The current Status criteria of the Indian Act contains descent-based rules akin to blood quantum that are particularly discriminatory against women and their descendants, which author Pamela Palmater argues will lead to the extinguishment of First Nations as legal and constitutional entities. Beginning with an historic overview of legislative enactments defining Indian status and their impact on First Nations, the author examines contemporary court rulings dealing with Indigenous identity, Aboriginal rights, and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Palmater also examines band membership codes to determine if their reliance on status criteria perpetuates discrimination. She offers changes for determining Indigenous identity and citizenship and argues that First Nations must determine citizenship themselves.
Dr. Pamela Palmater is a Mi’kmaq lawyer from the Eel River Bar First Nation in northern New Brunswick. She has two children, Mitchell and Jeremy, and a large extended family. Currently, she holds the position of Associate Professor and Chair in Indigenous Governance in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University. Pamela has worked for the federal government on Indigenous legal and governance issues, and has held several director positions at Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
She completed her doctorate in the Science of Law at Dalhousie University Law School in 2009. She holds a Master of Laws from Dalhousie University in Aboriginal Law, a Bachelor of Laws from the University of New Brunswick, and a BA with a double major in Native Studies and History from St. Thomas University in New Brunswick.
She has published articles related to Aboriginal and treaty rights and has her own website dedicated to these issues. She has specialized in Indigenous identity issues, which include Indian status, band membership, and self-government citizenship and traditional Indigenous citizenship.
She is active in the Indigenous community, volunteering as a board member of Native Child and Family Services Toronto as well as ongoing work with First Nations in Ontario. She regularly appears as a commentator on APTN and has appeared before the House and Senate as an expert witness on legislation affecting Indigenous peoples.