Nogdawindamin and AW, BS and BFN, 2020 ONSC 40

Appeal granted. Findings of Indigenous heritage requires more than a simple statement of self-identification from an applicant. The need for an evidentiary foundation of connection is a prerequisite for any finding under s 90 of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act.

Indigenous Law Centre – CaseWatch Blog

This is an appeal by the Batchewana First Nation [“Batchewana”] on an order of a motions judge that determined on an interim basis, whether a child in need of protection had an Indigenous background as per s 90 of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act [“Act”].

This Court agrees with Batchewana’s position that the motions judge erred when he decided that, based upon the evidence before him, the child in question had sufficient connection to Batchewana so as to be affiliated with the First Nation for purposes of the Act. Batchewana has not found a community connection of the child to the First Nation. The concern is that the motion judge’s decision could open the floodgates for any claimant to effectively acquire band status or other benefits.

There is considerable precedent to suggest that findings of Indigenous heritage require more than a simple statement from an applicant (Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto v ST, [2019] OJ No 1783; Bruce Grey Child and Family Services v ABC, 2018 ONCJ 516; Children’s Aid Society of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo v CT, [2017] OJ No 6324 (ONCA); Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa v KF, 2015 ONSC 7580). Indigenous membership has expanded to include self-identification, however, there still must be evidence in relation to the child so a determination can be made as to whether access is beneficial and meaningful to them.

In this instance, the evidence relied upon by the motions judge does not meet the necessary threshold. The only evidence is the self-identification of the father, that is found to be insufficient evidence as per the case law. The need for an evidentiary foundation is a prerequisite for any finding under s 90 of the Act. Were this not the case, it is conceivable that numerous people coming before the courts could self-identify as a member of Batchewana, leaving the band with insufficient resources to assist those in need, which constitutes an error in law (Housen v Nikolaisen, 2002 SCC 33). Appeal granted. The matter is remitted to the Ontario Court of Justice for a new hearing.

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