Canada's Blood Quantum Formula for Assimilation

This blog provides another excerpt from my doctoral thesis that I am currently converting into a book for publication. This section deals with the second generation cut-off rule in the Indian Act, 1985 that was not specifically challenged by Sharon McIvor in her court case. To my mind, the descent provisions in the Act are essentially blood quantum formulas that perpetuate colonial, racist ideologies about what it meant to be a “real” Indian. Ongoing racist ideologies about the identities of Aboriginal peoples is the underlying problem with the Act and federal policies with regards to Aboriginal peoples. If we do not acknowledge and address that issue, equitable solutions will not be possible. The McIvor decision on appeal is a prime example of how embedded such racist ideology actually is in all levels of our society. Here is the excerpt: If we are ever to convince the courts to address this fundamental problem in federal policy, and even within their own jurisprudential logic and reasoning, we must name it for what it is – the current second generation cut-off rule in section 6(2) of the Indian Act,1985 is really a measurement of blood quantum or degree of descent. The fact that Canada has chosen to use milder words to categorize the rule as: “genealogical proximity”, “degree of Indian parentage”, “genealogical connection”, or “genealogical standard” does not escape the fact that this is an exercise in racism and forced assimilation. Canada has openly created, justified and vigorously defended an identification system for Aboriginal peoples based solely on blood quantum or degree of descent, which is clearly a modern day act of racism. The use of different wording does not cover up what Canada is doing – it is requiring that all status Indians be “real” Indians as viewed from Eurocentric ideologies around blood purity and race. Aside from being legally unjustifiable, it is morally repugnant and should be exposed for what it is: forced assimilation. Both blood quantum and assimilation has been denounced domestically and internationally and should no longer be a part of Canadian law or policy. In fact, Article 8 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) provides that no Indigenous peoples shall be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction of their culture. Further, the State has a positive obligation to prevent the loss of such culture and identity. My goal in publishing this book is to raise awareness about the underlying problems and talk about the tough issues like why some Aboriginal people inadvertently advocate (through blood quantum) their own assimilation. Until we do this, Canadian courts will continue to define who we are based on colonial ideals of the “authentic Indian” which represents little more than fictional stereotypes. Obviously, this is a small excerpt from hundreds of pages which explain all of the above concepts and provide scholarly and legal support for my claims. That being said, there are always strong views on all sides and there will always be differences of opinion. I, personally, can never accept a biological determination of who we are – whether you call it status, membership or something else. Please feel free to send any comments to


  1. I took the quotes directly from the McIvor decision and Canada's factum at the appeal court.

  2. This is interesting – but can't this same critique be levelled at the Aboriginal groups themselves in the way in which they determine the membership? On my reserve, a group of elders decides membership based on a version of blood quantum. And I hear the same is true for Aboriginal groups that have signed modern treaties.

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