Fort McKay First Nation v Prosper Petroleum Ltd, 2020 ABCA 163

Appeal allowed. When administrative tribunals deal with “public interest” in respect to natural resource development, they should be looking at more than the duty to consult, as the honour of the Crown is a far broader doctrine. In this matter, the tribunal should have addressed an unfulfilled promise of a protected area that was being negotiated.

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This appeal arises out of negotiations that began in 2003 between the Government of Alberta and the Fort McKay First Nation [“FMFN”] to develop a Moose Lake Access Management Plan [“MLAMP”] to address the cumulative effects of oil sands development on the First Nation’s Treaty 8 rights. The MLAMP has not yet been finalized. The FMFN is an “[A]boriginal people of Canada” under s 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 and a “band” within the meaning of the Indian Act, that has treaty rights to hunt, fish and trap within the Moose Lake Area, part of its traditional territory. The Moose Lake Area is of cultural importance to the FMFN.

The Alberta Energy Regulator [“AER”] approved an application by Prosper Petroleum Ltd [“Prosper”] in 2018 for the Rigel bitumen recovery project [“Project”], which would be located within 5 kilometers of the FMFN’s Moose Lake Reserves. The AER approval is subject to authorization by the Lieutenant Governor in Council [“Cabinet”], which has yet to be granted.

The FMFN was granted permission to appeal on the question of whether the AER erred by failing to consider the honour of the Crown and refusing to delay approval of the Project until the FMFN’s negotiations with Alberta on the MLAMP are completed. FMFN is concerned that the ability of its members to pursue their traditional way of life in the Moose Lake Area has been severely and adversely affected by the cumulative effect of oil sands development in the surrounding area. FMFN specifically sought a 10 km buffer zone from oil sands development around the Moose Lake Reserves. Alberta denied this request and in 2013 FMFN applied for a review. In 2014, Alberta’s then Premier, the late Jim Prentice, met with Chief Jim Boucher of FMFN to discuss the MLAMP. In 2015, Premier Prentice and Chief Boucher signed a Letter of Intent to confirm “our mutual commitment and interest in an expedited completion of the [MLAMP]”. Despite the 2015 Letter of Intent, the MLAMP has still not been finalized and is the subject of ongoing negotiations between Alberta and the FMFN.

The Project would be located within the 10-kilometer buffer zone surrounding the Moose Lake Reserves; that is, within the area covered by the MLAMP. After previously suspending the Project, in 2016 the AER resumed the approval process for the Project because “MLAMP is still not finalized, there is no indication that finalization of the MLAMP is imminent and there is no certainty when submission of the plan will occur”. The AER issued its decision in 2018 that found the Project to be in the public interest and approved the Project on conditions, subject to authorization by Cabinet. The panel declined to consider the MLAMP negotiations that contemplated the 10-kilometer buffer zone, the 2015 Letter of Intent, and whether it implicates the honour of the Crown. The AER concluded the status of the MLAMP negotiations was not a valid reason to deny Prosper’s application.

To review this decision, the Court used the standard of correctness. The AER is a public agency which exercises adjudicative functions pursuant to the Alberta Public Agencies Governance Act. As the regulator of energy development in Alberta, the AER is mandated to provide for the efficient, safe, orderly and environmentally responsible development of energy resources in the province. It has final decision-making power over many energy project applications, pending where Cabinet authorization is required.

The AER has broad powers of inquiry to consider the “public interest” in making its decisions. Tribunals have the explicit powers conferred upon them by their constituent statutes. However, where empowered to consider questions of law, tribunals also have the implied jurisdiction to consider issues of constitutional law as they arise, absent a clear demonstration the legislature intended to exclude such jurisdiction (Rio Tinto Alcan Inc v Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, [2010] 4 CNLR 250 [“Rio Tinto”]. This is all the more so where the tribunal is required to consider the “public interest”. In such circumstances, the regulatory agency has a duty to apply the Constitution and ensure its decision complies with s 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 (Clyde River (Hamlet) v Petroleum Geo-Services Inc, 2017 SCC 40 [“Clyde River”]). As the Supreme Court of Canada [“SCC”] has noted, “[a] project authorization that breaches the constitutionally protected rights of Indigenous peoples cannot serve the public interest” (Clyde River). The tribunal cannot ignore that aspect of its public interest mandate.

The AER therefore has a broad implied jurisdiction to consider issues of constitutional law, including the honour of the Crown, as part of its determination of whether an application is in the “public interest”. The question raised by this appeal is whether the AER should have considered the honour of the Crown in relation to the MLAMP negotiations as part of this assessment. A conclusion that legislation precludes considering certain matters does not relieve the decision-maker of its obligation if that legislative interpretation proves incorrect. Nor can a decision-maker decline to consider issues that fall within its legislative mandate because it feels the matter can be better addressed by another body.

