Corneau v AG of Québec, 2018 QCCA 1172

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

The test set out in R v Powley for Métis rights requires that a Métis community’s distinct nature be sought out, but does not require that the underlying practices and traditions be distinct.

This case involved an application brought against Mr. Corneau, and other alleged offenders, for occupying sites on public lands without any property right, lease or occupancy permit contrary to s.54 of The Act Respecting the Lands in the Domain of the State (“the Act”). Mr. Courneau contested the application on the basis that he belongs to a Métis community which confers rights to occupy the alleged public lands. It was held at trial that Mr. Corneau did not meet the requirements of the test set out in R v Powley for Métis rights. Mr. Corneau has appealed the decision, calling into question the trial court’s assessment of: (i) the evidence following the identification of the historic Métis community; (ii) the existence of a modern community; (iii) the appellants’ membership in the modern community and (iv) the period of control. In the end, the Québec Court of Appeal (“the Court”) dismissed the appeals and ordered that Mr. Corneau abandon the sites and return the premises to their former condition.

The Court began by reviewing the R v Powley decision, which clarified the test for identifying a Métis community’s rights. It first began by observing that the term Métis is not a matter of genetics, but rather of culture and identity. As articulated by the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”), the term Métis “does not encompass all individuals with mixed Indian and European heritage; rather it refers to distinctive peoples who, in addition to their mixed ancestry, developed their own customs, way of life and recognizable group identity”. Furthermore, a Métis community are “a group of Métis, with a distinctive collective identity, living together in the same geographic area.” The Court then identified the constitutionally protected Métis rights as those rights subsisting in Métis communities that emerged between first contact and the effective imposition of European control. The focus therefore is on rights that existed “post-contact”, for example after a particular Métis community arose, but also “pre-control”, or before it came under the effective control of European laws and customs.

The Court then reviewed the factual matrix as presented by the trial court. The trial court found the evidence adduced by the appellants to be insufficient to establish an identifiable historic Métis community that would allow mixed individuals to be distinguished from their biological authors. This was decided after consideration of the evidence presented by historians, genealogists and anthropologists. It was also the opinion of the trial judge that even if there was a historic community of Métis tied to the land in question, there was no modern community holding the right being claimed. Finally, in consideration of the personal circumstances of Mr. Corneau, the trial judge found the evidence of self-identification with a Métis community unconvincing. The trial court observed that: (1) Mr. Corneau’s self-identification occurred later in life and was driven by opportunism; (2) that his ancestral connection did not, on the balance of probabilities, belong to an historic Métis community; and that (3) the absence of a cultural tie between the Métis organizations and his ancestral Métis community suggest that there is not, on the balance of probabilities, sufficient evidence of the existence of the right claimed.

The Court then set out the standard of review as requiring a palpable and overriding error standard for questions of mixed fact and law. It noted that, as per R v Van der Peet, courts must not undervalue the evidence of Aboriginal claimants simply because there is no evidence conforming to the evidentiary standards of other areas of law, such as a private law torts case. It also cited Mitchell v MRN, which highlighted that while Aboriginal claims must still be established on the basis of persuasive evidence, their forms of evidence must also be afforded equal and due treatment.

In respect of issue (i) and (ii), the Court agreed with the trial court that there was no historic Métis community, but upheld the appellants’ contention that the trial court applied the test too strictly. The Court observed that the test, as applied by the trial court, takes for granted that the practise and traditions of the community in question must be distinct, while the SCC only required that the distinctive nature be sought out. Nonetheless, this error is not determinative, as it does not change the conclusion of the Court that there was no historic community holding rights to be claimed. Specifically, the Court agreed that the appellants’ expert witnesses failed to meaningfully question the evidence of historian Russel Bouchard. Evidence from Bouchard was relied on to build the claim that the individuals from mixed marriages between Euro-Canadians and Indians defended their diversity as a cultural and identity marker. The respondents, however, presented evidence suggesting that such marriages did not result in a distinct community, but rather integration into the already established Montagnais community and later into Euro Canada. In the end, the practices or traditions must also be proved. While the Court does not directly address the issues of whether there exists a modern Métis community, they are not required to as they have concluded that no historic community existed.

In respect of issue (iii), the Court held that the trial court erred in their comparison of the historic Métis community of Sault Ste Marie with the alleged historic Métis community of Domaine du Roy and Mingan Seignory. In particular, the Court held that the trial court’s strict application of the factors of density and proximity is inappropriate. As stated by the Court, “it is possible to imagine that members of a historic community could settle in several separate locations while forming a single regional unit.”  An historic community can be regional and nomadic.

