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Do you know a woman who is being abused? A legal rights handbook

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Part 8: Issues affecting Indigenous women

It can be hard for Indigenous women to get provincial family court orders enforced in First Nations communities (on reserve). The Chief and Council can decide which laws and orders to enforce on reserve. This includes orders for exclusive possession of the family home, restraining orders, and orders for custody, access, and support.

Exclusive possession: a court order that says one partner can stay in, or return to, the home and the other partner is not allowed on the property. If there are children, the order usually also says that the children are allowed on the property. The order is usually temporary. The court doesn't decide who owns the home or who rented it when deciding which partner can stay in it.

Restraining order: a court order that says what your partner cannot do. For example, the order might say where he cannot go, or who he cannot contact.

Usually, Ontario law decides what should happen to family property. But there are special rules that apply to family property on reserves. Each First Nation might pass its own laws about family property rights. If they do not, there is a federal law about how to divide the value of a family home on a reserve and who can live in the home. This is a complicated area of law. You should get legal advice from a family law lawyer who also has experience dealing with issues affecting Indigenous women.

You should tell the judge if you or your partner live on reserve so they know that there might be different laws that apply and that it might be hard to get your order enforced.

Bands and First Nations, Inuit, or Métis communities may also have special rights to participate in child protection cases if the children are Indigenous. The court must consider things like the importance of preserving the child's cultural identity when making decisions about Indigenous children.