The responsibility to ensure the honour of the Crown is upheld remains with the Crown (Chippewas of the Thames First Nation v Enbridge Pipelines Inc, 2017 SCC 41). However, the Crown can determine how, and by whom, it will address its obligations to First Nations, meaning that aspects of its obligations can be delegated to regulatory bodies. Alberta has delegated procedural aspects of the duty to consult and to consider appropriate accommodation arising out of that consultation to the AER. The Government of Alberta has retained the responsibility to assess the adequacy of Crown consultation on AER-regulated projects. Are the matters that FMFN sought to put before the AER in relation to the MLAMP negotiations limited to the “adequacy of Crown consultation”? The Court finds they are not.

The honour of the Crown can give rise to duties beyond the duty to consult. It will give rise to different duties in different circumstances (Haida Nation v British Columbia (Minister of Forests) [2005] 1 CNLR 72; Mikisew Cree First Nation v Canada (Governor General in Council), 2018 SCC 40). In the present case, the honour of the Crown is implicated through treaty implementation (Manitoba Métis Federation Inc v Canada (AG), 2013 SCC 14; Mikisew Cree First Nation v Canada (Minister of Canadian Heritage), 2005 SCC 69). The honour of the Crown infuses the performance of every treaty obligation, and stresses the ongoing relationship between the Crown and First Nations brought on by the need to balance the exercise of treaty rights with development under Treaty 8.

There was no basis for the AER to decline to consider the MLAMP process as part of its assessment of the public interest rather than deferring the issue to Cabinet. The public interest mandate can and should encompass considerations of the effect of a project on [A]boriginal peoples, which in this case will include the state of negotiations between the FMFN and the Crown. To preclude such considerations entirely takes an unreasonably narrow view of what comprises the public interest, particularly given the direction to all government actors to foster reconciliation. The AER is directed to reconsider whether approval of the Project is in the public interest after taking into consideration the honour of the Crown and the MLAMP process.

Ross River Dena Council v Yukon, 2020 YKCA 10

Appeal dismissed. The Ross River Dena Council does not yet have established title, thereby no right to exclusive use and occupation of the claimed lands. It did not identify any adverse effect on its claim other than impacts on wildlife. The fact that hunters might enter the land is not, without more, an adverse effect.

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Ross River Dena Council [“RRDC”] appeals from an order dismissing its claim for declaratory relief. The key point of contention is the assertion that the Yukon’s issuance of hunting licences and seals under the Wildlife Act, adversely affects RRDC’s claim of Aboriginal title.

RRDC is part of the Kaska Nation, who are one of the “[A]boriginal peoples of Canada” referred to in s 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982. The land subject to RRDC’s title claim is traditional Kaska territory situated in the Yukon [“Ross River Area”] and it is acknolwledged that RRDC has a strong prima facie case for its claim to Aboriginal title over the Ross River Area. The strength of the claim requires the Yukon to engage in deep consultation with RRDC whenever the Yukon contemplates conduct that might adversely affect the title claimed (Haida Nation v British Columbia (Minister of Forests), [2005] 1 CNLR 72). The parties have been in negotiations for several years. To date, RRDC’s claim has not been resolved by either a treaty or a declaration.

RRDC asked specifically for a declaration that the issuance of hunting licences and seals might adversely affect the claimed Aboriginal title of RRDC’s members in the Ross River Area and that the Yukon must consult with respect to alleged potential adverse impacts on the “incidents of Aboriginal title” (Tsilhqot’in Nation v British Columbia, [2014] 3 CNLR 362).

There is a distinction between Aboriginal title that is established and that which is asserted. Established Aboriginal title confers ownership rights similar to those associated with fee simple. These ownership rights include the right to decide how the land will be used; the right to enjoy and occupy the land; the right to possess the land; the right to the economic benefits of the land; and the right to pro-actively use and manage it (Tsilhqot’in Nation; Delgamuukw v British Columbia, [1998] 1 CNLR 14).

A government must demonstrate that non-consensual incursions are undertaken in accordance with the duty to consult; that they are justified on the basis of a compelling and substantial public interest; and that they are consistent with the Crown’s fiduciary duty to the Aboriginal title holders (Tsilhqot’in Nation). RRDC’s title is not yet established. It has only a claimed title, albeit a strong one. Aboriginal title that is claimed, but not established, does not confer ownership rights.

Where title is not established, the duty to consult arises when the Crown has real or constructive knowledge of the potential existence of an Aboriginal right or title and contemplates action which might adversely affect that right or title (Haida Nation). The purpose of the duty to consult is not to provide claimants immediately with what they could be entitled to upon proving or settling their claims. Rather, it is intended as a mechanism to preserve Aboriginal interests while land and resource claims are ongoing, or where the proposed action may interfere with a claimed right or title (Rio Tinto Alcan Inc v Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, [2010] 4 CNLR 250 [“Rio Tinto”]).

The legal test for determining whether the duty to consult arises was broken down into three elements: 1) the Crown’s knowledge, actual or constructive, of a potential Aboriginal claim or right; 2) contemplated Crown conduct; and 3) the potential that the contemplated conduct may adversely affect an Aboriginal claim or right. The third element is at the heart of this appeal. RRDC argues that by issuing hunting licences and seals, the Yukon interferes with its claimed right to exclusive use and occupation of the land which has the potential to adversely affect the claimed title by allowing the land to be used and occupied for hunting by people other than RRDC members. RRDC’s position is not that hunters entering the land cause any cognizable harm to the land (aside from potential wildlife management harm), but that their presence on the land is itself a violation of the incidents of title which RRDC asserts, specifically the exclusive use and occupation of the land. This requires consultation.

