According to the Indian Act, indigenous women who married white men lost their treaty status, and their children would not get status. In the reverse situation (indigenous men married to white women), men could keep their status, and their children would get treaty status. In the 1970s, the Indian Rights for Indian Women and Native Women’s Association of Canada groups campaigned against this policy because it discriminated against women and failed to fulfil treaty promises. They successfully convinced the federal government to change the section of the act with the adoption of Bill C-31 on June 28, 1985. Women who had lost their status and children who had been excluded were then able to register and gain official Indian status. Despite these changes, First Nations women who married white men could only pass their status on one generation, their children would gain status, but (without a marriage to a full status Indian) their grandchildren would not. A First Nations male who married a white woman retained status as did his children, but his wife did not gain status, nor his grandchildren.
Bill C-31 also gave elected bands the power to regulate who was allowed to reside on their reserves and to control development on their reserves. It abolished the concept of “enfranchisement” by which First Nations people could gain certain rights by renouncing their Indian status.