Da’naxda’xw/Awaetlala First Nation v BC Hydro, 2017 BCSC 2179

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

Application for judicial review dismissed. A party seeking a remedy in damages must do so in an action, not in an application for judicial review.

Kleana Power Corporation [KPC], proposed a run-of-the-river hydro-electric project on the Klinaklini River (the “Project”) in 2008 within the asserted traditional territory of the Da’naxda’xw/Awaetlala First Nation [DAFN]. KPC wished to submit a proposal in the 2008 “Clean Power Call” issued by British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority (“BC Hydro”), with a view to being awarded an energy purchase agreement for the sale of electricity generated from the Project to BC Hydro. The DAFN considered the Project to be an economic opportunity consistent with their cultural and ecological interests. The proposed boundary of a protected conservancy, however, was within the traditional territory claimed by the DAFN, which created a barrier to the Project. Both petitioners say that in 2008 they received an assurance from the respondent Minister of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas (the “Energy Minister”). The assurance was that when the Project could proceed, but if KPC lost the opportunity to participate in the 2008 Clean Power Call due to a delay in amending the conservancy boundary, then the Energy Minister would direct BC Hydro to enter into negotiations with KPC for an energy purchase agreement at a price for power that was linked to the results of the winning bids in the call. The petitioners say that the Energy Minister’s assurance was clear, unambiguous and unqualified, therefore they acted in reliance on the Energy Minister’s assurance. They spent time and resources pursuing the boundary amendment necessary for the Project to proceed.

The petitioners sought judicial review in 2010, of the refusal of the then Environment Minister to recommend to the Lieutenant Governor in Council an amendment to the conservancy boundary. The reviewing judge found that the Environment Minister had a legal duty to consult with the DAFN concerning their request for an amendment to the boundary with a view to considering a reasonable accommodation and had failed to fulfill this duty to consult (Da’naxda’xw/Awaetlala First Nation v British Columbia (Environment), [2011] 3 CNLR 188 (BCSC) “Da’naxda’xw 2011”). The Court concluded in Da’naxda’xw/Awaetlala First Nation v British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority, 2015 BCSC 16 (“Da’naxda’xw 2015”) that the petitioners had not established that they were entitled to any remedy on the administrative law grounds raised. But declarations were issued to the effect that the DAFN were entitled to further relief and a remedy in respect of the original breaches of the duty to consult. The petitioners appealed and the Energy Minister and Province cross-appealed with respect to the declaratory relief that was ordered. In Da’naxda’xw/Awaetlala First Nation v. British Columbia (Energy, Mines and Natural Gas), 2016 BCCA 163 (“Da’naxda’xw CA”), the Court of Appeal dismissed the petitioners’ appeal and ordered that the declaration be set aside. The cross-appeal was allowed and the petition was remitted for reconsideration of the remedy for the DAFN. This proceeding was an application for a judicial review.

The Amended Petition was in part premised on the asserted failure of the Energy Minister to give a direction to BC Hydro consistent with what the DAFN alleged was the commitment given to them in 2008, and was how the application was framed, responded to, and argued. This petition has never been further amended nor was the Environment Minister named as a respondent. No relief was sought in respect of the consultation ordered in Da’naxda’xw 2011, or the actions of the Environment Minister in 2008. There was no pleaded case of a failure to comply with the Da’naxda’xw 2011 order. Since Da’naxda’xw have never sought leave to further amend the Amended Petition in any respect, no further remedy can now be granted as it is res judicata.

