Appeal allowed in part. Action is certified as a class proceeding that will determine important common questions affecting over 80,000 people regarding the Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band’s stringent membership criteria.
This is an application to overturn an order by the Federal Court that refused to convert Mr. Brake’s application for judicial review into an action under ss 18.4(2) of the Federal Courts Act [“Act”] and certify it as a class proceeding under Rule 334.16(1) of the Federal Courts Rules [“FCR”]. Mr. Brake passed away just before this Court rendered judgment, but his application for judicial review continues. This Court grants the appeal in part, sets aside the order that denies certification under Rule 334.16(1), and grants the motion for certification.
The Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation Band [“Band”] was recognized as a Band under the Indian Act. Under a 2008 Agreement, there was higher than expected enrollment. Canada, along with the Federation of Newfoundland Indians, made it more difficult for people to qualify as members of the Band through changes under a 2013 Supplemental Agreement. Using a paragraph in the 2008 Agreement to authorize making these changes, many like Mr. Brake no longer qualified for Band membership. He had applied for judicial review of the rejection of his application, and others, under the new criteria. Alleging procedural unfairness, substantive unreasonableness and lack of good faith, he seeks, among other things, a redetermination of the membership applications under the original 2008 Agreement.
Mr. Brake followed what is described as the “Tihomirovs approach” (Tihomirovs v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 2005 FCA 308 [“Tihomirovs”]) procedurally in the Federal Court. This approach would transform his proceeding from an individual proceeding into a class proceeding. The goal was to seek both administrative law remedies against the decision and damages caused by the decision. The Federal Court declined to certify Mr. Brake’s proceeding as a class proceeding, reasoning that the issues raised in the proposed class proceeding be determined through a test case: Wells v Canada (AG),  2 CNLR 321 [“Wells”]. It cited Tihomirovs for the proposition that if the reason for conversion was to support an application for certification as a class proceeding and if certification were denied, then conversion should also be denied. Not only is the Federal Court’s decision in Wells only persuasive, not binding (Apotex Inc v Allergan Inc, 2012 FCA 308), but Mr. Brake did not consent to his claims being decided in Wells as a “lead case”, nor was there opportunity to make submissions or present evidence.
To seek both administrative law remedies and damages simultaneously, one must launch two separate proceedings. For example, an application for judicial review started by a notice of application and an action for damages started by a statement of claim. This has obvious ramifications for access to justice because it is difficult to prosecute one proceeding all the way through to judgment. Having more than one proceeding compounds that difficulty and can also result in unnecessary expenditure of judicial resources and conflicting results.
Rule 105 of the FCR permits the consolidation of multiple proceedings of any sort, allowing them to progress as if they were one proceeding governed by one set of procedures. Therefore, an application for judicial review can be consolidated with an action for damages. At the end of the consolidated proceeding, the Court issues two judgments, one for the application for judicial review and one for the action. Where appropriate, each judgment will give the relief available in each proceeding. The judgment in the application for judicial review will give administrative law relief and the judgment in the action will give damages. Rule 334.16(1) provides that a “proceeding” can be certified as a “class proceeding”. An application for judicial review that has been consolidated with an action can be a “proceeding” that can become a class proceeding under Rule 334.16(1).
There are three recognized ways in case law to certify consolidated judicial reviews and actions as class proceedings: 1) the Hinton approach is when an application for judicial review seeking administrative law remedies is started. A separate action for damages for the administrative misconduct is also started and the two are consolidated. If desired, certification of the consolidated proceeding as a class proceeding can be sought under Rule 334.16(1) (Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) v Hinton, 2008 FCA 215 [“Hinton”]); 2) the Paradis Honey approach where an action is started. In the statement of claim starting the action, both administrative law remedies and damages for the administrative misconduct are sought. But the entitlement to damages is pleaded as a public law cause of action for unreasonable or invalid decision-making (Paradis Honey Ltd v Canada (Attorney General), 2015 FCA 89 [“Paradis Honey”]); and 3) the Tihomirovs approach where an application for judicial review seeking administrative law remedies is started. A motion for an order permitting the judicial review to be prosecuted as an action under ss 18.4(2) of the Act is brought. Then the litigant brings a motion for certification as a class proceeding under Rule 334.16(1). In support of the certification motion, a proposed statement of claim is filed that simultaneously seeks administrative law remedies and damages. The Court determines the motions together.
Under the Tihomirovs approach, the draft, unissued statement of claim becomes the subject of a certification motion which is contrary to the text of Rule 334.16(1). It speaks of certifying an existing proceeding, not a proposed proceeding. Tihomirovs, however, remains good law (Miller v Canada (AG), 2002 FCA 370). Yet Tihomirovs sits uncomfortably within the Act, the FCR and associated jurisprudence. Tihomirovs needs to be tweaked to address these concerns so that it can fit more comfortably into the FCR. The Court should consider the proposed statement of claim as if it were finalized and filed, then assess whether the action and the application for judicial review, if they were consolidated, would meet the certification requirements under Rule 334.16. It should require that within a short period of time the proposed statement of claim be filed as the statement of claim, the action be consolidated with the application, and the consolidated proceeding be prosecuted as if it were an action. Under this revised approach, nothing is being converted to an action under ss 18.4(2) of the Act, consistent with the jurisprudence of this Court (Canada (Human Rights Commission) v Saddle Lake Cree Nation, 2018 FCA 228). Instead, the Court is attaching a term to its certification order allowing the consolidated proceeding to be prosecuted as if it were an action.
The revised Tihomirovs approach places the litigants in substantially the same position they would have been in if they followed the Hinton or the Paradis Honey approaches. It would be wise for parties in the future to follow these latter approaches, the Paradis Honey approach being the simplest of all, when applying to certify a class proceeding where they seek simultaneously the invalidation of administrative decision-making and damages for wrongful administrative decision-making as in this matter.