The Court determined in this matter that issuing hunting licences does not, in and of itself, give the holder of the hunting licence the right to enter land that it could not otherwise enter. A right to hunt within a region does not confer a right to enter private property situated within that region. A hunting licence is not a defence to trespass (Wildlife Act). Also, RRDC’s argument is problematic in that it can assert a right, at the present time, to control who enters the claimed land and, therefore, Yukon must consult with RRDC whenever it contemplates action that would allow or encourage others to enter the land.

RRDC has not established Aboriginal title to the Ross River Area; the process is still at the claim stage. Without an established claim, RRDC does not have an exclusive right to control the use and occupation of the land at present, nor does it have a right to veto government action. What RRDC expressed is a concern that individuals to whom licences and seals have been issued will enter the Ross River Area. That is all. It did not identify how this would have an “appreciable adverse effect” on RRDC’s ability to control the use and occupation of the land in the future, or would otherwise adversely affect its rights or interests, other than potential impacts on wildlife.

No specific concerns have been articulated. There is only an argument that the issuance of hunting licences and seals interferes with RRDC’s right to exclusive use and occupancy of the Ross River Area at the present time. As noted, however, this is a right that RRDC does not currently have. Without explaining how the presence of hunters on its claimed territory could potentially adversely affect its claimed title, the duty to consult as a means to preserve interests in the interim is not engaged.

George Gordon First Nation v HMQ in Right of the Province of Saskatchewan and Canada (AG), 2020 SKQB 90

Application dismissed. The Government of Saskatchewan was not subject to a duty to consult with the First Nation regarding further mineral dispositions, as this was satisfied with the processes stipulated in the Treaty Land Entitlement agreement.

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George Gordon First Nation [“GGFN”] initiated this action by statement of claim, naming as defendants Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Saskatchewan [“Saskatchewan”] and Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada [“Canada”]. It claimed various relief, including an interim and permanent injunction against the defendants from granting further mineral dispositions in the Jansen Area or Evaporite Area, and ten billion dollars in damages. Where an Entitlement Band requests acquisition of Crown minerals, the Ministry places a temporary freeze on the minerals pending its review of the request. If approved, the freeze will continue to allow the Band time to acquire the surface rights. This freeze period can continue for up to three years.

This application had a long and complex history, but it had the benefit of case management by an experienced justice of this Court. The parties involved in this application are sophisticated and represented by experienced and able counsel. To determine if the summary judgement process was suitable to dispose of this matter, the Court answered three questions in the affirmative: 1) can the judge to make the necessary findings of fact; 2) can the judge to apply the law to the facts; and 3) if this is a proportionate, more expeditious and less expensive means to achieve a just result (Hryniak v Mauldin, 2014 SCC 7). This matter was determined suitable for summary judgment. A trial was not required to determine the issues.

The allegation is that both Saskatchewan and Canada had and have a duty to consult with GGFN before Saskatchewan makes any mineral disposition on lands which could be selected by GGFN to satisfy its treaty land entitlement. Canada and Saskatchewan argue there was, and is, no duty to consult. Saskatchewan also argues that the GGFN Treaty Land Entitlement agreement [“TLE”] was intended to conclude the dispute and barred any further claims, including this one.

Canada had a duty to consult with and, where proved, accommodate GGFN and other TLE Bands with respect to land claims under Treaty No. 4. This was done through treaty land entitlement negotiations and agreements, including the GGFN TLE. Saskatchewan had no corresponding duty to consult under Treaty No. 4. Saskatchewan’s obligations under the TLE were to Canada, not GGFN.

Canada and Saskatchewan satisfied any duty to consult through the negotiations leading to the TLE Framework Agreement and, in the case of GGFN, the negotiations resulting in the GGFN TLE. If Saskatchewan had a duty to consult with GGFN about Crown mineral dispositions, that duty was satisfied by its practice of providing information to TLE Bands. GGFN’s claim of a duty to consult that extended to both notice of any applications and a right to supersede those applications went beyond any required consultation and accommodation. This would amount to a veto which the courts have rejected.

Even without a duty to consult, the honour of the Crown would still apply to Saskatchewan’s implementation of the GGFN TLE. Saskatchewan’s practices were fair and balanced. The honour of the Crown, which did apply, was respected. GGFN received the payments to which it was entitled from Canada and was able to obtain within the prescribed period its shortfall acres and other land, with minerals.

The claim of GGFN against Saskatchewan is therefore dismissed. Its claim against Canada was based on a duty of Canada to compel or assist GGFN to enforce its claim against Saskatchewan. The foundation for this claim is lacking. Canada does not exercise supervisory jurisdiction over the provinces with respect to the exercise of their constitutional authority. Nor did the GGFN TLE provide a contractual basis for Canada to compel Saskatchewan to provide GGFN with the requested notice of mineral dispositions and right of first refusal. GGFN’s claim against Canada was premised on a breach of duty by Saskatchewan. Since the claim against Saskatchewan is dismissed, there is no basis for a claim against Canada.

