In 1974, Jeannette Vivian Corbiere Lavell brought her case before the Supreme Court of Canada. When Lavell married a non-Status man she surrendered her Indian Status and the right to live on reserves, pursuant to the Indian Act. In the Lavelldecision, the Court found that the Canadian Bill of Rights could not amend or alter the terms of the British North America Act. Therefore, the Indian Act, which was contained within the BNA Act, could only be changed if the Canadian government established new laws regarding Aboriginal Status and the use of Crown “...Lands reserved for the Indians.” (British North America Act, 1876, Section 91 (24))

“The Indian Act provided that Indian native women who marry non-Indians lose their Indian status, but if Indian males marry white women they do not. I call that discrimination.”

(Diefenbaker, Nowlan Lecture, 18 October 1973, 12)

Based on the precedent set by the Lavell case, Lovelace could not appeal to the Canadian courts, so she took her case to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations. The UN declared that Canada was in breach of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. As a result, the Indian Act was revised in 1985, to ensure that Aboriginal women who married non-Status Indian men would retain their Status.

The situation repeated itself in the Lovelace Decision. Sandra Lovelace, was a Maliseet woman from the Tobique Reserve in New Brunswick. Lovelace had married an American Airman and moved to California. Years later, Lovelace and her children returned to the Tobique Reserve and were denied housing, education and health care normally provided to those with Status under Canada's Indian Act.
Diefenbaker’s note that reads, “A judgement
that should not stand.”