Taylor et al v Ginoogaming First Nation, 2019 ONSC 0328

A Trust agreement’s payments are not extended to individuals who became members of the Ginoogaming First Nation after a designated payout day, even if they should have been a member on that date but for the discriminatory provisions of the Indian Act.

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The Trustees of the Ginoogaming First Nation Timber Claim Settlement Trust [“Trust”] brought an application concerning the interpretation of the Timber Claim Trust Agreement [“Trust Agreement”]. The Ginoogaming First Nation [“GFN”] is a Band pursuant to the terms and provisions of the Indian Act. The GFN is the settlor of the Trust. Prior to the Ginoogaming Timber Claim Settlement Agreement [“Settlement Agreement”] being entered into between the GFN and the Government of Canada, the terms and conditions of the Settlement Agreement and the Trust Agreement were put to the members of the GFN and approved in a ratification vote [“Voting Day”]. Article 12.5 of the Trust Agreement, provides for a one-time payment to be made to members of the GFN on the Voting Day. The discriminatory provisions of the Indian Act, RSC, 1985 c I-5 [“Indian Act”] were in effect at that time. At issue in this appeal is that some individuals were able to become members since two amendments to the Indian Act, and are they therefore eligible for the one time payments from this Trust.

The two significant legislative changes to the Indian Act arose from two court decisions, McIvor v Canada (Registrar of Indian and Northern Affairs), [2009] 2 CNLR 236 (BCCA) leave to appeal to the SCC refused, 33201 (2009) [“McIvor”] and Descheneaux c Canada (Procureur Géneral), [2016] 2 CNLR 175 (QCCS) [“Descheneaux”]. The Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act [“Bill C-3”] was in response to McIvor, but it focused exclusively on the specific circumstances outlined in McIvor and inequities persisted. Bill C-3 had not gone far enough to remedy the inequities perpetuated by the Indian Act. The federal government’s response to Descheneaux was Bill S-3, an Act to amend the Indian Act through the elimination of sex-based inequities in registration, which received royal assent on December 12, 2017.

Even though it is recognized by the court that but for the discriminatory provisions of the Indian Act at the time those individuals should have been members on the Voting Day, they were not and therefore are excluded from the benefit of the payment provided for in the Trust. When it comes to Article 12.5, the settlors of the Trust expressed an intention to limit the payment to those individuals who were members of the GFN on the Voting Day. The applicants neither sought to vary the terms of the Trust, nor to have certain provisions declared void. It is not the role of an interpreting court to change the plain meaning of a trust document. Article 16 of the Trust Agreement specifically provides for changes or amendments to the terms of the Trust Agreement if approved by a vote of the Members. It is also open to the Trustees to bring an application for a variation of the terms of the Trust if otherwise permitted by law.

 

 

 

Kawartha-Haliburton Children’s Aid Society v MW, 2019 ONCA 316

Appeal allowed. The Divisional Court erred by applying the wrong framework for access, including the special considerations for Indigenous children, and misstated the approach to summary judgement in child protection matters.

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The Applicant requests access to three of her children in extended care. Her children were apprehended in 2015 by the Respondent, Kawartha-Haliburton Children’s Aid Society, pursuant to the Child and Family Services Act, [“CFSA”]. The appropriateness of the extended care order is not disputed. The mother, however, did not agree to a no-access provision when she consented to a summary judgement motion for Crown wardship. The motion judge made the children Crown wards and denied the mother access to them. The mother appealed to the Divisional Court. By this time, the CFSA was about to be replaced with the new Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 [“CYFSA”]. The major changes to the child protection legislation made pursuant to the CFYSA, such as the transition provisions of the new legislation, the new test for access to children in extended care, the special considerations for Indigenous children, and the proper approach to summary judgment in child protection matters are central to this appeal.

The transitional provisions of the CYFSA required that, at the date it came into force, all cases not “concluded” would be considered under the new Act. This court determines that the word “concluded” is to be taken in the ordinary sense of the word and a decision under reserve means the case is not concluded. Also, the children are First Nations as defined in the CYFSA. They and their family members identify as First Nation with the Curve Lake First Nation. In this matter, the transitional provisions of the CYFSA apply, so that the test for access was pursuant to the new Act that was to replace the CFSA. The criteria for access to children in extended care has been changed by removing the presumption against access, making the child’s “best interests” predominant in determining access, and emphasizing the importance of preserving Indigenous children’s cultural identity and connection to community. The record was insufficient to satisfy the new test pertaining to the children’s Indigenous heritage (Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton v GH, TV and Eastern Woodlands Metis of Nova Scotia, 2016 ONSC 6287 [“GH”]). The Act is remedial legislation and should be interpreted liberally especially for Indigenous children. By applying the transitional provisions to cases under reserve, thereby not “concluded”, these children would not be caught in a legislative void.