 

 

Crate et al v Government of Manitoba, 2020 MBQB 9

Manitoba satisfied its duty to consult and accommodate a First Nation prior to granting a licence to a company to expand an existing peat harvesting and procession operation that would affect traditional activities of hunting, fishing and harvesting plants in the area.

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Sunterra Horticulture Inc [“Sunterra”] submitted a notice of alteration in relation to its existing license to allow expansion of its existing peat harvesting and processing operation on the Washow Bay Peninsula which is land within the traditional territory of the Fisher River Cree Nation [“FRCN”]. The Government of Manitoba invited FRCN to participate in consultations but ultimately granted the revised license to Sunterra.

FRCN appealed the issuance of the license but the appeal was dismissed. By way of an application for declaratory relief, the applicant’s sought a review of the Minister’s decision focused on two substantive issues: 1) the Sunterra license should not have been granted because Manitoba failed to satisfy its duty to consult with FRCN before issuance; and 2) the Minister’s decision to dismiss FRCN’s appeal was based on a failure of Manitoba to hold a public hearing and comply with section 11(10) of The Environment Act.

Whether Manitoba correctly assessed the extent of their duty to consult was reviewed on a standard of correctness. It was not disputed that peat harvesting could interfere with or disrupt the traditional activities of hunting, fishing and harvesting plants in the area. Manitoba correctly identified the level of consultation required as being at the medium to high level. It was significant that Manitoba had an established written policy regarding the level of consultation. Prior to consultation, Manitoba and FRCN agreed to and signed a Protocol respecting Crown-Aboriginal Consultations and a Consultation Funding Agreement with respect to the Sunterra project. These were examples consistent with those suggested in Haida Nation v British Columbia (Minister of Forests), [2005] 1 CNLR 72.

Whether Manitoba adequately discharged its duty to consult was reviewed on a standard of reasonableness. Based on the consultation record, Manitoba received and responded to FRCN’s concerns in relation to the exercise of its Aboriginal and treaty rights. Manitoba provided information to FCRN when it was requested. There was ongoing correspondence and dialogue. The conditions as set out by the record constituted adequate accommodations of FRCN’s concerns. While the FRCN may have received a response they did not want, it could not be said that Manitoba did not consider FCRN’s position and responded to it. Therefore, Manitoba satisfied its duty to consult and accommodate FRCN prior to granting the Sunterra licence.

As for the public hearing, it was not unreasonable for the Minister to conclude that the concerns raised by FRCN regarding the Sunterra project were addressed by the conditions imposed on the licence. There was no evidence that FCRN was prejudiced by the Director’s failure to comply with the twenty-one-day deadline. There was no evidence of bad faith, or a failure to recognize responsibilities of a disregard for public concerns, or of a dismissal of legitimate objections to the project. Although the failure to comply with the statutory timeline cannot be condoned, it was not basis for the court to invalidate the issuance of the Sunterra licence or the Minister’s conclusion that a public hearing was unnecessary.

Ressources Strateco inc c Procureure générale du Québec, 2020 QCCA 18

Appeal dismissed. The Minister has qualified immunity of the state to make his decision to refuse a certificate of authorization to a mining exploration company’s proposal due to a lack of social acceptability from the Cree community. This decision was not made lightly or in a manner indicative of bad faith or serious recklessness.

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Strateco Resources Inc [“Strateco”] is a mining exploration company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. In 2005 and 2006, when the price of uranium was on the rise, it acquired 559 mining claims in the Otish Mountains region in Northern Quebec, a region recognized for its uranium potential. The proposed mining area is located 210 km from Mistissini, a Cree community, and 275 km from Chibougamau, on territory covered by the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement [“Agreement”].

The Agreement is a modern treaty designed to reconcile the rights and interests of Aboriginal peoples and those of non-Aboriginal peoples in Northern Quebec. The rights it grants Aboriginal peoples are referred to in s 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, whose purpose is “[t]he reconciliation of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians in a mutually respectful long-term relationship”.

After a number of consultations, the Minister refused to issue the certificate of authorization, stating that the proposal had not garnered social acceptability from the Cree community and has therefore not placed sufficient importance on the principles set out in s 152 of the Environment Quality Act [“EQA”].

Following this decision, Strateco filed legal proceedings against the Attorney General of Quebec [“AGQ”], seeking $182,684,575 in damages and $10,000,000 in punitive damages. Essentially, it argued that the Minister was not entitled to base his refusal to issue the certificate of authorization on the lack of social acceptability. It submitted that the Minister’s decision was not only illegal, but was tantamount to a disguised expropriation of its claims. It further argued that the government of Quebec and the Minister had breached their duty of coherence by announcing a moratorium after having encouraged companies to invest in uranium production in connection with the Plan Nord. The matter was dismissed and Strateco has appealed.

