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Swilly's family in the toronto star" famous aboriginal people "


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Jeannette Lavell and her daughter Dawn Lavell Harvard stand outside the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa.

A new battle for native women
No guarantee of asset split
On-reserve women denied basic right


Two generations, two different battles on behalf of Canada's native women.

Jeannette Lavell, now 61, fought successfully for native women to retain their status and rights when they married non-natives.

Her case, which caught the attention of the United Nations, took almost 15 years before it was won. It led to Bill C-31 in 1985, giving native women who marry non-natives the right to remain on reserves and giving their children aboriginal status.

Today, Lavell's daughter, Dawn Lavell Harvard, 30, marks International Women's Day by participating in a day of action on Parliament Hill. A member of the Canadian Native Women's Association and president of its Ontario branch, she is part of the next major constitutional challenge of the Indian Act based on gender inequality.

At issue is the failure of the Indian Act, which governs reserves, to guarantee that aboriginal women on reserves will get half of the marital assets upon divorce. The Indian Act "governs every aspect of our lives," Lavell Harvard says.

A Ph.D. candidate in education the University of Western Ontario in London and a Trudeau Foundation Scholar, she points out that while provinces across Canada have made provisions for the equal division of marital assets, women on reserves continue to be denied this right.

"We are conducting this day of action to tell the people in power about this," she says.

"When I talk to people, they wonder what the fuss is all about — when you leave your husband, you get half the assets. But the reserve is a whole different world."

There are about 400,000 people living on reserves in Canada.

Lavell Harvard says education campaigns are the first step in changing the laws. "There will never be an outcry and support and the language (of the act) will stay as it is if it is not known."

A legal challenge, based on gender rights enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, has been launched by the Canadian Native Women's Association, which held its annual general meeting in Ottawa over the weekend. Feminist lawyer Mary Eberts is handling the case before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Lavell Harvard says it is time to remove provisions in the Indian Act that allow inequities. There are men on reserves who do split the family assets with their ex-wives, but there is no guarantee. The Indian Act, passed in 1951 but rooted in colonial law, is mute on the issue of property division, and most property is registered in the man's name. If emotions are running high or there is a history of abuse, Lavell Harvard says, the woman is in no position to bargain.

Lavell Harvard, the mother of a 6-year-old daughter, divorced off-reserve and says she had no problem getting her fair share of the marital assets.

But women on reserves stay married, even in abusive relationships, because they know if they leave, "they will have nothing but the shirts on their backs."

She says some male native leaders are afraid to open up the Indian Act for renegotiation because they fear land treaties and other rights, such as living free of income tax, would then also come up for scrutiny.

Lavell Harvard grew up watching her mother, a teacher, fight to retain her native status.

"If it wasn't for her, I wouldn't be what I am today — an aboriginal. In 1985 (when her mother won her court case), all of a sudden, I was aboriginal."

Jeannette Lavell, who also attended the weekend convention, teaches high school on Manitoulin Island's Wikewemikong reserve.

She says in an interview that she launched the process in 1970 when she married a non-native. Her lawyer, Clayton Ruby, worked pro bono until legal aid and other agencies provided financial assistance. The case was lost at the Supreme Court in 1973 and then taken up by the United Nations, which declared Canada's treatment of native women unfair.

However, it wasn't until after patriation of the Constitution, which prohibited gender discrimination, that Parliament amended the Indian Act.

An activist and member of the Company of Young Canadians, Lavell was a social worker helping native Canadians in Toronto before she returned to school to train as a teacher.

She is not surprised her daughter has continued the fight for women's rights.

"I think I was a role model. When I was working with the Ontario Native Women, in the '70s and '80s, she was just a baby. I took her to all the meetings. That was her training."
Alex D. from TRIBE on Utility Room
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Re: Re: Swilly's family in the toronto star" famous aboriginal people "

Originally posted by Vote Quimby
So what happened to you?? :p

hey i am going to mcgill and i travelled alot more then she did so there. It sucks though having a trudeau scholar in the family no matter what i do i cannot compete. Short of me being a rhodes scholar ( which is still less value) i cannot compete. So yay to being average



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When I was in the states these things were all over the place - especially on reserves. The gift shops along the highway through the great smokey mountains in North Carolina (a fair part of which is a reserve) sold plastic tom-toms, axes and scalping knives.

Up here the status gift shops are all about 'art' and 'crafts'... down there they're all about cowboys and indians stereotypes, apparently. Mind you, I'm not sure what I like least - a dime-store teepee ashtray or some guy in Buckhorn with a pallet knife who thinks he's the next Picasso - and prices accordingly. $5,000 for a Holiday Inn painting of a bear?
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Originally posted by acheron
[ Mind you, I'm not sure what I like least - a dime-store teepee ashtray or some guy in Buckhorn with a pallet knife who thinks he's the next Picasso - and prices accordingly. $5,000 for a Holiday Inn painting of a bear?

art work is still art work and its expensive