The CYFSA changed the considerations for access. The test for access to a Crown ward under the old Act was strict. The onus was on the person seeking access to establish that the relationship was meaningful and beneficial. There was a presumption against access and opportunities for adoption were prioritized over other considerations. Under the new Act, the court shall not make the access order unless it is satisfied that it is in the best interests of the child. It is to undertake a best interests analysis, assess whether the relationship is beneficial and meaningful to the child, and consider impairment to future adoption opportunities only as part of this assessment and only where relevant. The Divisional Court did not properly address the issue of the sufficiency of the record because it applied the old Act.

The Divisional Court also erred by misapplying the key principles regarding the use of summary judgment to the specific circumstances of child protection proceedings (Hryniak v Mauldin, 2014 SCC 7 [“Hryniak”]). Hryniak’s fairness principle requires that exceptional caution is needed for summary judgment in the child protection context by reviewing the Charter implications of child protection proceedings. Child protection litigation engages the Charter rights of both parents and children (New Brunswick (Minister of Health and Community Services) v G (J), [1999] 3 SCR 46). The courts should be especially mindful of the reality and material circumstances of those subject to child protection proceedings. Women, and especially single mothers, are disproportionately and particularly affected by child protection proceedings (G(J)). The cautious approach to summary judgment in child protection has long been recognized by lower courts and by this court (Children’s Aid Society of Halton (Region) v A (KL) (2006), 216 OAC 148).

The proper approach to summary judgment in child protection proceedings must exercise caution and apply the objectives of the CYFSA, including the expanded best interests of the child test. This court sets aside the motion judge’s order and refers this matter back to the Superior Court on an expedited basis to determine the question of access pursuant to the CYFSA.

NC v Kunuwanimano CFS and Fort Albany First Nation, 2019 CFSRB 7

The decision of the Respondent to refuse the adoption of three Indigenous children placed in the Applicant’s care is confirmed under s 192 of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act.

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The Applicant requested a review pursuant to s 192 of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, [“Act”]. This application refers to a decision made in favour of the Respondent, Kunuwanimano Child and Family Services, [“KCFS”] who refused the Applicant’s application to adopt three children who were placed in her care for two years. The children were apprehended from the care of their parents by the North Eastern Ontario Child and Family Services and made Crown Wards without access for the purpose of adoption. The children’s mother, who is deceased, and their father have membership with the Fort Albany First Nation [“FAFN”]. The children’s files were transferred to the KCFS, an Indigenous child welfare agency and were subsequently placed in a foster home. After three years the foster home could no longer care for the children due to uncontrollable circumstances. The children were then placed in the care of the Applicant and remained in her care for almost two years until their abrupt removal.

The Child and Family Services Review Board’s [“CFSRB”] determination is made in accordance with the expanded definition of the test for the best interests of the child set out in s 179(2) of the Act. In addition to giving prominence to the child’s views and wishes, as well as the recognition of Indigenous cultures and connections to their community, the preamble of the Act also acknowledges that children are individuals with rights to be respected and voices to be heard.

SV, who is the most recent placement for the children, is a member of the Moose Cree First Nation and grew up alongside the children’s father. The evidence is clear that SV has strong connections to the children’s community and cultural heritage. Her practices are traditional in her home where the children are introduced to hunting and fishing and that this was consistent with a way of life, rather than simply an activity. She has taken significant measures to connect the children to their extended family with whom she is well acquainted.

In contrast, the Applicant has no significant ties to the children’s First Nations community or extended family. The Applicant knows very little about the cultural practices of the children’s Indigenous community, or the Illilu people. It was clear that she cares deeply for the children and wishes to adopt all three of them. Her evidence, supported by report cards and the agency’s own documents, was that they were well-cared for in her home and had developed a bond with her and her family. The views and wishes of the children also confirmed the strong bond that the children have with the Applicant. The abrupt removal of the children from her care was traumatic for her and also for the children.

The CFSRB, however, is also mindful of the view of family and community that is expressed by the FAFN and the emphasis on customary care alternatives for Indigenous children under the Act. It is also through the current placement that the children are reconnecting with their father, albeit not as a primary caregiver. While SV is not a direct relation to the children, it is clear that she has strong historical and current connections to the children’s extended family and is committed to facilitating their relationships with family as much as possible. The Applicant simply cannot offer the same commitment and ease of connection to family as SV.

Of considerable importance to our determination is the connection between the siblings. They have always been together and expressed a wish to remain that way. The CFSRB finds that to separate the Children at this time would not be in their best interests and along with all the above factors, favours confirmation of the Respondents’ position. The CFSRB, however, is also of the view the children were not given the opportunity to properly say good-bye to the Applicant and suggested that the KCFS facilitate an acknowledgement and contact to bring some finality to these unresolved feelings.

BC (Director of Child, Family and Community Services) v Beauchamp et al, 2019 NWTSC 19

Judicial review allowed. The Director did not receive the minimum notice of the custom adoption application of a Métis child. The decision of the Commissioner must be quashed and the certificate for adoption vacated.

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The Applicant, the British Columbia Director of Child, Family and Community Services [“Director”] has applied for a judicial review of the decision of the Respondent, Custom Adoption Commissioner Mary Beauchamp [“Commissioner”]. She issued a Custom Adoption Certificate [“Certificate”] that recognizes the adoption of a Métis child by the Respondents [“Foster Parents”] in accordance with Aboriginal customary law.