This Court is of the opinion that the appeal should be dismissed. While the Minister’s decision to refuse the issuance of the certificate of authorization does not clearly fall within the category of core policy decisions, it enjoys the qualified immunity of the state. Strateco therefore had to show that the Minister acted in bad faith or with serious carelessness or recklessness. It did not make such proof. The Minister was entitled to base his refusal on the lack of social acceptability of the project, without this being likened to a right of veto granted to the Cree. As for the moratorium announced by the Minister and his refusal to issue the certificate, they do not constitute a disguised expropriation of Strateco’s claims nor a breach of the duty of coherence.

Social acceptability is directly related to the perceived threat that a project may pose to the life or quality of life of a milieu. This perception depends on a multitude of factors, such that the social acceptability of a project, or in other words, its acceptance, does not necessarily correlate to its environmental and social effects. It follows that the Minister was entitled to base his refusal to issue the certificate of authorization on the lack of social acceptability. By giving decisive weight to this factor, he did not stray so far from the principles that ought to guide the exercise of his discretionary power that absence of good faith can be deduced and bad faith presumed. The Minister did not make his decision lightly or in a manner indicative of bad faith or serious recklessness.

Strateco knew from the outset the risk it ran in undertaking its uranium exploration project. It was fully aware that, ultimately, the Minister could either agree or refuse to issue the certificate of authorization. The evidence reveals that all the steps leading to the Minister’s decision were followed. In refusing to issue the certificate of authorization, the Minister merely exercised the right provided for in the EQA. There was no appropriation or stripping of Strateco’s claims. Moreover, Strateco was not dispossessed of the claims. Neither the announcement of a moratorium nor the Minister’s refusal to issue the certificate can be considered an absolute denial of its right of ownership.

Indeed, the evidence shows that uranium is a unique substance that gives rise to many concerns on the part of the public. There is an importance of properly informing the local populations in order to anticipate the factors that could foster the acceptability of the project for these populations. Strateco had fully grasped the fact that social acceptability was at the heart of the project’s feasibility. Strateco has failed to demonstrate that the judge committed a palpable and overriding error. Even if the Court were to find that the government did not expressly indicate to Strateco that social acceptability was a material element for the project’s authorization, the evidence reveals that Strateco had sufficient elements to draw that conclusion itself.

Yahey v British Columbia, 2020 BCSC 278

Application granted. Blueberry River First Nations is not subject to paying the hearing fees regime in this trial. The Court grants a declaration that Item 10 of Schedule 1 in Appendix C of the Supreme Court Civil Rules is of no force and effect insofar as it requires Indigenous peoples who are seeking to uphold or protect their s 35(1) Aboriginal and/or treaty rights from alleged infringements, and who are required to do so through a trial, to pay daily hearing fees to the Crown as the defendant in any such action. If this Court is wrong in reading down the hearing fee provision in the way set out above, then it would exercise its discretion contained in Item 10 of Schedule 1 in Appendix C to order the Crown to pay the hearing fees in this action.

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This application arises in the context of an action brought by the Blueberry River First Nations [“Blueberry”] against Her Majesty the Queen in Right of the Province of British Columbia [“Crown”] alleging infringements of their rights under Treaty 8. It addresses the cumulative impacts of a variety of Crown authorized activities occurring in their traditional territory. In this application, Blueberry seeks to be relieved from paying the daily hearing fees prescribed by the Supreme Court Civil Rules [“Rules”] and set out in Appendix C, Schedule 1, at Item 10 for the duration of the trial of the underlying action.

The underlying trial is currently set for 160 days. For Blueberry, that means paying over $120,000 in hearing fees to the Crown. Rule 20-5(1) provides for a waiver of fees in certain circumstances. Blueberry seeks an order under Appendix C, Schedule 1, Item 10 of the Rules that the Crown defendant pay the daily hearing fees; or, in the alternative, a constitutional exemption from paying the hearing fees based on s 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982; or, if necessary, a declaration that the hearing fees are constitutionally inapplicable under s 52(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982 to the extent they are inconsistent with s 35(1). They do not seek a waiver of fees based on undue hardship under Rule 20-5(1).

The Crown, as the defendant in this s 35(1) treaty rights claim, cannot charge the plaintiff First Nations substantial fees for access to the court to seek to enforce the Crown’s own treaty obligations. This, Blueberry argues, is inconsistent with the honour of the Crown and the Crown’s duties under s 35(1) to promote reconciliation.

Reconciliation takes place both inside and outside the courtroom. While consultation and negotiation are the primary methods of reconciliation, courts also have a role to play. The parties will not always be able to resolve the issues, and courts will be called on to determine rights and the attaching obligations. In the Aboriginal context, when considering statutes or rules that may bar, prevent or impede Indigenous peoples’ ability to pursue their claims, reconciliation must weigh heavily in the balance (Manitoba Métis Federation Inc v Canada (AG), [2013] 2 CNLR 281).

None of the cases relied on by the Crown dealt with s 35(1) in the context of hearing fees, or considered the impacts on Crown-Indigenous relations, the honour of the Crown, or reconciliation more broadly from charging such fees. This is the first case to consider the constitutionality of hearing fees from that perspective.

