Indigenous Suffrage

Mary Two-Axe Earley

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.)

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.)

January 01, 1500

Longhouse Activities

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.)

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.)

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 The federal legislation was repealed in 1898, but, unlike other provinces, Nova Scotia did not subsequently enact laws disqualifying Status Indians from voting provincially.

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.

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.

January 01, 1934


Dominion Franchise Act

The Dominion Franchise Act explicitly disqualified Inuit people and Status Indians from voting in federal elections, but made an exception for Status Indian veterans who had been granted the franchise in 1924.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

January 01, 1952


First Nations Gain Right to Vote in Manitoba

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

January 01, 1954


First Nations Gain Right to Vote in Ontario

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

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.

January 01, 1960


First Nations Gain Right to Vote in Saskatchewan

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

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.)

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.

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.

January 01, 1965


First Nations Gain Right to Vote in Alberta

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

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.

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.

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.

January 01, 1969


First Nations Gain Right to Vote in Québec

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

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

January 01, 1976


Nunatsiaq Riding Created

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

November 12, 1992


Inuit Endorse Nunavut

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

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.

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.

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.

February 15, 1999


First Woman Elected to the Nunavut Legislative Assembly

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.