In respect of issue (iv) the Court agreed with the trial court’s contention that control over the territory in question occurred between 1842 and 1850. Both the appellants and the respondents contest this finding. The appellants argued that the correct time period ought to be after 1856 when Aboriginal people were displaced following the creation of reserves, relying on primitive land surveys between 1843 and 1860, indicated in the installation of a municipal regime and administration of justice, to support this position. The Court found, however, that they failed to submit sufficient evidence to illustrate a palpable and overriding error on the part of the trial court.

The respondents argued that the trial court erred in analyzing the evidence based on the legal criterion for control. The Court dismissed this position on the basis that the expert evidence relied on by the respondents mis-categorized the Domaine du Roi territory as one governed by the seigneurial land grant system, under which control was established between 1733 and 1767. Under cross-examination it was revealed that no primary or secondary sources refer to Domaine du Roi as a secondary estate. Instead, the Domaine du Roi was preserved for the fur trade and no land grants were offered in respect of it and ended in 1842 when the government included a condition in a renewed lease of the Hudson’s Bay Company that the government could have the land surveyed and could settle colonists in any part of the Domaine suitable for agricultural colonization. Thus, the Court found that the evidence supported the approach taken by the trial court.

 

Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions v Michel Tremblay, 2018 Court of Québec

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

For a Métis claim of Aboriginal rights to succeed under s.35, there must be evidence, on a balance of probabilities, that a Métis community had existed that asserted sufficient control over the territory in question, prior to the imposition of European control.

Mr. Tremblay, asserted that he is Métis but faced multiple criminal charges relating to wildlife preservation, sustainable development, wildlife habitat and forests. The issue at hand is whether the provisions of the statues and regulations are not applicable to Mr. Tremblay as a result of his rights protected by s.35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The Court held that Mr. Tremblay was guilty of the offences to which he is charged, as there was insufficient evidence to establish that a Metis community existed with sufficient control of the territory in the period in which Mr. Tremblay alleges.

Counsel for Mr. Tremblay argued that s.35 protected his rights as they pertain to hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering rights, as well as his right to take part in activities traditionally and reasonably incidental to the exercise of his rights under ss.35 (1) and (2). In their view, this constituted the exercise of Aboriginal rights to partake in activities for food, social purposes and in traditional Métis celebrations such as clearing impassable paths, modifying banks of watercourses so that they are reasonably accessible for young or elderly people, stocking fish in lakes as well as taking measures to keep them in certain watercourses by protecting and preserving peaceful and safe hunting practices by erecting temporary barriers.

Counsel for the Attorney General Quebec (AGQ) recognized that if criteria 2 and 6 set out in R v Powley were met, the evidence submitted would be sufficient to establish on the balance of probabilities that hunting, fishing and trapping for subsistence purposes, constituted the contemporary expression of traditional Métis practices. They further asserted that on the facts, Mr. Tremblay’s activities do not pertain to the traditional culture of a Métis community and cannot be considered incidental to contemporary practices of primary Aboriginal hunting, fishing and trapping rights. For clarity, criteria 2 from R v Powley is whether the claimant is a member of a contemporary Métis community, while criteria 6 is whether the practice is integral to the culture of the community.

R v Powley stated that rights enshrined and protected in ss.35 (1) and (2) are Aboriginal rights of Métis and Aboriginal communities. A Métis community consists of a group of Métis with distinctive collective identities. The Court of Québec made reference to the historical observations set out by counsel and accepted in R v Powley. This was reinforced at the Court of Appeal, which affirmed that prior to the assertion of sovereignty, there was a recognized separate Métis community in the area of Sault St. Marie. The Court also pointed to R v Willison, which set out that evidence of a settlement is not required for a Métis community to exist. Finally, reference was made to R v Van der Peet to elucidate the approach to be taken in hearing applications regarding the recognition of Métis rights. For Métis communities, the rights established cannot be rights that existed prior to contact but rather rights existing prior to the imposition of European Canadian control.

The expert evidence provided allowed the Court to make conclusions in respect of Métis ethnogenesis in the study region. This included the establishment and maintenance of a historic Métis community in the study region, the genealogy of Mr. Michael Tremblay, and Crown sovereignty and effective control. The ethnogenesis in the study region suggested that a distinct Métis community developed at the dawn of the nineteenth century amongst a group of mixed-race people with close and unique ties. It was noted that a historic Métis community had been established and existed. The Métis were largely represented in farming activities, the lumber industry and the fur trade, but they also worked as guides and day labourers. They participated in the traditional economy by way of hunting, fishing and trapping, music, gathering and the manufacture of maple syrup and sugar. The Métis also engaged in canoe building and guide activities along with attachment to Catholic rites and practices.