This Court does not agree with the Crown’s argument that recognizing the uniqueness of s 35(1) rights, and relieving litigants who seek to advance these rights of the obligation to pay hearing fees, would somehow be establishing a preferential system of access to justice. The charge of a substantial fee, which ultimately is for the Crown’s own benefit, to access the court to seek to uphold a constitutionally protected treaty right is antithetical to the purpose of s 35(1), the principle of honour of the Crown, and the objective of reconciliation. The fee creates an additional obstacle for Indigenous litigants whose claims often require long trials. It is apparent that requiring litigants who are pursuing cases dealing with s 35(1) to pay a hearing fee is in effect an advance that is paid by Indigenous peoples.

The requirement to pay daily hearing fees creates inequality in litigation in these circumstances and is inconsistent with the shared responsibility for reconciliation which is the overarching objective of s 35(1). The fees create unfairness, imposes financial obstacles to litigation (which can become significant in long trials), and reinforces the idea that the promise in s 35 still comes with strings attached. The Court can draw a legitimate distinction for Indigenous peoples in these circumstances based on the Crown’s unique obligation to Aboriginal people, and the unique status of Aboriginal and treaty rights in the Constitution Act, 1982.

Jim Shot Both Sides v Canada, 2019 FC 789

Claim allowed in part. A First Nation signatory to Treaty 7 filed a claim in 1980. Breaches of treaty obligations only became actionable with the passage of the Constitution Act, 1982. Canada is liable for the breach of treaty, but all other claims are time-barred. 

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In 1877, Treaty 7 was made between Canada, the tribes of the Blackfoot Confederacy, the Stoney, and the Sarcee Indians. Treaty 7 promised the Blood Tribe and each of the others, a reserve. The Blood Tribe reserve is at issue in this matter. It is set out in Treaty 7, however, that location was changed by agreement between the Blood Tribe and Canada.

Canada did two surveys of the area that was to become the Blood Reserve. The first was done in 1882 [“1882 Survey”] and the second was done in 1883 [“1883 Survey”]. The Blood Tribe asserts that the 1882 Survey, at law, created a reserve and the reduction of 102.5 square miles by the 1883 Survey required that it surrender that land as is provided for in The Indian Act, 1880. The Blood Tribe gave no such surrender. It therefore submits that it is entitled to that land or compensation for the loss of it.

Canada pleads that this action is time-barred by virtue of the Limitations Act. The Blood Tribe submits that Canada’s breach of its Treaty obligations to the Blood Tribe only became actionable in 1982 with the passage of the Constitution Act, 1982. The Blood Tribe commenced this action by Statement of Claim filed in 1980.

The Court found that a reserve for the Blood Tribe was created prior to 1883. The reserve that was set apart for them is that laid out by the 1882 Survey. It could not be reduced in size without obtaining a surrender from the Blood Tribe. There is no evidence how Canada arrived at the 650 square mile reserve created by the 1882 Survey. It appears to be based on a Blood Tribe population of 3250. Absent evidence as to how Canada arrived at the population figure it appears to have used, and given that the Court’s finding that the actual population was 3550, it is concluded that Canada failed to fulfill its treaty obligation.

The material facts as set out in the original Statement of Claim are that the Blood Tribe was a party to Treaty 7, that under the Treaty the Blood Tribe was entitled to a reserve of a size to be determined based on the Treaty Land Entitlement process [“TLE”], that Canada provided a reserve, but that the reserve provided was not of the required size under the TLE. The Blood Tribe sought a declaration that it is entitled to additional lands, or in the alternative, damages. These are the material facts that touch on the claim of breach of treaty. They are few and straightforward.

Paragraph 5(1)(g) of the Limitations of Actions Act provides that an action for breach of treaty must be commenced within six years after the cause of action arose. It may seem odd, but here the Blood Tribe commenced this action two years before the cause of action arose. It did so because it pleaded the action as if it were a breach of contract claim. As result of the view of the Supreme Court of Canada that treaties are not contracts (R v Sundown, [1999] 1 SCR 393; First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun v Yukon, 2017 SCC 58), it has turned out that the claim of the Blood Tribe is not one for breach of contract but rather is a claim for breach of treaty.

The Blood Tribe since commencing this action has been the beneficiary of the entrenchment of treaty rights into the Constitution Act, 1982. Canada has not put forward any arguments on the temporal application of the Constitution Act, 1982 to suggest that it would not apply to an ongoing action. For these reasons, the claim of the Blood Tribe for breach of the TLE promise in Treaty 7 is not time-barred.

For the reasons above, the claim of the Blood Tribe is allowed, in part. The Court finds that Canada is in breach of the TLE formula in Treaty 7 in regards to the size of the Blood Reserve. The Plaintiffs were entitled under the TLE formula to a reserve of 710 square miles, whereas the current Reserve is 547.5 square miles. Canada is liable to the Blood Tribe for this breach of Treaty. All other claims are dismissed as time-barred.

Petahtegoose et al v Eacom Timber et al, 2016 ONSC 2481

Motion dismissed. The applicants have failed to meet the test for an interlocutory injunction against sustainable forest licence holders.

