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Three Native Women Honoured For Human Rights Fight

Three native women who regained their Indian status have been honored with the Robert S. Litvack Memorial Award for human rights.

The ceremony took place at McGill University's law faculty during a recent conference on native rights.

Jeanette Corbiere-Lavell, Mary Two Axe Early, and Sandra Lovelace were granted the award by Inter-Amicus, an international human rights advocacy centre.

All three women played outstanding roles in causing the repeal of the section of the Indian Act that deprived a woman of her Indian status when she married a non-Indian.

Ms. Corbiere-Lavell, an Ojibway from Manitoulin Island, launched the battle in a Toronto provincial court when she married a non-native in 1970. Her case reached the Supreme Court of Canada where she lost 5-4.

Ms. Two Axe Early is a Mohawk from Kahnawake. She was the first woman to regain her status after the repeal. Ms. Two Axe Early's quest for action against discrimination led her to Mexico City in 1975 where she pleaded her case before the International Women's Year conference.

Ms. Lovelace, a Maliseet Indian from the Tobique reserve near Fredericton, N.B., brought the matter before the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 1977. A favourable answer was received in 1985 the same year the federal government repealed the discriminatory section of the Indian Act.

The women are encouraging younger native women to continue fighting because, although they have regained their status in the eyes of the government, many of them are still facing status-related problems.