Appeal dismissed. The motion judge made no reviewable error in granting the carriage of a proposed class proceeding to a representative plaintiff on behalf of Métis and Non-Status Indian groups affected by the Sixties Scoop.
The Sixties Scoop was a federal program under which Status Indian, Inuit, Métis, and Non-Status Indian children were taken from their parents and placed in non-Indigenous foster homes or put up for adoption. This appeal concerned the carriage of a proposed class proceeding on behalf of Métis and Non-Status Indians affected by the Sixties Scoop. In the settlement of the Sixties Scoop litigation approved in Riddle v Canada, 2018 FC 901, and Brown v Canada (AG), 2018 ONSC 3429, Status Indian and Inuit Sixties Scoop survivors were only included.
Two motions were brought and heard together in the Federal Court seeking carriage. One motion sought carriage for a proposed representative plaintiff in Day v AG of Canada, represented by two law firms based in Toronto [“Day action”]. In the order under appeal, the Federal Court granted carriage to the plaintiff in the Day action, and stayed the other three actions [collectively as the “LMO action”]. The order was the first contested carriage order issued by the Federal Court. Counsel for the LMO action submit that the motion judge committed both errors of law and palpable and overriding errors of fact in granting carriage to the plaintiff in the Day action.
The motion judge found Mr. Day to be a better representative plaintiff because he reflected the type of circumstances and damage that is common to both the Métis and Non-Status Indian groups and was a textbook claimant and a mirror for both Indigenous components of the litigation. Counsel for the LMO action submits that the motion judge’s treatment of this factor amounted instead to imposing a requirement that the representative plaintiff be typical of the class (Western Canadian Shopping Centres Inc v Dutton, 2001 SCC 46).
The Court does not agree that in going on to consider Mr. Day’s circumstances and the nature of the damage that he claims, the motion judge improperly imposed a typicality requirement. The motion judge instead treated the dispute as one that would be litigated to its conclusion, and recognized that Mr. Day personified some of the worst consequences of the Sixties Scoop. His circumstances and the damage he claims was an advantageous platform for a claim on behalf of the class.
The factors that may be considered in a carriage motion are not ends in themselves. Rather, they are means of assisting the court, in the unique context of each case, to determine the best interests of the class (Mancinelli v Barrick Gold Corporation, 2016 ONCA 571; Strohmaier v KS, 2019 BCCA 388; and McSherry v Zimmer GMBH, 2012 ONSC 4113). Not only are these factors not exhaustive; they are also not watertight compartments (Quenneville v Audi AG, 2018 ONSC 1530; Winder v Marriott International Inc, 2019 ONSC 5766; and Rogers v Aphria Inc, 2019 ONSC 3698).
One of the comparisons the motion judge drew was between the litigation experience of the two sets of counsel. He found that both have extensive class action experience, both have experience in the Sixties Scoop and residential schools class actions, and both have experience acting for Métis people, but counsel in the Day action have experience acting for Non-Status Indians as well.
The motion judge saw as leap-frogging the addition of Non-Status Indians to the class definition in the LMO action after the carriage motions had been scheduled. In the carriage motion context, “leap-frogging” refers to an attempt by one contender for carriage to improve its position after the motion has been scheduled by taking the benefit of the work of another contender; for example, by a copycat amendment to pleadings (Mancinelli et al v Barrick Gold Corporation et al, 2015 ONSC 2717, affirmed 2016 ONCA 571 [“Mancinelli”]). A rule has been rejected that carriage motions be decided based on a “freeze frame” as of the date the motion is filed, however, the court should be suspicious of conspicuous new activity after the filing of a carriage motion or of any attempts to ‘leapfrog’ a lagging action ahead of a more advanced one (Mancinelli).