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The applicants that operate Camp Eagle Nest, a not-for-profit corporation, seek an interlocutory injunction preventing sustainable forest licence holders to stop immediately any cutting, road building, or aerial spraying of herbicides on lands promised for survey by treaty in the Benny area. The Camp develops and delivers arts, wilderness education and Anishnawbek cultural and spiritual training sessions that improve First Nations cultural literacy, and also delivers employment training for First Nations youth and families.

The Atikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nation [“AAFN”] Reserve is located adjacent to the city of Sudbury and is outside of the Spanish Forest. In addition to rights to hunt and fish held under the Robinson-Huron Treaty, AAFN asserts that it has traditional territory rights in the area of Benny, within the Spanish Forest. Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation is also a party to the Robinson-Huron Treaty, and also asserts traditional territory rights in this same area.

The three part test for an interlocutory injunction is set out as follows: 1) the applicant must demonstrate a serious question to be tried; 2) the applicant must convince the court that it will suffer irreparable harm if the relief is not granted; and 3) the balance of convenience must favour the applicant (RJR-MacDonald Inc v Canada, [1994] 1 SCR 311). The remedy of an injunction is an all-or-nothing solution. Either the project proceeds or not.

By contrast, the duty to consult assists in balancing Aboriginal interests and societal interests by reconciling Crown interests with Aboriginal interests. The jurisprudence makes it clear that in disputes involving First Nation peoples and the protection of First Nation culture and heritage, there is a duty to consult and to accommodate the concerns of First Nation peoples wherever possible (Haida Nation v British Columbia (Minister of Forests), [2005] 1 CNLR 72 [“Haida”]). The Supreme Court of Canada makes it clear in Haida that the duty to consult is paramount, but not the duty to agree.

Forest management plans for the removal of timber and the sustainability of forests are created after a long process of consultation and negotiation with stakeholders and people who would be directly affected. The consultative summary submitted to the Court is detailed and extensive. In this matter, there is overwhelming evidence that the duty to consult has been met by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry in attempting to accommodate the concerns of the First Nations Peoples in the Spanish Forest Management Plan in and around the area of the hamlet of Benny. Even applying a low threshold, that threshold has not been met to establish that there is a serious question to be tried.

The applicants have not been specific about the harm that they would suffer if an injunction is not granted. They spoke in terms of generalities. Generalities do not satisfy the degree of proof required to establish irreparable harm. The Court concluded on the evidence and the facts of this case that the applicants have failed to establish all three requirements for an interlocutory injunction.

Further, a First Nations band may authorize an individual to represent its interest for the purpose of asserting the rights of the band, but that was not the situation in the case at bar. The applicants were not authorized by the AAFN to represent or speak for the band in its dealings with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry concerning the Spanish Forest Management Unit in or around the hamlet of Benny. On the contrary, the AAFN was very much involved in the consultative process as seen by the consultative record. The applicants asserted that as First Nations people they are entitled to be consulted separate and apart from the AAFN. The duty to consult exists to protect the collective rights of First Nation peoples and therefore the duty to consult is owed to First Nation groups as a whole and not to individual members of the band (Behn v Moulton Contracting Ltd, 2013 SCC 26).

R v Marr, 2019 NSSC 327

Trial adjournment in order for the Respondent’s to make a Rowbotham application for state-funded counsel quashed and remitted back to the trial judge. It is insufficient to simply assert a complex constitutional defence, when the charge itself is not serious.

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The Respondents are members of the Sipekne’katik First Nation and designated to partake in the Food, Social and Ceremonial fishery for lobster, which permits the fishing of 60 lobsters per day per fisher. The Respondents were charged with two sets of offences pertaining to catching and retaining more than 60 lobsters per day, contrary to s 7 of the Aboriginal Communal Fishing Licenses Regulations. The central issue was whether the trial judge erred in finding that a Rowbotham order was necessary to ensure a fair trial in the circumstances.

The complexity arised from the proposed constitutional defence. As per the air of reality to the defence put forward by the Respondents, there had been no indication of the substance of the defence, only a bare assertion of an Aboriginal or treaty right. There was no direction of how the Aboriginal or treaty rights are allegedly violated by the charges, and therefore impossible to say there was a proposed defence that is factually and legally relevant to the charges. The court on a Rowbotham application cannot simply assume that an Aboriginal person charged with a fisheries offence might have a treaty or Aboriginal rights defence as a basis to order state-funded counsel.

Further, with the bare assertion of an Aboriginal or treaty right, the court would have no way to assess the seriousness or complexity of the proposed defence. The charges were neither serious nor complex. They were straightforward, and there was no prospect of a sentence of imprisonment upon conviction. The only source of complexity was the potential defence to charges that are not, in themselves, serious or complex. Thus, the Respondents did not meet the Rowbotham test, and as such, the trial judge erred in law in finding that a Rowbotham order was necessary to ensure a fair trial.

