Sandra Lovelace Nicholas, a Maliseet woman from New Brunswick's Tobique Nation, lost her Native status when she married a white man, and even once divorced, she and her children didn't recover her status.
At the time, the Tobique band council refused to allocate her a subsidized house. The law made no similar provision for Native men who married non-aboriginals. Women who lost status were effectively barred from having their children educated on the reserve and taking part in band decisions. In 1977, Ms. Lovelace Nicholas took her case to the United Nations human-rights committee, charging that the discriminatory measures in Canada's Indian Act violated an international covenant on civil and political rights - a case she won in 1981. The law was not reversed until 1985; it took her nearly ten years to recover her status.
Thanks to the successful appeal of Ms. Lovelace Nicholas to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations, Native women in Canada no longer lose their status under the Indian Act through marriage to a non-Native man.
Ms. Lovelace Nicholas became a senator for New Brunswick in 2005, the second aboriginal woman appointed by then Prime Minster Paul Martin.
Nominator: Nicolle Leblanc, Fredericton