Appeal dismissed. The chambers judge did not err in denying judicial review and affirming the decision of the Alberta Labour Relations Board in accepting jurisdiction over labour relations issues involving the parties.
The appellant [“Employer”] appeals the chambers judge’s decision denying judicial review and affirming the decision of the Alberta Labour Relations Board to accept jurisdiction over labour relations issues involving the parties.
The specific operation of Siksika Emergency Medical Services [“SEMS”] is governed by an agreement between the Employer and Alberta Health Services, the provincial health authority. SEMS provides emergency medical services based in the First Nation in accordance with provincial regulation in return for monthly provincial payments. The Employer is also able to direct bill patients for services. The agreement between Alberta Health Services and Siksika Health Services Corporation [“Agreement”] includes the following policy and interpretive statement: “The parties acknowledge the historical and contemporary importance of the treaties to the relationship between the Crown, Canada and Siksika Nation. It is intended that nothing in this Agreement shall have the effect of, or be interpreted as, limiting or expanding any fiduciary relationship between Canada and the First Nations people.”
The respondent [“Union”] was not a party to the Agreement but the Union did not challenge this background philosophy. In this respect, both Canada and the province are expected to live up to the honour of the Crown in their dealings with Treaty and Aboriginal rights. The Union sought certification as the bargaining agent for all ambulance attendants employed with SEMS.
The Employer takes the position that all of the workers in SEMS and under its authority are performing tasks which amount to carrying out a federal undertaking respecting the supply of health and medical services to the people covered by the Treaty and to the First Nation. As such, the Employer argues that it is a federally regulated employer and any labour matters should be dealt with under federal rather than provincial legislation. The Board and the chambers judge had found otherwise.
The role of this Court is to step into the shoes of the chambers judge when it comes to reviewing the decision of the Board (Agraira v Canada (Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness), 2013 SCC 36). A court must first apply the functional test to examine the nature, operations and habitual activities of the entity to see if it is a federal undertaking. If so, its labour relations will be federally regulated. Only if this inquiry is inconclusive should a court proceed to an examination of whether provincial regulation of the entity’s labour relations would impair the core of the federal head of power at issue (NIL/TU,O Child and Family Services Society v BC Government and Service Employees’ Union,  4 CNLR 284 [“NIL/TU,O”]).
The chambers judge concluded that the functional analysis in NIL/TU,O did not support the Employer’s position and dismissed the application for judicial review. It was concluded that the Board correctly found that the presumption of provincial regulation of labour relations was not rebutted in this case and that the Board correctly determined it had jurisdiction over the Union’s certification application.
The Employer argues that because the Indian Act included certain provisions related to the medical and health services for the First Nation, then Parliament had made “provision” for the subject of medical and health services for the First Nation. The Employer said the duty of Canada to provide medical and health services to the First Nation could in part be derived from the “medicine chest” reference in Treaty No 6. That concept has evidently been accepted by Canada as influencing the promises to “take care of you” in the development of Treaty No 7 governing the lands in Alberta where this First Nation is located. The Employer referred to the language of Treaty No 7, which attracts a liberal reading in relation to the promises made to Aboriginal people as re-affirmed by s 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
The Court’s role on this appeal of a judicial review decision is restricted to determining whether the chambers judge erred and whether the Board erred in taking jurisdiction to the extent that it did so. This Court will not express any opinion beyond a legality determination respecting what the Board did, let alone express any policy perspective on any aspect of the ongoing effort to achieve social and legal reconciliation of Canadian society with Indigenous peoples.
The Court found no error in the chambers judge conclusion that the Employer’s position was without merit after applying the functional analysis in NIL/TU,O. Funding by Canada alone would not constitute direction of the work being done. The Agreement sets standards and links the service to compliance with laws and guidance applicable otherwise to similar medical and health services in Alberta.
Application of the functional test to the facts found here does not lead to the conclusion that SEMS is a federal undertaking under NIL/TU,O. Section 88 of the Indian Act extends provincial laws to Indians ex proprio vigore except to the extent those laws impair “the status and rights of Indians” (NIL/TU,O). The provision of medical and health services to members of the First Nation arises from their position as human beings, not from any specific ethnicity. While the duty of Canada to Aboriginal people is more general, the specific topic of medical and health services for Indigenous peoples is to their benefit as people living in Alberta. The Employer has not shown that the application of provincial labour relations laws to the SEMS work force impairs in any serious sense the “status or rights of Indians”.