The Respondents submit the application must be viewed through the prism of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [“Declaration”]. As the Respondents provided no argument as to why the Declaration would mandate any particular result, as well as the Declaration is not legally binding, it is therefore not relevant on a Rowbotham application. The last argument raised by the Respondents pointed to sections 7 and 11(d) Charter violations. They did not provide authority for their argument that s 7 is engaged by an alleged violation of an Aboriginal or treaty right. As the court in Rowbotham effectively treated sections 7 and 11(d) as a joint guarantee of fair trial rights, the Respondents argument that a Rowbotham order can rest on a violation of section 11(d) alone, misconstrues the language of the decision.

Gitxaala Nation v Wolverine Terminals ULC et al, 2020 FC 382

Motion dismissed. The Metlakatla First Nation and Lax Kw’alaams should not be joined as respondents or interveners in the Gitxaala Nation’s underlying application for judicial review.

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Wolverine Terminals ULC, has proposed to construct and operate the Prince Rupert Marine Fuels Service Project [“Project”] in the Port of Prince Rupert. The Project is a floating refuelling station intended for refuelling vessels calling in the Port. It is located on federal lands and is subject to a review under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act [“CEAA”]. Under the CEAA, the Prince Rupert Port Authority and Transport Canada [“Federal Authorities”] could not enable the Project to proceed unless a determination was made that the Project was not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. As part of its evaluation process, the Federal Authorities consulted the six First Nation communities with asserted rights and interests within the Project area regarding potential environmental effects that included the Gitxaala Nation [“Gitxaala”], Metlakatla First Nation, Lax Kw’alaams, Gitga’at First Nation, Kitsumkalum, and Kitselas.

In the underlying application for judicial review [“Application”], Gitxaala challenges the decision of the Federal Authorities that the Project will not cause significant adverse environmental effects pursuant to the CEAA, and that the Crown’s obligation to consult with respect to the Project has been fulfilled [“Decision”]. The Metlakatla First Nation and Lax Kw’alaams [“Moving First Nations”] have brought a motion for an order to allow them to be joined as party respondents in the Application. In the alternative, they seek an order to allow them to jointly intervene. This motion is dismissed.

If the Moving First Nations had a direct interest in quashing the Decision that was actually made, they could and should have asserted it by bringing their own application for judicial review on a timely basis. It would be an “impermissible end-run” for them to join the proceedings, in substance as co-applicants, well after the limitation period for applying has passed (Tsleil-Waututh Nation v Canada (AG), 2017 FCA 102).

The Court is not persuaded that the relief sought, if granted, will inevitably impose legal obligations on the Moving First Nations to re-engage in the consultation process. For example, if the Decision is set aside on the narrow basis that the Federal Authorities failed to adequately consult with Gitxaala, due to unique gaps or inadequacies in the specific consultation process undertaken with Gitxaala, it does not inevitably follow that the Federal Authorities will be required to also re-consult with the other five First Nation communities with asserted rights and interests within the Project area. Even if the relief sought by Gitxaala would require the Federal Authorities to re-engage with the Moving First Nations, the Court is not satisfied that the Moving First Nations would be directly affected by the relief sought in the Application.

The Moving First Nations argue that the relief sought will adversely and directly affect their legal rights by causing them to become legally obligated to participate in a more onerous statutory and consultative process, and incur additional time and expense to re-engage with the Federal Authorities. They rely on the legal principle of a reciprocal duty on First Nations to consult with the Crown in good faith and they cannot, by their conduct, place unnecessary obstacles in the way of the consultation process (Ahousaht First Nation v Canada (Fisheries and Oceans), [2008] 3 CNLR 67).

The reciprocal duty imposed on First Nations is significantly different in nature from the duty imposed on the Crown to consult with First Nations. The Crown’s duty to consult with First Nations gives rise to co-extensive right in First Nations to be consulted, and the breach of which is actionable in the Courts. The same cannot be said of the reciprocal duty on First Nations to engage in consultation with the Crown. Unlike the Crown’s duty to consult, the reciprocal duty imposed on First Nations is not an enforceable legal obligation.

The Moving First Nations have not satisfied the Court that their participation as respondents is necessary to determine the adequacy of Gitxaala’s consultation process, or demonstrated how this issue cannot be effectively and completely settled unless they are made respondents on the Application (Canada (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans) v Shubenacadie Indian Band, 2002 FCA 509).

As for being added as intervenors, acting under the guise of having a different perspective, an intervener cannot adduce fresh evidence or make submissions that are in reality fresh evidence (Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) v Ishaq, 2015 FCA 151). A proposed intervener must rely on the same evidence in the record that others are relying upon and focus on how they can assist the Court’s determination of the existing proceedings. The Moving First Nations’ proposed position appears to be an expansion of the issues raised in the existing Application. If they intend to argue, in effect, that Gitxaala has no valid asserted claim to the potential existence of Aboriginal title or rights in the project area, the corollary to that argument would be that no duty to consult arose. Gitxaala does not challenge the Decision based on any such finding, but rather on the basis that the Federal Authorities failed to adequately consult with Gitxaala. While the Moving First Nations assert that their participation will assist, it is the Court’s view they have not discharged the burden of proof to demonstrate how it will assist (Forest Ethics Advocacy Association v Canada (National Energy Board), 2013 FCA 236).