights, the government of Canada has undergone a process of eliminating their responsibilities to First Nations through eliminating legally defined Indians.  This has occurred through the application of an increasingly tighter definition of “Indian”.  Through this process the government of Canada has consciously targeted generations of Indian women and their descendants.  Despite remedial legislations in 1985 and more recently in 2011 sex discrimination continues.  Through an Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada unstated paternity policy the Canadian government continues to discriminate against Indigenous children of unknown and unstated paternity.  This policy of denial is applied in situations of sexual violence such as incest and rape.  Young mothers of Indigenous Nations are particularly vulnerable.  It is estimated that since 1985 as many as 25, 000 Indigenous children have been denied Indian status registration and consequently their treaty rights because the father’s signature is not on their birth certificates.  In this way Canada is now targeting children in their need to eliminate their treaty responsibilities to First Nation people.

How to Cite
Gehl, L. (2013). Indian Rights for Indian Babies: Canada’s “Unstated Paternity” Policy. First Peoples Child & Family Review, 8(2), 54-73. Retrieved from