Given the conclusions in Da’naxda’xw 2015 regarding the scope of the Minister’s commitment, and the dismissal by the Court of Appeal of the petitioners’ appeal, there are only two grounds on which to possibly grant a remedy for the DAFN: (1) the Environment Minister’s 2010 breach of the duty to consult regarding the request by the DAFN for an amendment to the conservancy boundary; and (2) the consultation that followed the Da’naxda’xw 2011 order, up to and including the Order-in-Council amending the conservancy boundary in June 2012. Neither can provide support for a remedy for the DAFN in the circumstances of this case. Whether the Environment Minister breached the duty to consult the DAFN in 2010 was the central issue in Da’naxda’xw 2011 and led to the remedy granted in that matter. It is a final order, and neither the Environment Minister nor the DAFN appealed. These cannot now be relitigated based on the outcome of Da’naxda’xw 2015 and the subsequent dismissal of the DAFN’s appeal in Da’naxda’xw CA.

Where a pleading fails to fulfill its function, that defect should not be overlooked, even in Aboriginal litigation. “The trial of an action should not resemble a voyage on the Flying Dutchman with a crew condemned to roam the seas interminably with no set destination and no end in sight” (Lax Kw’alaams Indian Band v. Canada (Attorney General), 2011 SCC 56. The Amended Petition sought judicial review and relief only in respect of the conduct of the Energy Minister. The petitioners have never sought leave to further amend the Amended Petition. There was no complaint that there was a failure to comply with the order for further consultation or a breach of the duty owed to the DAFN that followed the Da’naxda’xw 2011order, nor was it asserted that the consultation was inadequate. A failure to plead the adequacy of consultation results in the issue not being properly before the court (Adams Lake Indian Band v Lieutenant Governor in Council, 2012 BCCA 333). Any further consultation concerning the decisions made by the Environment Minister in 2008 and 2010 could not lead to anything other than a discussion about some measure of compensation, in other words, monetary damages.

 

Lac Seul First Nation v Canada, 2017 FC 906

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

Canada breached its fiduciary duty to the Plaintiffs and must pay equitable damages of $30 million; third party claims against Ontario and Manitoba dismissed.

The Lac Seul First Nation [LSFN] claimed that Canada breached its treaty with the LSFN (Treaty No. 3), the Indian Act, and its fiduciary duties and obligations. LSFN sought damages from Canada for losses from the flooding of part of the LSFN Reserve following the construction of the Ear Falls Storage Dam where Lac Seul drains into the English River. LSFN requested punitive damages and costs along with equitable compensation for a loss of opportunity for hydroelectric benefits, past present and future, in the amount of $506.6 million including avoidable losses due to erosion, loss of timber and community infrastructure in the amount of $40 million.

The Lac Seul Storage Project provided the water reservoir necessary to permit power generation for the City of Winnipeg and Northwestern Ontario. In 1929, the Ear Falls Storage Dam was completed, as part of a project to maximize the potential for hydroelectric developments on the Winnipeg River in Manitoba to provide power to the City of Winnipeg. The parties agreed that this part of the LSFN Reserve land is now under water. With the flooding, the LSFN lost the use and enjoyment of this portion of its Reserve. Other impacts from flooding on the LSFN included lost houses, wild rice fields, and the separation by water of two of its communities, Kejick Bay and Whitefish Bay.

Ultimately the Court assessed the Plaintiffs’ equitable damages at $30 million. The factors considered included the amount of the calculable losses and that many of the non-quantifiable losses created in 1929 persisted over decades, and some still continue. The failure to remove the timber from the foreshore created an eyesore and impacted the natural beauty of the Reserve land. This created a long-term water hazard effecting travel and fishing for members of the LSFN. The flooding negatively affected hunting and trapping. Although Canada supplied the materials to build the replacement houses, the LSFN members supplied their own labour. The LSFN docks were not replaced, as well hay land, gardens and rice fields were destroyed. Two LSFN communities were separated by water and one became an island, impacting the ease of movement of the people who lived there. Canada failed to keep the LSFN informed and never consulted with the band on any of the flood related matters that affected it, creating uncertainty and anxiety for the band. Canada failed to act in a prompt and effective manner to deal with compensation with the LSFN prior to the flooding and many years after the flooding, despite being aware of the negative impact on the band members.

