Mosquito Grizzly Bear’s Head Lean Man First Nation v Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, 2021 SCTC 1

As a result of breach of Crown fiduciary duty arising in a 1905 surrender of lands, compensation due to the Mosquito Grizzly Bear’s Head Lean Man First Nation, totalled a combined amount of $126,933,972.00. The Crown took a surrender vote in contravention of the statutory requirement that permitted only members of the Grizzly Bear’s Head and Lean Man Bands to vote, and later accepted and acted on the surrender. Pursuant to Treaty obligations, Canada admitted that it breached its pre-surrender fiduciary obligation, which rendered the 1905 surrender of lands invalid.

Indigenous Law Centre CaseWatch Blog

This matter is the determination of the compensation due to the Mosquito Grizzly Bear’s Head Lean Man First Nation [“Claimant”], as a result of breaches of fiduciary duty of the Crown [“Respondent”] in the surrender of land from Indian Reserve No. 110/111 [“Lands”]. The reserve land of the Claimant totals 46,208 acres. The Claimant is of Assiniboine, Nakoda and Stony descent. The Claimant’s ancestors adhered to Treaty 6 and Treaty 4. The Claimant is also a “band” within the meaning of the term in the Indian Act, and was established by an amalgamation of three bands.

Pursuant to Treaty obligations, the Crown set aside land for the benefit of Grizzly Bear’s Head and Lean Man Bands with the Lands. In 1905, the Crown took a surrender of a 14,670-acre parcel. The surrendered land comprised approximately 2/3 of the reserve. The Claimant is, for the purpose of this proceeding, the successor in interest to any cause of action that may arise against the Crown as a result of the surrender.

Awards of compensation where a claim is found valid are governed by paragraph 20(1)(c) of the Specific Claims Tribunal Act [“SCTA”], which provides that the Tribunal is to award compensation “that it considers just, based on the principles of compensation applied by the courts”. Equitable compensation is a remedy where a breach of fiduciary duty is found and applies in the context of a breach of fiduciary duty with respect to a surrender of reserve land (Guerin v R, [1984] 2 SCR 335 [“Guerin”]). Where reserve land is affected by an invalid surrender, section 20(1)(g) of the SCTA requires that the Tribunal award compensation equal to the current unimproved market value [“CUMV”] of the subject lands. The Tribunal must also, under section 20(1)(h) of the SCTA, award compensation equal to the value of the loss of use [“LOU”] of the lands, brought forward to the present value of the loss.

Although the agreement did not describe the events and actions that breached Crown fiduciary duty, the evidence introduced in the compensation phase of the proceeding reveals that the Crown took a surrender vote in contravention of the statutory requirement that permitted only members of the Grizzly Bear’s Head and Lean Man Bands to vote, and later accepted and acted on the surrender. This was, from the outset, a breach of the duty of ordinary prudence. This breach occurred within a Treaty relationship, with respect to a Treaty reserve, and the breach led directly to the permanent alienation of Treaty reserve land from the Claimant.

The evidence was for the most part comprised of filed expert reports, their respective reliance documents, and the testimony of the authors on direct and cross examination. The expert reports addressed the historical context of the breach, the CUMV of the Claim Lands, LOU models describing foregone revenues from the Claim Lands from 1905 to present, and present valuation of foregone revenues.

Equitable compensation “attempts to restore to the plaintiff what has been lost as a result of the breach; i.e. the plaintiff’s lost opportunity” (Canson Enterprises Ltd v Boughton & Co, [1991] 3 SCR 534 [“Canson”]). The underlying policies that guide the assessment of equitable compensation in this claim include restitution (Guerin; Canson), reconciliation (SCTA), deterrence (Canson), fairness, and proportionality (Hodgkinson v Simms, [1994] 3 SCR 377). Equitable compensation is assessed at the time of trial, not the date of the breach. Therefore, the assessment is of the loss at present, with all losses represented by a single award. There is a common sense connection between the loss of use of the land and the loss of revenue that may have been paid into the Claimant’s coffers if the land had been leased out to farmers.

At all relevant times, the Indian Act applied to the Crown’s management of the Claimant’s funds. If the land had been surrendered for leasing, the reality would be that lease revenue would have been deposited in the Band Trust Account. The Tribunal adopted the Band Trust Account rate. Revenue from leasing would if in fact received be deposited in the Band Trust Account, and would earn interest at the rate set annually on such funds, compounded annually. The Tribunal determined CUMV of $15,500,000.00, effective September 21, 2017. The Tribunal assessed the present value of loss of use to December 31, 2019 at $111,433,972.00. This amount is net of the payments made by the Crown to the Claimant in respect of the Claim Lands from 1906 to 1956. The combined amount awarded for CUMV and LOU, subject to adjustment, is $126,933,972.00.

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