In 2013, a Métis child was apprehended the day after her birth by child protection authorities in British Columbia. She was placed in foster care of the pursuant to a family care home agreement they entered into with the Director. The Director was granted legal custody of the child through a continuing care order [“CCO”] dated July 6, 2015 by the BC Provincial Court. The Director has removed the child from the former Foster Parents care and placed her in an Ontario home to be with her biological siblings.

The Foster Parents submitted a petition to the court to adopt the child which was dismissed. A second petition was submitted asking for the same relief, but it was dismissed on the grounds of res judicata. Another petition was subsequently submitted, among various relief was adoption of the child, but also a reference to Aboriginal customary adoption. Again, the petition was dismissed as an abuse of process. The Foster Parents then submitted a fourth petition [“Petition #4”] but this submission was fundamentally different than the previous petitions. It stated that the child had already went through an Aboriginal customary adoption. It was dismissed as an abuse of process, but is now under appeal at the British Columbia Court of Appeal. That court presently has its decision on hold as it awaits the decision of this judicial review.

One of the Foster Parents is Métis and is a member of the British Columbia Métis Federation. Sometime after their former foster child was removed from their care, they moved to the Northwest Territories. They then met with the Commissioner who subsequently issued the Certificate recognizing that the child was adopted in accordance with Aboriginal customary law in 2013.

The Aboriginal Custom Adoption Recognition Act [“Act”] was enacted to recognize Aboriginal custom adoptions. The Act provides a process for individuals who have adopted a child in accordance with Aboriginal customary law to apply for a certificate recognizing the adoption. The certificate does not create an adoption but recognizes that an adoption has already taken place (Bruha v Bruha, 2009 NWTSC 44 [“Bruha”]). Custom adoption commissioners are appointed by the Minister on the basis that they already have knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal customary law in the community or region in which they reside. A custom adoption commissioner is simply recognizing that a custom adoption has taken place, however, the importance of the decision and the impact from it is significant. Once a commissioner is satisfied that the information required is complete and in order, a certificate is issued that a custom Aboriginal adoption has taken place. It is then filed with the court as a court order which permits the adoptive parent(s) to obtain a new birth certificate for the child. There is no appeal process provided under the Act. The decision of the custom adoption commissioner is final, subject only to judicial review (Bruha).

While the Act is intentionally vague about the process to be followed in recognizing an Aboriginal customary adoption, it does contemplate some form of notice. Given the implications of the decision of a custom adoption commissioner and the legitimate expectations of interested parties, the duty of procedural fairness requires, at a minimum, that interested parties receive notice of the application.

Custom adoption is a concept that has evolved over time and has adjusted to changing social conditions. There has been an evolution regarding who is involved in the process, who can adopt Aboriginal children, and how this process occurs (Kalaserk v Strickland, 1999 CanLII 6799 (NWTSC)). While the position of Director is created by the Child, Family and Community Service Act, she is the sole legal guardian as the CCO is still in place. The Director was an interested person and clearly entitled to notice of the application before the Commissioner. To allow the Certificate to stand would violate the principles of judicial economy, consistency, finality and the integrity of the administration of justice. If the Certificate was allowed to continue it would result in an abuse of process and therefore must be vacated.

BC (Director of Child, Family and Community Services) v LM, 2019 ONCJ 205

Restraining order granted preventing the Respondents from contact with a child they claim to have customarily adopted. Decision as to other matters on reserve.

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The British Columbia Director of Child, Family and Community Services [“Director”], requested a restraining order against the Respondents [“Foster Parents”] pursuant to s 35 of the Children’s Law Reform Act. This interim and without prejudice order restrains the Foster Parents from communicating or coming near their former foster child, her school and any other place where the child may reasonably be expected to be. Further procedural relief was granted, including a sealing order and a publication ban.

On June 22, 2018, the Foster Parents became aware of the child’s school she was attending in Ontario. They approached the child in the playground and provided the issued credentials of their status as child protection representatives for the BC Métis Federation’s child protection service. The school staff went into lockdown and called the police. The child was traumatized from the experience, but the Foster Parents insisted they were not the source of the trauma and that the school overreacted. The Director has brought this application to the Court as a result from this event, but also the prior history involving the parties, as she is afraid the Foster Parents will attempt another apprehension.

When the child was born in 2013, she was removed from the care of her birth parents the day after her birth. She was then placed with the Foster Parents under a Family Home Care Agreement. Eventually a continuing custody order [“CCO”] was established on July 6, 2015. A CCO is analogous to an order of Crown Wardship in the province of Ontario, and conferred lawful custody of the child with the Director. It is deemed to be an order of the court and is enforceable as such. The Director has the authority to remove a child under the Child, Family and Community Service Act, if she has reasonable grounds to believe that the child needs protection and there is no other measure available. Since the Director removed the child from the Foster Parent’s care, the child has resided in Ontario in a non-Métis adoptive home with her biological sisters.