It was determined that this $30 million in equitable compensation would be sufficient to put LSFN back in the place they would have been but for the breach and would meet the objectives of retribution, deterrence, and denunciation, as there have been no punitive damages awarded in an Aboriginal law context. A declaration was also sought that the LSFN legal interests in the flooded lands and the freeboard area have not been encumbered or extinguished. Canada admitted and accepted that LSFN had “retained the flooded Reserve lands.” A declaration would therefore serve no purpose. Canada claimed a defence of laches, but this defence does not apply as the trial record revealed a singular failure of Canadian government departments to communicate with the members of the LSFN. Similarly, the decisions made regarding the cutting of timber on the foreshore, the use of the unemployed men as a relief project, and its later abandonment were events that also occurred with little or no communication with the LSFN. Lastly, the negotiation of a payment to the LSFN was done in 1943 and accepted by Canada with no evidence that the LSFN was ever informed of the structure of the settlement, or its amount.

It is inexplicable in the evidence as to why Canada took no steps either at the time of the first flooding or subsequently to legally authorize the expropriation through flooding of these Reserve lands. Moreover, no compensation was paid to LSFN relating to the flooded lands or consequent damages suffered until November 17, 1943, which was not an appropriate amount and was in breach of Canada’s fiduciary duty to LSFN. Canada defended the main action and commenced third party claims against both Ontario and Manitoba for contribution and indemnity, pursuant to the terms of the Lac Seul Conservation Act (Canada) and An Act Respecting Lac Seul Storage (Ontario). Where the third parties have no fiduciary duty to the beneficiary, the defendant cannot apportion its liability for equitable compensation to them. Canada is not being asked to pay more than its share of the losses as it is solely responsible for them.

Brown v Canada (AG), 2018 ONSC 3429

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

The Settlement Agreement, other than the legal fees provision, is approved. The $75 million legal fees provision is excessive, unreasonable and is not approved. Class counsel in Brown have agreed to de-link the legal fees provision from the rest of the Settlement Agreement. The Court should be advised when a revised section 11.01 has been agreed to by the parties.

(This is the third of three consecutive Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch Blog posts regarding the Sixties Scoop Class Action judgements.)

The Sixties Scoop has been nationally acknowledged as a “dark and painful chapter in Canada’s history”, prompting twenty-three actions across the country. The Ontario action, Brown v Canada, was the most advanced. After nine years of litigation, it was Brown that established Canada’s liability in tort to the Sixties Scoop survivors in Ontario. Canada agreed to settle Brown but only if the other actions were included in one nation-wide settlement.

Justice Michel Shore of the Federal Court mediated the national settlement. The parties reached an agreement in principle on August 30, 2017. The national settlement agreement (“the Settlement Agreement”) was formally executed on November 30, 2017. As part of the national settlement, the other actions were consolidated into an omnibus Federal Court action, referred to as the Riddle action. On May 11, 2018 Justice Shore approved the Settlement Agreement for the purposes of the Riddle action as he was satisfied that it was fair, reasonable and in the best interests of the class members. The Settlement Agreement is before this Court for a similar approval in the context of the Brown action. It is clear from the language in the Agreement that the approval of both courts is required and if any part of the Settlement Agreement is declined, then the Agreement will not take effect and Justice Shore’s approval order in Riddle would be rendered null and void.

This Court had two concerns, however, after reviewing the Settlement Agreement. The first concern was the reasonableness of the $25,000 to $50,000 payment as damages for the loss of one’s Indigenous cultural identity given the harm that was sustained by the class members. The Court was satisfied after reviewing all the evidence and potential pitfalls given the risks of further litigation, that the payment, although modest for the loss of one’s Indigenous cultural identity, was ultimately fair, reasonable and should be approved. The second concern involved the $75 million payment to class counsel for legal fees. The Court viewed the $75 million for legal fees as excessive, unreasonable and was not approved. The focus is the global payment of $75 million in legal fees and not the internal divisions agreed to by class counsel.