The Court found, however, that the evidence did not truly reveal that a group of mixed ancestry was geographically isolated in that study region. The evidence submitted regarding the marriages between mixed race people also failed to establish that there was a historical Métis community. Further evidence submitted suggested that there was uncertainty regarding the number of ancestors for the period of ethnogenesis proposed. It was further suggested that of these ancestors, five out of six did not share the ethnic criteria identified by an expert. The Court also found that there was insufficient evidence that this community had its own control. The evidence presented that, although the province of Ontario obtained control by way of the Public Lands Act,1853 and the Free Grant and Homestead Act, 1868, these Acts only had significant impact on the Métis lifestyle near the end of this period. Nonetheless, the Court found that the passing of the statutes and the opening of the regional prison in 1886 radically altered the way of life of Aboriginal and Métis people. After considering all evidence presented, the Court concluded that the evidence submitted for Mr. Tremblay was insufficient on the balance of probabilities to meet the criteria outlined in R v Powley and therefore is guilty of the offences to which he was charged under the Criminal Code.

 

Ahousaht Indian Band and Nation v Canada (AG), 2018 BCSC 633

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

Declaratory relief allowed for Aboriginal right to right-based “all species” commercial fishery.

The plaintiffs are five First Nations whose territories are located on a strip of varying widths along the West Coast of Vancouver Island and are part of the fourteen Nuu-chah-nulth group of Nations. This trial took place in two stages, which was unanticipated by either party when it began. The first part of the trial was heard by a different judge who issued reasons in Ahousaht Indian Band and Nation v Canada (AG), [2010] 1 CNLR 1 (BCSC), as well as declarations. There were originally eleven plaintiffs in this action. However, the initial Statement of Claim claimed Aboriginal title on behalf of each of the eleven Nations, as well as Aboriginal rights. Because some of the title claims overlapped, it was ordered that the plaintiffs choose one or more Nations whose claims to title did not overlap, and the claims of those plaintiffs would proceed in this action. The present five plaintiffs proceeded to trial with their claims but the remaining claims have yet to be tried.

The plaintiffs asserted an Aboriginal right to harvest fisheries resources for a variety of purposes including for food, social and ceremonial purposes, commercial purposes, and so on. It was declared in 2009 that the plaintiffs have an Aboriginal right in these terms: “to fish for any species of fish within their Fishing Territories and to sell that fish”. However, the Fishing Territories were limited to a nine-mile strip or Court Defined Area (“CDA”). It was also declared that the entire fisheries management regime, consisting of legislation, regulations, and policies, constituted a prima facie infringement of that right. The trial was then adjourned to allow the parties to negotiate a fishery based on this declaration. In the event the negotiations (“Negotiations”) were unsuccessful, they could return to court on the issue of whether Canada could justify its legislative, regulatory and policy regimes as they apply to the plaintiffs’ Aboriginal fishery, named T’aaq-wiihak, which means “permission to fish”.

The history of this action is complex and interwoven with another action on Aboriginal fishing rights (Lax Kw’alaams Indian Band v Canada (AG), [2011] 4 CNLR 346 (SCC)) (“Lax Kw’alaams”), which proceeded slightly ahead of this action, and this Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) decision has influenced the course of the present action. After the 2009 judgment, the Negotiations began in 2010, but soon led to a reactivation of the litigation. The Negotiations have continued and are ongoing. Meanwhile, following the first stage of the trial, Canada appealed the 2009 decision. That appeal was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in 2011 (Ahousaht Indian Band v Canada (AG), [2011] 3 CNLR 1 (BCCA)). The Court of Appeal upheld the trial decision but removed geoduck species from the “any species” list of the right-based fishery and included other minor variations. Canada then appealed to the SCC. The SCC remanded this present case back to the Court of Appeal in 2012 with no reasons, but with a direction that the case be reconsidered in accordance with their recent decision in Lax Kw’alaams. After reconsideration, the Court of Appeal once again dismissed the appeal and confirmed its order from 2011 (Ahousaht Indian Band v Canada (AG), [2013] 4 CNLR 31 (BCCA)). Canada applied to the SCC for leave to appeal the reconsideration decision but was denied in 2014. This court is bound by the Court of Appeal’s 2013 reconsideration decision. The stage of this trial then began in 2015 where the parties agreed that a justification analysis is required for each species of fish for which the plaintiffs have submitted fishing proposals.

This case as it stands can only be concerned with the justification analysis. The 2009 declared Aboriginal right cannot be redefined, despite being general without any qualifiers. However, in order for the justification analysis to take place, the Court held that the right has to be clearly described. The only way to circumscribe the right-based fishery at this stage of trial was by using what could be inferred from reading the 2009 reasons as a whole. Although the Court rendered general comments regarding the infringement and justification analysis in the present case, it found that a justification analysis had to be done in a species-specific manner. An analysis of continuity in respect of each individual species, however, could not result in subtraction of species from the “any species” declaration, despite the 2011 Court of Appeal’s removal of the geoduck species, which was eliminated on the basis of fishing technique.