The Foster Parents brought three subsequent petitions since 2015 for the adoption of the child. The first one was dismissed, the second was also dismissed on the grounds of res judicata. The third petition sought various declarations, including another order to adopt the child, but had a reference to custom adoption as well as an order for certiorari quashing the transfer of the child to Ontario for adoption. On the denial of that application, the birth parents, the Foster Parents, and the BC Métis Federation, filed a fourth petition [“Petition #4”] for a declaration that the Foster Parents have already adopted the child by way of a custom adoption.

This application was inconsistent with the prior petitions advanced by the Foster Parents, considering there is recognition of custom adoption under s 46 of the Adoption Act. The Foster Parents claimed they were unaware until very recently that their actions constituted a valid Aboriginal custom adoption which could be recognized by the courts. The court, however, did not accept these submissions and determined Petition #4 was an abuse of process and should be struck.

On the appeal of AS v BC (Director of Child, Family and Community Services), new evidence disclosed that a custom adoption commissioner [“Commissioner”] in the Northwest Territories [“NWT”], pursuant to s 2 of the Aboriginal Custom Adoption Recognition Act, had issued a custom adoption certificate. It declared that the Foster Parents adopted the child by way of Aboriginal custom adoption in 2013 which is deemed to be an order of that court. Through this, the Foster Parents obtained pursuant to the Vital Statistics Act, a British Columbia birth certificate for the child listing them as her parents. The Director had no knowledge of the proceedings in the NWT or the issuance of the BC birth certificate and filed an originating notice for judicial review in the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories [“NWT Supreme Court”].

The British Columbia Court of Appeal [“BCCA”] stayed the appeal of S(A) v BC (Director of Child, Family and Community Services) to await the judicial review decision of the NWT Supreme Court that is on reserve. In the meantime, there is an interim, without prejudice order prohibiting the use of the NWT custom adoption certificate or its associated documents such as the BC birth certificate, by any party to gain access or custody to the child.

To decide such matters in this application at this time, while the NWT Supreme Court’s decision, the BC Court of Appeal’s decision, and the ultimate fate of Petition #4 is unknown, would be inappropriate and an abuse of process. It undermines the credibility of the courts if a judicial tribunal hears the same evidence in a different trial on the same issues, as there is potential for conflicting results (Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa (City) v M(G)).

The Foster Parents have clearly demonstrated that they are not prepared to wait for their claims to be fully adjudicated in a court of law, and will resort to self-help remedies without notification to the courts. On a balance of probabilities, the Director has reasonable grounds to fear for the safety of the child in her lawful custody and is granted the restraining order. The order made is without prejudice to the Foster Parents right to seek its termination or to vary it once the decisions of the two other courts have been released and the fate of Petition #4 becomes known.

Schemenauer v Little Black Bear First Nation, 2018 SKQB 203

Summary judgement granted in part. The defendant is liable to the plaintiff for unpaid services, however, a trial is required to determine the precise amounts owed.

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This application is for a summary judgment against the defendant for outstanding invoices issued by the plaintiff for its services rendered between 2011 and 2014. Summary judgment is granted in part that the defendant, a First Nations band, is liable for the unpaid balance of service invoices to the plaintiff, as well as interest on that amount at the rate of five percent per annum. There remains, however, a genuine issue requiring a trial with respect to the precise amount of the unpaid balance.

The federal government through the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs (once known as Indian Affairs and Northern Development) [“Department”], and First Nations band councils, enter into funding agreements. The bands receive funding from Parliament for various earmarked activities through these funding agreements. If a band defaults under a funding agreement, the Minister may take various steps to address the default. This includes, as in this matter, the Department appointing a Third Party Manager who receives federal funding in trust, and manages the funds on behalf of both the band and the Department. This is to ensure that programs and services for band members are not interrupted, and to protect the proper use of public funds. In this matter, the plaintiff worked as a Third Party Manager and was responsible to administer funds in trust on behalf of the Department for the benefit of the defendant’s members.

Already under Third Party Management in 2010, the defendant contacted the plaintiff. The plaintiff was asked to assist the defendant with certain matters relating to account records from previous years, as well as assistance in other various capacities that included ongoing support for the defendant’s conversion out of Third Party Management. The agreement that was entered into between the parties, in which a physical copy was not presented in evidence, stated that the plaintiff’s fees would be billed on the basis of time spent. It stipulated that all outstanding fees were to be paid within 30 calendar days from the date of a received invoice and unpaid sums would be subject to an interest rate of 1.5 percent per month until paid in full.

When the defendant was removed from Third Party Management in 2011, the plaintiff remained working for the defendant to provide co-management services, as is required by the Department as a condition for removal from Third Party Management status. Under co-management, funds were tight. While it was expected that the plaintiff would eventually be paid in full, there was a period when only incremental payments could be made. There is some confusion as to the amount outstanding under the unpaid invoices as there is no identification of the precise amounts owed for the services. The services rendered are described merely as “Consulting”, along with a description of the time spent, but with no other details.