The two most important factors in determining the reasonableness of legal fees are risk incurred and results achieved. It is the risk incurred that “most justifies” a premium in class proceedings and is primarily the risk of non-payment. In a case where a class action has been settled with a minimal investment of time or effort, the risk of non-payment causing “personal consequences” to class counsel is relatively insignificant. In a case where the settlement has been achieved after many years of effort with an enormous investment of time and money, the risk of non-payment causing “personal consequences” to class counsel can be significant. Windfalls should be avoided because class action litigation is not a lottery and the CPA was not enacted to make lawyers wealthy.

The percentage of the fund approach that bears no relation to the significance of the risk incurred should not be used in a mega-fund settlement. In Cannon, the Court embraced the percentage of the fund approach because almost all of the settlements were under $40 million. The Cannon percentage of the fund approach remains viable but should be limited to settlement amounts that are common-place, that is, under $50 million. Cannon should never be used in the mega-fund case where the settlement or judgment is more than $100 million. If there is evidence before the Court that the requested legal fees are excessive, the class action judge should examine the risk incurred to help decide whether the amount being requested by class counsel is indeed fair and reasonable.

The risk incurred by class counsel in Brown was, in a word, enormous. Bluntly put, it was as close a case of class counsel “betting the firm” as had been seen. The nation-wide settlement with Canada for some 23 actions, was fuelled in large part by what was achieved in the Brown action. It was therefore beyond dispute for the Court that class counsel in Brown deserve a significant premium in the calculation of their legal fees. Compared to Brown, the risks incurred by class counsel in Riddle are at the opposite end of the spectrum and were not significant. The evidence strongly suggested opportunistic filings and that the risks incurred by the Riddle class counsel in their respective actions did not justify a Cannon-type percentage of the fund approach.

Because the $75 million legal fees provision is not approved, the rest of the Settlement Agreement cannot take effect unless the legal fees provision is de-linked from the other settlement provisions that have been approved. Class counsel in Brown have agreed to de-link the $75 million fees provision from the rest of the Settlement Agreement in the interests of their class members. Class counsel in Riddle have not yet agreed to any such de-linking. The Settlement Agreement has gone back to the negotiating table with the focus being the $75 million legal fees provision, at least for class counsel in Brown. The Court commented that it would be beyond tragic if the Sixties Scoop Settlement Agreement was derailed or delayed because of an unseemly squabble among class counsel over legal fees.

Riddle v Her Majesty the Queen, 2018 FC 641 [Sixties Scoop Class Action]

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre

This action is certified as a class proceeding. The Settlement Agreement has been approved with the modification that there is dissemination of its information to every part of Canada to ensure that every eligible person receives the payment allotted for such.

(This is the second of three consecutive Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch Blog posts regarding the Sixties Scoop Class Action judgements.)

The precedents in Brown v Canada are historical and exemplary in the understanding of cultural identity as essential to the human personality. By an order dated January 4, 2018, Riddle, White and Charlie Actions were consolidated. The Parties agree that the Settlement per approval in Brown v Canada in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and in the action constituted in the Federal Court be consistent with the terms of the Settlement Agreement.

Twenty-three class proceedings at different stages were at one time across Canada including Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Albert and British Columbia in respect of the Sixties Scoop. These actions sought “damages for the harm that was caused… by the alleged breaches of fiduciary and common law duty on the part of the Federal Crown” (Brown v Canada (AG), 2013 ONSC 5637). On February 1, 2017, the Federal Government announced its intention to initiate mediation in regards to the Sixties Scoop litigation across the country. During the mediation, a wide, all-encompassing range of comprehensive topics were discussed and negotiated.