The 2009 declaration has been described as a two-edged sword. Canada is bound by the right as declared, but the plaintiffs are bound as well, and unhappy with the nine-mile limit for a right-based fishery. They cannot exercise their right within the CDA in a way that is satisfactory to them. The conclusion to be drawn from interpreting the 2009 reasons as a whole, despite the lack of parameters in the declarations, is that the declared right to fish for any species and to sell that fish is to be interpreted as a small-scale, artisanal, local, multi-species, right-based fishery, to be conducted in a nine-mile strip from shore, using small, low-cost boats with limited technology and restricted catching power, and aimed at wide community participation.

Canada, however, did not take the position that the entire regime, found to be a prima facie infringement, could be justified and should remain unchanged. Given all the circumstances and complexity surrounding the procedural history and subsequent Negotiations, it was considered inappropriate or unnecessary to make a general declaration in respect of a failure of the duty to consult in good faith either under the common law or under the declaration. There were stumbling blocks presented by both sides, and the process is still in progress. The Court also noted the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ commitment to ongoing deep consultation, and therefore did not see this as an issue upon which the justification analysis should stand or fall.

Editor’s Note: Six First Nations governments and three industry groups sought leave to intervene on the basis that each has a public interest in a public law issue and each can bring a valuable perspective to the Court. On November 7, 2018, leave for all nine applicants was granted by the British Columbia Court of Appeal but limited to issues that will not be repetitive and will be helpful to the Court (Ahousaht Indian Band and Nation v Canada (AG), 2018 BCCA 413).

Rosemary Lamb v Her Majesty the Queen NBQB 213

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

A woman who acquired Indian status within the meaning of the Indian Act through marriage does not lose registered status as a result of divorce. Powley does not require courts to apply the Powley factors each time a person purporting to be Indian within the meaning of the Indian Act comes before the court.

In Rosemary Lamb, the Queen’s Bench of New Brunswick considered whether Ms. Lamb, a Caucasian woman who had acquired Indian status within the meaning of the Indian Act through marriage to Mr. Augustine, an Aboriginal man, continued to retain such status following her divorce. Prior to their marriage Ms. Lamb had two children with Mr. Augustine. The two were subsequently married in 1984 and divorced shortly thereafter. In 2017, Ms. Lamb was convicted for hunting moose out of season. Ms. Lamb contended that she continues to have hunting rights that flow from her Indian status with the Burnt Church First Nation. Overturning the trial decision, the Court held that her Indian status had been obtained in 1979 when she married Mr. Augustine, and continues even after divorce.

The trial court held that the Powley criteria must be applied to the evidence to determine the Aboriginal identity at law. The criteria includes Aboriginal ancestry, cultural awareness and community acceptance. Ms. Lamb, a self-represented litigant, did not provide any meaningful evidence of Aboriginal ancestry nor was she meaningfully connected to the Burnt Church First Nation community. Since she could not prove Aboriginal ancestry or cultural awareness, the trial court determined that Ms. Lamb was not an “Indian” within the meaning of the Indian Act.

In this appeal, however, the Court held that the trial court had made an error of law resulting from an incomplete legislative history. After reviewing the history of statutes governing Aboriginal identity at law (omitted here), the Court observed that as the wife of a person entitled to be registered, pursuant to s.11(1)(f) of the Indian Act, Ms. Lamb continues to be registered as an “Indian” within the meaning of the Indian Act even after her divorce. The general principle in Bernard asserts that Aboriginal rights are to be governed by the existence of a historic and present community and may only be governed by virtue of an individual’s ancestrally-based membership in the present community. It was also noted that the Bernard case allows for Aboriginal rights to be provided where an ancestral connection can be made out based on “other means”. In the Court’s opinion, marriage falls into this category. Failing to see any removal of membership provision of the Indian Act that provides for the removal of people from their Aboriginal rights, the Court concluded that Ms. Lamb must continue to retain her Indian status and the guilty conviction was set aside.

Newfoundland and Labrador (AG) v Innu of Uashat and Mani-Utenam, 2017 QCCA 1791

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

Pleadings relating to Labrador not struck from civil action in Quebec against private companies based on violations of Aboriginal rights and title within Innu territory in both Quebec and Labrador. Neither nature of the allegations nor interprovincial jurisdictional immunity prevents the Quebec Superior Court from hearing entire action. Access to justice and proportionality also favour allowing Innu Nations to set out arguments in full.