Although the Court is satisfied that a trial is not necessary to find that the defendant is liable for payment to the plaintiff for services rendered, the amount of the unpaid balance under those invoices requires determination at trial. The required evidence to quantify the unpaid balance was not clearly presented. The amount cannot be determined based on the evidence and there is no explanation provided for this, therefore the Court cannot make the necessary finding of fact (Hryniak v Mauldin, 2014 SCC 7).

The plaintiff seeks interest on the amount outstanding, whatever determination that may be, at a rate of 1.5 percent per month. The agreement, however, did not describe this interest rate with an annual equivalent. Given that no annual equivalent for this rate was stipulated in the agreement or the issued invoices, the plaintiff’s claim is contrary to s 4 of the Interest Act and cannot be enforcedS 4 applies in circumstances where the interest is made payable at a monthly rate or at any rate for any other period of less than a year. The interest applicable must be limited to five percent per annum (Bank of Nova Scotia v Dunphy Leasing Enterprises Ltd, 1991 ABCA 351).

R v Desautel, 2019 BCCA 151

Appeal dismissed. The Respondent is not prevented from claiming an Aboriginal right to hunt in British Columbia pursuant to s 35 even though he resides in the United States of America.

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Richard Desautel was charged under the Wildlife Act after hunting an elk without a license in the Arrow Lakes area of British Columbia. He admitted the actus reus but asserted that he has a s 35 Aboriginal right to hunt in the territory despite being a citizen of the United States of America [“USA”]. Mr. Desautel has never resided in British Columbia but is a member of the Lakes Tribe of the Colville Confederated Tribes in Washington State. His Sinixt ancestors had occupied territory above and below the 49th parallel, including the area in which he was hunting. At the time of contact with Europeans, they hunted, fished, and gathered throughout their territory.

Does the meaning of the phrase “the Aboriginal peoples of Canada” in s 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982 include only Aboriginal peoples who are resident or citizens of Canada, or also Aboriginal peoples whose ancestors occupied territory that became Canada? S 35 is directed towards the reconciliation of pre-existing Indigenous societies with the assertion of Crown sovereignty. A practice, custom, or tradition that is central and significant to the distinctive culture of an Indigenous society pre-contact that has not been voluntarily surrendered, abandoned, or extinguished, may be exercised by Indigenous members of modern collectives if they can establish that: 1) the modern collective is descended from the historic collective that exercised the practice, custom or tradition in that territory; and 2) there has been continuity between the practice of the modern collective with the practice of the historic collective pre-contact (R v Van der Peet, [1996] 4 CNLR 177 [“Van der Peet”]).

S 35(1) provides the constitutional framework to acknowledge the fact that Aboriginals lived on the land in distinctive societies, with their own practices, traditions and culture and to reconcile this with the sovereignty of the Crown. The burden of proof was on Mr. Desautel to establish the Aboriginal right claimed and a prima facie infringement of that right (R v Sparrow, [1990] 3 CNLR 160 [“Sparrow”]). The meaning and scope of s 35(1) is derived from the general principles of constitutional interpretation relating to [A]boriginal rights, and the purposes behind the constitutional provision itself. Sparrow also requires that s 35(1) be construed in a purposive way and that the words in s 35(1) be afforded a generous, liberal interpretation. Further, in Van der Peet it was instructed that the courts take into account the perspective of the Aboriginal peoples claiming the right and any doubt or ambiguity as to what falls within the scope of s 35 must be resolved in their favour. Applying the Van der Peet test, the concept of continuity must have a necessary connection between the historic collective and the modern-day community. Therefore, claimants who are resident or citizens of the USA can be “Aboriginal peoples of Canada” where they can establish the requirements set out in Van der Peet.

Courts adjudicating Aboriginal rights claims must be sensitive to the Aboriginal perspective, but also aware that Aboriginal rights exist within the general legal system of Canada. The time period integral to the Aboriginal community claiming the right is the period prior to contact. Where an Aboriginal community can demonstrate that a particular practice, custom or tradition has continuity with those of pre-contact times, that community will have demonstrated that the practice, custom or tradition is an Aboriginal right for the purposes of s 35(1). The concept of continuity is the means by which a “frozen rights” approach to s 35(1) will be avoided. Continuity does not require evidence of an unbroken chain of continuity. Aboriginal rights are constitutional rights, but that does not negate the central fact that the interests that the rights are intended to protect, relate to the specific history of the group claiming the right. Aboriginal rights are not general and universal as their scope and content must be determined on a case-by-case basis. The existence of the right will be specific to each Aboriginal community.

