(Saskatoon, SK.) The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) Executive and the Saskatchewan First Nations Women’s Commission is pleased to commemorate International Women’s Day.

International Women’s Day began at a time when women lobbied for humane work hours, equal pay, and an end to child labour.  It was later used as a celebration of women’s suffrage.

Provincially, non-Indigenous women were granted the right to vote in 1916.

“Our women have always been leaders in our homes, communities and tribes. Gender equality is an opportunity that we fully support,” said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron. “It is time for the full and equal inclusion and participation of women in the social, political and economic institutions of society.”

“As the struggle for women’s rights was taking place in mainstream society and gains were being made, Indigenous women were stripped of their roles as leaders and matriarchs in our homes through federal policy and the Indian Act,” said Vice Chief Heather Bear.

Under the Indian Act, First Nations women did not have the right to vote in their own band elections until 1950. In 1960, women were included when all First Nations people were allowed to vote in Canadian elections.

The Indian Act stripped women of their status and the education provisions forced children into church-run institutions. The sanctity of the family unit was damaged so severely the effects are still being felt today in many families and communities. Canadian laws and policies still exist that undermine Indigenous women’s fundamental human rights.

“First Nations women have fallen victim to the Indian Act in so many ways and in so many spheres,” said Vice Chief Heather Bear. “Historically Indigenous women were honoured for their insight, wisdom, and leadership.  We were keepers of the laws, traditions, and cultures. Today in Canada, Indigenous women are seven times more likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous women and the incarceration of Indigenous women has increased by 112% over the past decade. International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on the root causes that have led us to where we are today in the hope that awareness will create understanding and understanding will create change in society.”

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