The essential terms of the Settlement are as follows: (1) a Foundation with a mission to enable change and reconciliation as well as access to healing, wellness, commemoration and education; (2) Eligible Class Members; (3) The Compensation Scheme: Canada will not be required to pay more than $750,000,000.00. Depending on the number of Approved Claimants, each Eligible Class Member who submits a claim shall receive a compensation of a maximum $50,000; (4) The Claims Process: is intended to be simple, paper-based, cost effective, user-friendly and to minimize the burden on the applicant by a one page form; (5) Releases: The class members agree to release Canada from any and all claims that have been pleaded or could have been pleaded with respect to their placement in foster care, Crown wardship or permanent wardship, and/or adoption; (6) Opt-outs: Should 2,000 class members opt out, Canada, in its sole discretion, may decide not to proceed with the Settlement Agreement and shall have no further obligations in this regard; (7) Legal Fees: the payment of Class Counsel from a separate Fund. Class counsel further agrees to perform any additional work required on behalf of class members at no additional charge; (8) Settlement Approval: The Parties agree that the Settlement per approval in Brown v Canada in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and in the action constituted in the Federal Court be consistent with the terms of the Settlement Agreement.

There was some objection to the quantum of legal fees. The Court agreed that the fees sought are fair and reasonable, mainly because class counsel will remain available to the claimants following the approval of the Settlement and because the requested fees are less than 10% of the overall global payment. This litigation is “historically unique” and was “inherently fraught with risk”. The Court takes into account that the claims in this class action refer to a loss of cultural identity. These cases undoubtedly pose a significant litigation risk to be assumed by Class counsel (Manuge v Canada, 2014 FC 341). The legal fees are intended to “encourage counsel to take on difficult and risky class action litigation” (Abdulrahim v Air France, 2011 ONSC 512). The parties’ commitment in the inauguration of the Settlement, is one of the reasons the result achieved was successful and were able to avoid delays and expensive costs associated with individual hearings by which to compensate class members.

It was undeniable that “bringing closure is critical” for the survivors of the Sixties Scoop. Without a settlement agreement, the risks include: (a) national certification order may not be granted; (b) a fiduciary duty may be found not to be owed, as in Ontario; (c) liability might not be established; (d) statutory limitation periods could bar many or all of the class’ claims; (e) an aggregate award of damages could be denied by the court forcing class members through lengthy and protracted individual assessment; (f) proven damages could be similar to or far less than the settlement amounts; (g) ordering reconciliation, commemorative or healing initiatives, of the nature the Foundation is tasked with, would have been outside the jurisdiction or purview of any court to order. The Court viewed the Settlement Agreement as fair, reasonable and in the best interests of those affected by it.

Brown v. Canada (AG), 2017 ONSC 251 [Sixties Scoop Class Action]

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

Motion granted for summary judgment of the certified common issue of the Sixties Scoop class action. Liability of the federal government was found in favour of the class members.

(This is the first of three consecutive Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch Blog posts regarding the Sixties Scoop Class Action judgements.)

The Court, and both parties, agree that the common issue should be summarily decided. Brown v. Canada (AG), 2010 ONSC 3095 was certified as a class proceeding. The certified common issue, which focused on the liability of Canada, was answered in favour of the class members. The class action has proceeded to the damages stage.

The Sixties Scoop happened and great harm was done. There is no dispute about the fact that thousands of Aboriginal children living on reserves in Ontario were apprehended and removed from their families by provincial child welfare authorities over the course of the class period and were placed in non-Aboriginal foster homes or adopted by non-Aboriginal parents. It was Patrick Johnson, the author of a 1983 research study on “Native Children and the Child Welfare System” that coined the name “Sixties Scoop.” He took this phrase from the words of a British Columbia child-protection worker who noted that provincial social workers “would literally scoop children from reserves on the slightest pretext.” There is uncontroverted evidence of the impact on the removed Aboriginal children. The loss of their Aboriginal identity left the children fundamentally disoriented, with a reduced ability to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. The issue before the Court was whether Canada can be found liable in law for the class members’ loss of Aboriginal identity after they were placed in non-Aboriginal foster and adoptive homes.