Mr. Desautel’s right to hunt in the traditional territory of his ancestors in that geographical area were never voluntarily surrendered, abandoned or extinguished. This Court will not modify the Van der Peet test to add a geographic requirement that would prevent members of Indigenous communities, who may have been displaced, from the opportunity of establishing their Aboriginal rights in areas their ancestors had occupied pre-contact. This matter is distinguishable from R v Powley, [2003] 4 CNLR 321 [“Powley”] where in order to accommodate the unique history of the Métis communities that evolved post-contact, the time period analysis in Van der Peet was focused on pre-European control. Powley requires an Aboriginal rights claimant to be a member of a contemporary community in the geographic area where the right was exercised. It is also distinguished from R v Bernard, [2018] 1 CNLR 79, where a Mi’kmaq member of the Sipekne’katik First Nation in New Brunswick was charged with contravening the Fish and Wildlife Act, for hunting deer. The trial judge found Mr. Bernard had failed to establish that he was a member of a modern collective descended from the original rights-bearing Mi’kmaq community that hunted at the mouth of the St. John River. Unlike Mr. Bernard, Mr. Desautel has established a connection to the historic community that hunted in the traditional territory where the claimed Aboriginal right was exercised.

It has been determined that there is continuity of the practice of hunting in the area where Mr. Desautel shot the elk. Members of the Lakes Tribe are the modern-day successor collective of the Sinixt peoples and Mr. Desautel was exercising his lawful Aboriginal right to hunt for ceremonial purposes in the traditional territory of his Sinixt ancestors, pursuant to s 35(1). The issues raised by the Crown regarding the Lakes Tribe’s legal status in the USA, or the extent of any potential duty to consult and accommodate, raises ancillary questions that, in the Court’s view, are not material to the central issue.

R v Kirby Offshore Marine Operating LLC, 2019 BCPC 185

The Court accepted a joint submission with the total fines of $2,905,000 imposed on the defendant after a sentencing hearing and Talking Circle was conducted in the traditions of the Heiltsuk Nation.

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The defendant, Kirby Offshore Marine Operating LLC, operates one of the largest inland and offshore tank barge fleets in the United States. One of its tugs en route from Alaska to Vancouver, ran aground and sank at a reef in the traditional territory of the Heiltsuk Nation due to the operator falling asleep. Contamination of the environment occurred as diesel fuel and lubricants were released from ruptured tanks on the tug into the ocean. A joint submission was made which was accepted by the Court with total fines of $2,905,000 dollars imposed. There are 3 offences which the defendant has pled guilty: 1) unlawful deposit of diesel fuel contrary to ss 36(3) and ss 40(2) of the Fisheries Act; 2) unlawful deposit of diesel fuel contrary to ss 5.1(1) and s 13(1)(a) of the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994; and 3) unlawful pilotage by proceeding through an area without a licensed pilot or the holder of a pilotage certificate contrary to s 47 of the Pilotage Act.

A sentencing hearing was conducted in the traditions of the Heiltsuk Nation with a Talking Circle. The Hereditary Chiefs, Elders, elected Chief, along with other members of the community sat with counsel and the Court in a circle, which was a solemn and tradition filled forum. The Hereditary Chiefs in full ceremonial garments, placed their coppers on top of cedar boughs in the middle of the circle and spoke about the damage to their resources, the infliction of insult and trauma upon their ancestral lands and culture, as well as their economic losses. The history of the Heiltsuk stretches 14,000 years as stewards of their lands, oceans and resources. They have a special relationship to their home as it is closely held to their environment and their heritage. There is a sense of despair with the dissipation of the spiritual energy as the beaches and resources have been soiled with diesel and oil. There is anger over the damage to their oceans and is a breach of their traditional laws of respect and good care for the lands and oceans.

There are five sentencing principles for environment offences: 1) culpability; 2) prior record and past involvement with authorities; 3) acceptance of responsibility and remorse; 4) damage and harm; and 5) deterrence (R v Terroco Industries Limited, 2005 ABCA 141 [“R v Terroco”]; R v Brown, 2010 BCCA 225).

This is a strict liability offence and the assessment for the dominant factor of culpability must be to determine the degree of blameworthiness which is on a sliding scale; is the conduct an intentional act or a near miss of the due diligence standard? In this case, the offence was not intentional as the operator had fallen asleep, but it was not a near miss as the offence could have been avoided. Within the range of culpable conduct, this would be towards the higher end of the degree of blameworthiness. The defendant has no prior record and past involvement with authorities. The defendant’s acceptance of responsibility is reflected by the guilty pleas which are significant, as it acknowledges the wrongful conduct, which saves considerable court time. The defendant is remorseful and the post offence conduct also establishes acceptance of the harm done.

Assessing the degree of harm factors in actual harm in the evaluation of the sentence. Determining actual harm may be difficult given the gradual and cumulative effects of pollution. Identifiable injury is an exacerbating factor, while the lack of an actual injury is not a mitigating factor (R v Terroco). The greater the potential for harm, the greater the warranted penalty. The potential for harm is informed by the probability of the risk, the nature of the product, the likely magnitude of damage if the risk materializes and the sensitivity of the site including its proximity to population and fragile environment (R v Terroco). In this matter, the absence of proximity to population is not a factor that reduces the degree of harm. While the site of the spill was relatively remote, it was close to the community of Bella Bella and is an area that is actively used by the Heiltsuk people to access natural resources. The nature of diesel is highly deleterious as even small amounts can kill fish. The spread of water borne contaminants over vast areas of the ocean in such a sensitive environment is also an aggravating element.