The Attorney General of Newfoundland and Labrador appealed from the dismissal of an application to strike pleadings. Their application to strike concerned certain paragraphs in an originating application filed by the Innu of Uashat and of Mani-Utenam and the Innu of Matimekush-Lac John. The applicants are two Innu Nations that claim Aboriginal rights and title to a vast traditional territory called the “Nitassinan” that is situated on the Quebec-Labrador Peninsula, including areas within the provincial boundaries of both Quebec and Labrador. The Attorney General sought to strike paragraphs relating to Labrador in this matter before the Quebec Superior Court. In the appellant’s view, the Innu are attempting to obtain recognition of Aboriginal title and rights in Labrador, which the appellant submits are real rights over which the courts of Quebec have no jurisdiction. The Attorney General also claimed that the Innu Nations’ action engages interprovincial immunity in that Quebec’s Superior Court cannot have jurisdiction over the interests of the Newfoundland and Labrador Crown.

The Innu Nations are not seeking recognition of their Aboriginal rights and title against the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador or any other Crown government. Instead, they are seeking civil liability and damages against two private companies—the Iron Ore Company of Canada (“IOC”) and the Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway Company (“QNS&LR”)—in connection with the IOC’s industrial development of iron ore extraction in the Labrador Trough beginning in the 1950s. The Innu Nations claim that IOC and QNS&LR have violated their Aboriginal rights and title within Nitassinan, and also claim Charter violations as well as other forms of civil liability.

While Haida Nation v. British Columbia (Minister of Forests) clarified that the duty to consult Aboriginal nations rests solely with the Crown, this does not eliminate the eventual liability of mining companies that obtain rights to extract natural resources on a given territory. Indeed, “[i]f they act negligently in circumstances where they owe Aboriginal peoples a duty of care, or if they breach contracts with Aboriginal peoples or deal with them dishonestly, they [third parties] may be held legally liable.” This is the foundation upon which the Innu Nations have built their action against IOC and QNS&LR.

The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial judge’s conclusion that the Innu Nations’ claims are part of a “mixed” action in which both recognition of a real right and the execution of an obligation are sought. This means that aspects of the claim concerning Labrador may be dealt with in Quebec. “Real” actions concern judicial recognition or protection of property rights, whereas “personal” actions seek judicial recognition of obligations, whether contractual or extra-contractual. The Court of Appeal stated that it is not possible to describe Aboriginal rights in terms of traditional property law concepts because they are sui generis. These rights are also collective, rather than individual, which in itself poses classification challenges within the realm of property law. The Innu Nations claim various types of Aboriginal rights have been infringed by IOC and QNS&LR, including Aboriginal title, Aboriginal harvesting rights, and others. These Aboriginal rights cannot be classified as real rights. In any event, they are ancillary to the Innu Nations’ lawsuit, which is focused on civil liability, damages, and injunctive relief against the private company defendants.

As for the appellant’s assertion that the Quebec Superior Court does not have jurisdiction because the “property in dispute” is located in Labrador, that must also fail. The Court of Appeal was of the view that interprovincial jurisdictional immunity could not be an obstacle to the jurisdiction of the Quebec courts over this dispute, at least not at this early stage. The Innu Nations admitted that the declarations the Superior Court makes with respect to Aboriginal rights over the Nitassinan will not bind the governments of Canada, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador. If the Innu wish to have their broad Aboriginal claims to Labrador recognized, they will have to negotiate with the government of Newfoundland and Labrador or seize the courts of that province in the context of a global claim. However, as discussed above, this is not the objective of their current action. If the appellant wishes, it may participate in the proceedings before the Superior Court in the action brought by the Innu Nations against private companies in order to assert its rights and interests. The appellant suffers no prejudice from the continuation of the action in its current form before the Superior Court of Quebec.

The Court of Appeal also stated that the application to strike raised fundamental questions of access to justice and proportionality in relation to an action concerning Aboriginal rights in an interprovincial context. According to the pleadings, the Innu Nations historically pursued their activities across the Nitassinan territory freely and without regard for borders. The trial judge noted that the principles of law which govern Aboriginal rights apply across all of Canada, again without regard to borders. The appellant wished to sever and compartmentalize at an early stage aspects of the Innu’s application that would concern, on one hand, the province of Quebec, and on the other, Labrador. Since the Innu historically ignored the border, the trial judge found it doubtful that the evidence and traditional customs addressed by Elder witnesses would draw a distinction between what occurs in Newfoundland and Labrador as opposed to Quebec. The Court of Appeal agreed that it would not be in the interests of justice to prematurely sever from the Innu Nations’ action any references to Labrador, to the rights the Innu may claim over this territory, or to the activities of the IOC and the QNS&LR. The Innu Nations should be able to set out their arguments, not piecemeal but in full, before the court that has jurisdiction over their action against IOC and the QNS&LR.