Canada entered into the Canada-Ontario Welfare Services Agreement (“the 1965 Agreement”) in December 1, 1965 to December 31, 1984 (19 years), and is at the core of the common issue. The focus of the common issue is the action or inaction of Canada (not Ontario) and only on the time-period after the Aboriginal children had been placed in non-Aboriginal foster or adoptive homes. Therefore, the common issue asks whether Canada had and breached any fiduciary or common law duties to take reasonable steps in the post-placement period to prevent the class members’ loss of Aboriginal identity.

The class definition includes the estimated 16,000 Aboriginal children who were removed from reserves in Ontario and placed in non-Aboriginal foster homes or adoptive homes. The stated goal of the 1965 Agreement was to “make available to the Indians in the province the full range of provincial welfare programs” and also reflected Canada’s concern that the extension of the provincial laws would respect and accommodate the special culture and traditions of the First Nations peoples living on the reserves, including their children. Ontario’s undertaking to extend the provincial welfare programs as set out in section 2(1) was made “subject to (2).” Sub-section 2(2) of the Agreement said “[n]o provincial welfare program shall be extended to any Indian Band in the Province unless that Band has been consulted by Canada or jointly by Canada and by Ontario and has signified its concurrence.” This section was intended to include explanations, discussions and accommodations. It was meant to be a genuinely meaningful provision.

No Indian Bands were ever consulted before provincial child welfare services were extended to the reserves. The Court found that by failing to consult the Indian Bands, Canada breached s 2(2) of the 1965 Agreement. Nothing in s 2(2) explicitly obliged Canada to actually undertake the consultations referred, however, the undertaking to do so can be implied from the language and context of the provision. A contractual term can be implied if it is a contractual term that must have been intended by the parties and is necessary or obvious in light of the particular circumstances of the agreement. If Canada had honoured its obligation to consult the Indian Bands under s 2(2) of the 1965 Agreement, the information about the child’s Aboriginal identity and culture and the available federal benefits would have been provided years sooner. Canada failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the loss of Aboriginal identity in the post-placement period by failing, at a minimum, to provide to both foster and adoptive parents the kind of information that was finally provided in 1980 and thereafter.

The Court found on the applicable law that Canada’s liability cannot be established under fiduciary law but can be established under the common law. In the Court’s view, s 2(2) and the obligation to consult created a common law duty of care and provided a basis in tort for the class members’ claims. The common law duty of care arose out of the fact that the 1965 Agreement is analogous to a third-party beneficiary agreement. Canada undertook the obligation to consult in order to benefit Indian Bands (and by extension, Indians living on the reserves, including children). The Indian Bands are not parties to the Agreement, but a tort duty can be imposed on Canada as a contracting party in these circumstances.

Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority Inc. and Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation Health Services Inc. v Attorney General of Canada (Minister of Finance), 2018 FC 1180 [NITHA]

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

The Federal Government has a long-standing obligation to provide health services to First Nations. The Applicants pension plans fall under federal jurisdiction.

In NITHA, the Federal Court considered whether the pension plans of the applicants, Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority Inc. (NITHA) and Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation Health Services Inc. (PBCNHS), fell under federal or provincial jurisdiction. The Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions of Canada (OSFI), argued that the pension plans fall under provincial jurisdiction, while NITHA and PBCNHS argue that they fall under federal jurisdiction. Applying the two-part test articulated by the Supreme Court in NIL/TU, O, the Court declared that the pension plans in question fall under federal jurisdiction.

The Court concluded that a correctness standard of review was to be applied on the grounds that the dispute engaged a question of a constitutional nature. NIL/TU, O and Nation Innu Matemekush-Lac John supports that constitutional issues regarding the division of powers are to be decided on a correctness standard.