Specific and general deterrence are both dominant features in sentencing pollution cases. Although the defendant has been deterred, it is the message to others that must be clear and unambiguous. The objective of deterrence is to ensure that not only the offender but others are acutely aware that they owe a high duty to be vigilant in protecting this sensitive environment.

The Heiltsuk Nation made clear in the Talking Circle that no amount of monetary fine could justify the damage that had occurred to their traditional lands. It was asked that the defendant be banned from their traditional waters. Within the framework of the operative legislation the Court does not have the jurisdiction to make such an order. The fines imposed are directed to be paid to the Environmental Damage Fund that is to be administered for the benefit of the Heiltsuk First Nations for the purposes of restoration of the habitat affected by the environmental damage.

Children’s Aid Society of Algoma v AW, 2019 ONCJ 242

Motion granted. A child in temporary custody with a Children’s Aid Society is determined to be First Nations. Although the father is not eligible for membership, the First Nation believes that the father, and therefore the child, is affiliated with that community.

The Children’s Aid Society of Algoma [“Society”] has brought a motion regarding a less than one year old child identification as a First Nations child and if the child identifies with the Batchewana First Nation [“BFN”]. Relief sought also includes an order that adds the BFN as a party respondent to this proceeding and an order that transfers the conduct of the application to the Nogdawindamin Family and Community Services [“NFCS”] as applicant. Thus, the proceeding shall continue as though commenced by NFCS in replacement of the Society, with an order transferring the interim care of the child from the Society to the NFCS. The band representative of the BFN, with consent of all parties, made submissions that they be heard given the potential ramifications of the outcome of the motion.

The Society brought a protection application before the Court and an interim without prejudice order was made that placed the child in its temporary care and custody. The parents have access to the child that is subject to a mandatory minimum number of hours along with multiple terms and conditions applicable to the parents during the exercise of any access. Initially the parents did not claim to be Indigenous to the Society upon its involvement. The Society, at that time, understood that the child was not eligible for registration or identified with any First Nations, Métis or Inuit band or community. The mother filed an addendum to the plan of care that stated the father found out he has some family with Indigenous connections, including an association with the BFN. The mother indicated that she herself practices various traditional Indigenous teachings and self-identifies with the BFN on that basis. The BFN Representative for Child Welfare [“Band Rep.”], however, did not find a community connection for the father and he is not eligible for membership with the BFN. However, that does not exclude the possibility of affiliation as the BFN believes that the father is affiliated with that First Nation.

The preamble of the Child and Youth Family Services Act [“CYFSA”] is intended to be inclusive and to facilitate broad interpretations in order to recognize cultural, hereditary and traditional connections. The intent of the legislation, as read by this Court, is to avoid creating rigid barriers that would discourage persons from self-identifying. It is to promote self-identification and pride in being a First Nations person, even if this did not occur for one or more generations in the past. Under the CYFSA, it is possible for a child to identify as First Nations and not be a member of an Indigenous band or community (Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa v NP). A child’s identification as First Nations, regardless of membership, is important as there are many considerations under the CYFSA for Indigenous children.

As well, s 21 of the Ontario Regulations 156/18 [“O Reg 156/18”] directs the Court to accept hearsay evidence on this issue (Children’s Aid Society of Algoma v CA; CP and the Batchewana First Nation). This does not mean that all rules of evidence and some standard of proof does not apply. There must be evidence in relation to the child as to whether access is beneficial and meaningful to the child (Children’s Aid Society of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo v CT). Subsection 2(3) Article 1 of the CYFSA indicates that the person who has an ethnic, cultural or creedal ties in common with the child or the parent or relative of the child, is a member of the child’s community. Article 2 speaks of a person who has a beneficial and meaningful relationship with the child. The words “beneficial and meaningful” are used nine times in the CYFSA, however, those words are not defined by the CYFSA. While this proceeding is regarding the quality of the care being provided by the parents for the child, the interim without prejudice order provides the parents and the child with access to each other. In its protection application, the Society sought an order that each parent have access with the child. There has been no motion to terminate that access for either parent or that this access has been detrimental to the child. This indicates that there is some beneficial and meaningful relationship between each parent and the child. Accordingly, while it may seem intuitive, this supports a finding that each parent is a member of the child’s community.

Each parent has provided evidence of self-identification as an Indigenous person. The mother has provided evidence that she practices traditional Indigenous teachings and has an “association” with the BFN. There is no evidence, however, that the mother has any link beyond her personal choice and the evidence does not assist in creating an identification link between the child and the BFN (Children’s Aid Society of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo v CT). There is evidence that the father identifies as a First Nations person.

The O Reg 156/18 promotes the acceptance of hearsay evidence. The Court accepts the father’s evidence regarding his maternal grandfather and his own identification as an Indigenous person. Other evidence before this Court does not contradict that evidence and it is proof that meets the standard of being on a balance of probabilities. This is a recent awakening by the father, but it is not contradicted by any other evidence. The BFN intends to be inviting of the father and, in turn, the child. The BFN seeks to be involved in this proceeding and the level of involvement will be determined by the First Nation. It is appropriate that the BFN be added as a responding party in this proceeding and that the NFCS be substituted, in place of the Society, as the applicant. The Court finds the child is a First Nation’s child and the Society’s motion is granted. An order is made that the BFN is made a party to and respondent in this proceeding.

Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto v ST and BF, 2019 ONCJ 207

The inability to name a child’s bands and First Nations, Inuit or Métis communities does not negate the initial determination that a child is a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child.

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre

The Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto [“Society”] has brought a protection application for SF, an 8-month-old child. The child is in need of protection pursuant to the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 [“the Act”]. At first the child was described as not a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child but the Court was not satisfied that it had sufficient evidence and adjourned the case for the Society to further explore the issue. After the matter returned to court, it was held that the child should be identified as a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child. The court is not precluded from finding that a child is a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child just because the child does not have any bands or First Nations, Inuit or Métis communities.

The child was brought to a place of safety due to concerns surrounding the parent’s mental health and capacity. The court endorsed that the Society must immediately investigate whether the child is a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child, based on information received from the mother. She stated that her mother had told her that she is of Métis background, but also that her mother had lied to her about many things, so she does not know if she is being truthful or not. The Society had not been able to connect with the grandmother, despite multiple efforts. Neither Indigenous Services Canada or any of the Métis organizations that were contacted had been able to confirm the family’s identity. The society did contact the great-grandmother, who confirmed that the family is Métis and that her mother was Indigenous, but that was all the information they had.

Once the court determines that a child is a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child, the second part of the statutory finding that must be made is to identify the child’s Indigenous bands or communities. There may be more than one band or community (Children’s Aid Society of Algoma v CA, 2018 ONCJ 592 [“CAS of Algoma v CA”]). The Act sets out that its paramount purpose is to promote the best interests, protection and well-being of children. First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples should be entitled to provide, wherever possible, their own child and family services, and all services to such eligible individuals should be provided in a manner that recognizes their cultures, heritages, traditions, connection to their communities, and the concept of the extended family.

The court must apply the definition of First Nations, Inuit or Métis child set out in the Ontario Regulation 155/18 for the purpose of identification under the Act and the criteria is exhaustive. The court should take a broad view in interpreting if the child has a connection to an Indigenous band or community under the regulation. This seems to be in accordance with the spirit of the Act which tends to be more inclusive when it deals with Indigenous peoples. Subparagraph 1(c) of the Ontario Regulation 155/18 uses the words “there is information that demonstrates that”, which sounds like a clear invitation to the person making the s 90(2)(b) determination of identity to rely on information that is not necessarily “evidence”. It says nothing about the standard of such information (CAS of Algoma v CA).

However, to just say that anyone can put forth a claim and have it accepted without question would be an open invitation to abuse the administration of justice. It could cause considerable harm to children by delaying decisions affecting them and would be disrespectful to the First Nations, Inuit and Métis persons the Act is intended to include. While the inability of a person to name specific Indigenous bands or communities might be a factor in assessing the identification issue, it should not be determinative. The reality is that due to the Sixties Scoop, many Indigenous persons now have fractured memories of their Indigenous connections and it is likely that many will not be able to name specific bands or communities. Evidence or information will often come from memories of discussions with relatives and will often lack detail. Many will not be registered with any First Nations band or belong to any First Nations, Inuit or Métis organization. In many cases, neither will their parents. This does not necessarily preclude the court from making a finding that the child is a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child. The new legislative provisions are an opportunity for these children to reignite lost connections with their culture and heritage.

The court should take a broad view in interpreting if a child is a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child (CAS of Algoma v CA). This is an approach that is consistent with the statements made in both the preamble and purposes section of the Act. It is this court’s view that only a low threshold of reliable and credible evidence or information should be sufficient to make a finding that a child is a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child. The Act and regulations set out considerable rights and additional considerations for these children that recognizes their cultures, heritages, traditions, connection to their communities, and the concept of the extended family. It would be contrary to the purposes of the Act to disenfranchise these children. If a child’s Indigenous bands or communities cannot be identified, it is the rights that are set out in the Act that are not activated. However, many other additional considerations still apply to First Nations, Inuit and Métis children in the Act and its regulations that should not be extinguished just because the child’s Indigenous bands or communities cannot be named. The same best interests test applies on an adoption application.

The court received information from the great-grandmother that she identifies as a First Nations, Inuk or Métis person. However, a great-grandmother is not a relative as defined in the Act. The legislature put a limit on how far back the investigation about a child’s family’s First Nations, Inuit or Métis connections would go to two generations before the child. However, the grandmother is a relative, and despite her lack of cooperation with the Society, she provided specific information to the mother that she identified as Métis. The problem the court initially faced was that the mother claimed that the grandmother was not truthful. This is where the subsequent information provided by the great-grandmother became important. Essentially, the great-grandmother corroborated the information provided by the grandmother to the mother, by stating to the Society that the family is Métis and that her mother was Indigenous. The court finds that this evidence and information is sufficient to meet the low threshold required to find that the child is a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child.

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