Note: On November 15, 2018, the Supreme Court of Canada granted the Attorney General’s application for leave to appeal.

The Council of the Haida Nation v. British Columbia, 2018 BCSC 277

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

Application for severance of a trial concerning declarations of Aboriginal title and general Aboriginal rights, is granted on the terms sought by the Plaintiffs, with the exception that matters related to rights will only be decided in respect of the Representative Interests.

This is a case management application for an order severing the trial of an action into two parts, Phase 1 and Phase 2. The Court is satisfied that the Plaintiffs have demonstrated that there is a real likelihood that an order severing this trial into two parts will result in saving considerable time and expense. In the action, the Plaintiffs seek a declaration of Aboriginal title and Aboriginal rights to the terrestrial portions of Haida Gwaii. What is defined as the “Claim Area”, includes its inland waters, to the waters and submerged lands within the surrounding territorial sea (12 nautical miles from the coastal baseline) and to all living creatures such as fish and birds during times that they are present. The Plaintiffs claim general Aboriginal rights, including the right to harvest, manage and trade fish, marine resources and trees within the Claim Area.

The Plaintiffs’ claim that the Defendants have infringed their asserted Aboriginal title and general Aboriginal rights by issuing tenures, permits and licences, conveying land and passing laws in relation to Haida Gwaii that do not accommodate the Plaintiffs’ interests. The principle form of infringements for which compensation is sought from the Defendants are related to forestry, fisheries and land alienations. The Plaintiffs seek compensation for these infringements, or for unlawful interference with their asserted Aboriginal title, rights, and an accounting of all benefits collected in connection with Haida Gwaii. However, the Plaintiffs confirmed that they are not seeking to quash tenures, permits or licences or conveyances of land or to eject fee simple owners. They are only seeking compensation for relevant losses.

With respect to various procedural matters during and after trial, the Plaintiffs submit that a) following the completion of Phase 1 of the trial, the Court’s determination of the issues addressed in that phase will be the final determination of those issues; b) the parties may appeal the decision in Phase 1 before the commencement of Phase 2, but Phase 2 may proceed pending such appeals with the consent of the parties; c) that subject to availability, the same Justice will be seized of both phases of the trial which will be a single trial; and d) evidence heard in the Phase 1 of trial shall be deemed to be evidence in Phase 2 of the trial.

The key issue in dispute was whether Phase 1 of the trial should include a determination of broader Aboriginal rights, beyond those pertaining to the Representative Interests. The Court decided that matters related to general Aboriginal rights will only be decided in respect of the Representative Interests. Both Canada and British Columbia dispute that the plaintiffs have Aboriginal title to all of the Claim Area and both agree that the Plaintiffs’ claims with respect to Aboriginal title over private lands and submerged lands are novel. No such claims were dealt with in Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia. The Court reasoned that, without severance, evidence concerning a defence of justification for infringement to Aboriginal title would have to be adduced for the entire Claim area. With severance, once title is determined in Phase 1, the Court will only have to concern itself in Phase 2 with infringements to areas where title has been declared. Previous comprehensive title cases have not resulted in compensatory awards. The intention of the parties is that in Phase 1 the question of whether pecuniary damages are payable in respect of the Representative Interests, and from when, are what is to be judicially determined.

The expectation is that such a determination will assist in either the settlement of damages claims for other claimed interests or by establishing a framework for evaluating such claims, which can be utilized in Phase 2. The Court agrees with the submissions of the Plaintiffs that the establishment of a template for determining compensation may considerably reduce the range of expert financial computations and evidence required to compute damages valuations and other remedies as the parties intend to engage in negotiations after Phase 1. None of the parties suggest that resolving any of the issues in Phase 1 will, in and of itself, eliminate the requirement for Phase 2. However, the Court is satisfied that an order severing this trial into two parts will facilitate settlement discussions between the parties and may therefore result in an end to the action.

Case Watch for October 2016

FROM OUR PUBLICATIONS DESK

Case Watch

The following decisions came across our desk over the past month:

Jurisdiction of superior courts over transboundary Aboriginal rights

Uashaunnuat (Innus of Uashat and Mani-utenam) c Iron Ore Company of Canada, 2016 QCCS 5133 (in French only): The Superior Court of Quebec dismissed an application from the defendants to strike portions of the plaintiffs’ claims. The Innu plaintiffs are suing the defendants, a mining company and a railway company, for $900M in damages for alleged harms to their section 35 rights within their traditional territory, the Nitassinan, which covers a large portion of the Quebec-Labrador peninsula. The defendants argued that to the extent the plaintiffs’ claims relate to land outside Quebec’s borders, those claims are outside the jurisdictional competence of the Quebec Superior Court, as per the Quebec Civil Code. The claims are premised on asserted Aboriginal rights and title, as well as treaty rights. In determining this application, the Court noted the need to consider the Aboriginal perspective when addressing section 35 rights, the sui generis nature of these rights, and the fact that recognition of these rights is ancillary to the primary focus of this litigation, which is on damages. The Court also rejected forum non conveniens and Crown immunity arguments. It noted in the latter case that the section 35 rights of the Innu are existing rights, not rights created by the courts, and should therefore not differ as between Quebec and Labrador.