The applicable test identified as outlined by Abella J in NIL/TU, O, contains two parts. The first part is a functional test of whether the entity is engaged in a federal undertaking. This requires an inquiry into the nature, habitual activities and daily operations of the entity in question. The second part applies only if the first part is inconclusive and it requires consideration of whether provincial regulation would impair the core federal power. The Court also reiterated Abella J’s citation to Four B Manufacturing Ltd, which indicates that federal government funding does not on its own convert the operation into a federal activity.

The functional test calls for an inquiry into the nature, habitual activities and daily operations of the entity in question to determine whether it constitutes a federal undertaking. In examining the Supreme Court’s application of the functional test in NIL/TU, O, the Court highlighted Abella J’s position that the emphasis be placed on the underlying reason for the performance of the activities. The Court also echoed McLachlin CJC and Fish J’s concern in Four B Manufacturing Ltd that the test must be applied cautiously to avoid simply conflating the nature of activities with the habitual and daily operations involved in carrying out an activity.

The Court concluded that OSFI made an error by failing to consider the underlying reason for the activities. In particular, the fact that OSFI narrowly construed the purpose of the agreements governing the relationship, by referring to some recitals and excluding others which make reference to constitutional provisions, the special relationship subsisting between First Nations People and the Crown as well as important historical documents, such as Treaties 5, 6, 8 and 10, which include promises of healthcare. These treaties make it clear that the Federal Government undertook to provide health services to Indians on Indian Reserves.

On this basis, the Court granted the application for certiorari to quash OSFI’s decision. These arguments, along with a further examination of the historical treaty record, were also used to support a declaration that the provision of health services to the Indians is a century long federal undertaking made, in part, in keeping with the treaty relationship between the Applicants and the Federal Government.

Rosemary Lamb v Her Majesty the Queen NBQB 213

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

A woman who acquired Indian status within the meaning of the Indian Act through marriage does not lose registered status as a result of divorce. Powley does not require courts to apply the Powley factors each time a person purporting to be Indian within the meaning of the Indian Act comes before the court.

In Rosemary Lamb, the Queen’s Bench of New Brunswick considered whether Ms. Lamb, a Caucasian woman who had acquired Indian status within the meaning of the Indian Act through marriage to Mr. Augustine, an Aboriginal man, continued to retain such status following her divorce. Prior to their marriage Ms. Lamb had two children with Mr. Augustine. The two were subsequently married in 1984 and divorced shortly thereafter. In 2017, Ms. Lamb was convicted for hunting moose out of season. Ms. Lamb contended that she continues to have hunting rights that flow from her Indian status with the Burnt Church First Nation. Overturning the trial decision, the Court held that her Indian status had been obtained in 1979 when she married Mr. Augustine, and continues even after divorce.

The trial court held that the Powley criteria must be applied to the evidence to determine the Aboriginal identity at law. The criteria includes Aboriginal ancestry, cultural awareness and community acceptance. Ms. Lamb, a self-represented litigant, did not provide any meaningful evidence of Aboriginal ancestry nor was she meaningfully connected to the Burnt Church First Nation community. Since she could not prove Aboriginal ancestry or cultural awareness, the trial court determined that Ms. Lamb was not an “Indian” within the meaning of the Indian Act.

In this appeal, however, the Court held that the trial court had made an error of law resulting from an incomplete legislative history. After reviewing the history of statutes governing Aboriginal identity at law (omitted here), the Court observed that as the wife of a person entitled to be registered, pursuant to s.11(1)(f) of the Indian Act, Ms. Lamb continues to be registered as an “Indian” within the meaning of the Indian Act even after her divorce. The general principle in Bernard asserts that Aboriginal rights are to be governed by the existence of a historic and present community and may only be governed by virtue of an individual’s ancestrally-based membership in the present community. It was also noted that the Bernard case allows for Aboriginal rights to be provided where an ancestral connection can be made out based on “other means”. In the Court’s opinion, marriage falls into this category. Failing to see any removal of membership provision of the Indian Act that provides for the removal of people from their Aboriginal rights, the Court concluded that Ms. Lamb must continue to retain her Indian status and the guilty conviction was set aside.