Freedom of expression in context to injunction application for blockade

Siksika Nation v Crowchief, 2016 ABQB 596: The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench granted the Siksika Nation an interlocutory injunction against a group of its members to prevent them from interfering with its contractor’s efforts to rebuild homes in an on reserve development. The respondent stated that his purpose for initiating the blockade was to draw attention to alleged issues of oversight, accountability and transparency with respect to the applicant’s use of financial resources on this project, among other things. The respondent invoked his Charter right to freedom of expression in defence of the protest and blockade. The Court found that the applicant was able to meet the test for an interlocutory injunction. The Court also held that the Charter did not apply in the circumstances, since the injunction was aimed at ensuring the applicant and its contractor could fulfill the terms of a private agreement, and the applicant was not seeking to prevent the respondents from pursuing legal avenues to express their dissent. The Court further concluded that the injunction would be a justifiable infringement of the respondents’ Charter rights even if the Charter had applied.

Annuity claims and the unique context of each Numbered Treaty –

Horseman v Canada, 2016 FCA 238: The Federal Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal from a Federal Court decision that declined to certify a proposed class proceeding for treaty annuities owed under each of the Numbered Treaties. The Federal Court had concluded that there was insufficient commonality between the circumstances of each treaty’s annuity clause for the purposes of a class action. The Court of Appeal upheld the decision and substantially agreed with the Federal Court’s analysis. It held that treaty interpretation requires an intensive inquiry into the mutual intent of the parties and the purposes for which they entered treaty. Due to the unique historical, cultural, and economic context surrounding each treaty, class proceedings would likely not have issues of commonality unless they were limited to a particular Numbered Treaty.

Admission of extrinsic evidence re: duty to consult on judicial review –

Sipekne’katik v Nova Scotia (Minister of Environment), 2016 NSSC 260: The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia allowed the admission of affidavit evidence beyond the record in a statutory appeal from ministerial approvals under Nova Scotia’s Environment Act. The approvals were for the development of an underground natural gas storage facility. Sipekne’katik claim Aboriginal and treaty rights to hunt and fish in the area where the project will be developed. The Court held that evidence beyond the record would only be admissible in exceptional circumstances, such as breaches of natural justice and procedural fairness. All parties relied on the Crown’s duty to consult falling within the broad heading of a “breach of procedural fairness” in order to argue that their respective affidavits were admissible. The Court noted that affidavit evidence would not be admissible merely because the honour of the Crown was raised as an issue. They must relate to the scope and content of the duty to consult and whether that duty has been fulfilled. Under this test the Court accepted all the affidavits, subject to the striking of some argumentative portions.

Injunction granted against logging blockade –

D.N.T. Contracting Ltd v Abraham, 2016 BCSC 1917: The Supreme Court of British Columbia granted a logging company’s application for an injunction prohibiting members of the Takla Lake First Nation (TLFN) from blocking, physically impeding, or delaying access to harvesting sites under a timber licence. Members of the TLFN stated that their burial sites and traditional territory were within the cut block boundaries of the licence. They also stated that TLFN receives a larger number of consultation referrals than they can manage due to their small size and financial management issues from previous administrators. TLFN indicated it was willing to negotiate with the applicant and allow the logging if accommodation could be reached. The Court held that the blockade constituted irreparable harm as further delays would threaten the economic standing of the company’s operations and harm it significantly. The Court held that TLFN should have brought its issues forward during the consultation process before the licences were approved, rather than threatening the administration of justice by blocking access to the harvesting sites long after the time for consultation had passed.

Appraisal of lease rates for on reserve recreational properties –

Schnurr v Canada, 2016 FC 1079: The Federal Court resolved three common issues in a class action lawsuit filed by a group of on reserve cottagers. The plaintiffs are disputing a rental increase proposal of up to 700% for each year of a five-year rental term. The primary issue was the appropriate methodology for determining the fair market rental value of the leased properties. The Court determined that the appropriate method was to consider comparable lease rates on comparable property. The Court sided with the plaintiffs’ real estate appraiser because of his greater knowledge of the subject property, and familiarity with the Saskatchewan market and the recreational lands in the province. It did not accept the argument that provincial park rates should be excluded from the calculation due to policy constraints on those rates.

Public interest standing on judicial review of Chief Coroner’s decision –

Blackjack v Yukon (Chief Coroner), 2016 YKSC 53: The Yukon Supreme Court dismissed an application to strike the Little Salmon Carmarks First Nation (LSCFN) from an application for judicial review on the basis that it had no standing. Theresa Blackjack and LSCFN jointly filed a petition for judicial review of the Chief Coroner’s decision to close an investigation into the death of Theresa’s daughter, Cynthia Blackjack, without ordering an inquest. The Chief Coroner asserted that LSCFN had no standing in relation to the subject matter of the petition. The Court concluded that LSCFN had public interest standing to proceed with the petition because LSCFN raised a serious justiciable issue, had a real stake or genuine interest in that issue, and the proposed suit was a reasonable and effective way to bring the issue before the courts.

Limitations period for negligence claim based on sexual assault:

Fox v Narine, 2016 ONSC 6499: The Ontario Superior Court of Justice dismissed an application to strike a statement of claim alleging that a shelter was negligently operated when the late plaintiff was sexually assaulted there. The plaintiff was subsequently murdered. The Court held that there was a sufficiently proximate relationship between the late plaintiff and the shelter where she was staying at the time of her assault. There was also no reason to override or limit the scope of the duty of care. The statutory provision that would allow this action to proceed was created to improve the protection that the law offers to victims of sexual violence. While a limitation period under the Trustee Act, 2002 would ordinarily have barred the claim from being brought more than two years after the plaintiff was killed, there is no limitation period under the Limitations Act, 2002 where an action is based on sexual assault. The more general statute must yield to the more specific one, which was the limitations legislation in this case.

Canada not estopped from estoppel argument in Treaty 8 tax litigation –

Tuccaro v Canada, 2016 FCA 259: The Federal Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal from an interlocutory order of the Tax Court of Canada. Mr. Tuccaro unsuccessfully sought to strike portions of Canada’s reply where it was asserted that he was estopped from asserting a treaty right to tax exemption under Treaty 8. Mr. Tuccaro argued that this issue was definitively addressed in a past Federal Court of Appeal decision in this litigation with respect to an appeal from another motion to strike, and Canada was therefore estopped from raising its estoppel argument. Both the Tax Court and the Federal Court of Appeal disagreed. The Court of Appeal did not find it plain and obvious that Canada would be estopped from raising its estoppel argument, especially considering the discretion that a trial judge maintains over whether it accepts such an argument. The Court of Appeal also suggested that Mr. Tuccaro’s argument could have grave consequences if it were accepted. It could force litigants to raise grounds that they know have no chance of meeting the stringent test for motions to strike in order to avoid potential issue estoppel arguments on those unpleaded grounds.

Duty to reference Gladue factors in reasons for sentence –

R v Wheatley, 2016 BCCA 397: The British Columbia Court of Appeal allowed an appeal from a sentence of 18 months imprisonment for breach of a residency requirement in a long-term supervision order. The sentencing judge made no mention at all of Mr. Wheatley’s Aboriginal background or his traumatic upbringing, although this was established during the sentencing hearing and the subject of submissions. The judge was clearly aware of the law, having been the sentencing judge for one of the sentences on appeal in the Supreme Court’s Ipeelee decision. However, the importance of Mr. Wheatley’s Aboriginal background and the traumas he suffered growing up appear to have been “lost in the shuffle” when it came to the imposition of a sentence. The Court of Appeal held that “[t]oday, reference to an Aboriginal offender’s circumstances should be seen as mandatory”. The sentencing judge erred in failing to particularly consider Mr. Wheatley’s Aboriginal circumstances and Gladue factors, resulting in an unfit sentence.

Gladue factors applied in determining whether s 24(1) of Charter supported curative discharge –

R v Daybutch, 2016 ONCJ 595: The Ontario Court of Justice ordered a curative discharge for Ms. Daybutch with respect to her convictions for impaired driving offences, finding it to be both appropriate for the defendant and in the public interest. Earlier in these proceedings the Court had concluded that Ontario was in violation of the s 15 equality rights of Indigenous people in Ontario by failing to request the proclamation into force of a curative discharge option for impaired driving offences. This decision on sentence adopted a remedial approach under s 24(1) of the Charter. The Court had before it a Gladue report on Ms. Daybutch that indicated how her offences related to the systemic and background factors she faced as an Aboriginal woman. The Court took the view that the use of a curative discharge where warranted for Aboriginal offenders would permit sentencing judges to act in a Charter-compliant manner in accordance with the Supreme Court’s directions in Gladue and Ipeelee.

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This Case Watch blog post has been brought to you by the Native Law Centre in partnership with Pro Bono Students Canada – University of Saskatchewan