A Summary of the Attorney General of Canada’s Directive on Civil Litigation Involving Indigenous Peoples

This document provides a summary of the Attorney General of Canada’s Directive on Civil Litigation Involving Indigenous Peoples (the Directive).

The Directive was written by Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former Attorney General of Canada, in response to her mandate letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It outlines a series of litigation guidelines instructing Crown counsel as to how the Principles Respecting the Government of Canada’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples (the Principles) must be applied in civil litigation involving Indigenous peoples.

The former Attorney General articulates that the guidelines are intended to reflect a significant shift in Crown-Indigenous relations. In particular, the Directive recognizes the limited ability of litigation to achieve the sort of reconciliation and renewal required in Crown-Indigenous relationships. The former Attorney General recognized that Indigenous peoples are entitled to select their own forum to resolve legal issues while also reiterating that where litigation is important, the guidelines should direct the Government’s positions and strategies.

The former Attorney General went on to outline that the Directive applies to section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, which entrenches Aboriginal and Treaty rights, as well as other Crown obligations towards Indigenous peoples. It is intended to animate the advice provided by departments and Cabinet towards the goal of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, which is the fundamental purpose of section 35 of the Constitution. Importantly, the Directive indicates that the honour of the Crown is reflected not just in the substance of positions taken by the Crown in litigation, but also in how those positions are expressed. This broader goal is grounded in four main objectives: (1) advancing reconciliation; (2) recognizing rights; (3) upholding the honour of the Crown; and (4) respecting and advancing Indigenous self-determination and self-governance.

The Litigation Guidelines are as follows:

Litigation Guideline #1 – Counsel must understand the Principles and apply them throughout a file’s lifespan.

Counsel must seek to understand and apply Indigenous perspectives, recognizing the diversity of Indigenous perspectives and the rights underlying these varied relationships.

Litigation Guideline #2 – Litigation strategy must reflect a whole-of-government approach.

Principle 3 requires the Government to act with honour, integrity, good faith and fairness in all dealings with Indigenous peoples. To this end, counsel must endeavour to engage in discussions between Indigenous peoples and the departments and agencies about the way in which litigation might affect their relationship. This guideline calls for litigation strategies that are firmly rooted in the policies of the Crown and advocates awareness of government-wide implications of judicial decisions or settlements. This will necessitate broad consultation from government actors.

Litigation Guideline #3 – Early and continuous engagement with legal services counsel and client departments is necessary to seek to avoid litigation.

In order for conflict and litigation to become the exception and not the rule, counsel must engage with client departments and agencies as soon as they become aware of a conflict that may result in litigation, and endeavour to develop coordinated approaches that aim to resolve disputes without litigation.

Litigation Guideline #4: Counsel should vigorously pursue all appropriate forms of resolution throughout the litigation process.

The primary goal of counsel must be to resolve issues, using the court process as a forum of last resort. Forms of resolution such as alternative dispute resolution processes (such as negotiations and mediations) must be considered including the invocation of Indigenous legal traditions or other traditional Indigenous approaches. Consideration must also be given to creative solutions with other department counsel and other government departments or agencies.

Litigation Guideline #5: Recognizing Aboriginal rights advances reconciliation.

This guideline recognizes that the Principles necessitate a change in the interpretation and governing of Aboriginal rights. It specifically points to Principles 1 and 2, which call on the Government of Canada to ensure its dealing with Indigenous peoples are based on the recognition and implementation of the right to self-determination and state that reconciliation requires hard work, changes in perspectives and action, compromise, and good faith. It also specifically points to the need to recognize Aboriginal rights, including Aboriginal title, wherever these can be recognized. Litigation counsel is advised to avoid taking positions or adding parties to litigation that undermine the ability of Indigenous groups to resolve disputes amongst themselves.

Litigation Guideline #6: Positions must be thoroughly vetted, and counsel should not advise client departments and agencies to pursue weak legal positions.

Counsel should resolve differences of opinion on available arguments and the strength of legal positions through discussion. Where discussion fails, consultation and approval must be done in an appropriate manner.

Litigation Guideline #7: Counsel must seek to simplify and expedite the litigation as much as possible.

Counsel must ensure that litigation is dealt with promptly and consider resource imbalances between parties.

Litigation Guideline #8: All communication and submissions must be regarded as an important tool for pursuing reconciliation.

This guideline emphasizes the role of written and oral submissions as an instrument of communication between the parties, the Attorney General, Indigenous peoples, the judicial system and the public. In these pleadings, efforts must be made to advance reconciliation through the application of the Principles.

Litigation Guideline #9: Counsel must use respectful and clear language in their written work.

The Attorney General is expected to be a model litigant, upholding the expectation and maintaining high standards of civility and advocacy in their communication with the courts, Indigenous peoples or their counsel.

Litigation Guideline #10: Legal terminology must be consistent with constitutional and statutory language.

Counsel should abide by the specific terms used in the Constitution, by Parliament, and by the legislatures relating to Indigenous peoples, including the term Aboriginal as defined by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, the term “Indian” as it appears in subsection 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867, and the term First Nation in reference to the First Nations Land Management Act, S.C.

Litigation Guideline #11: Overviews must be used to concisely state Canada’s position and narrow the issues.

An overview of Canada’s position, whether in pleadings or in factums, is an important communicative tool. The overview must be used to plainly explain Canada’s position, outlining what is and what is not an issue.

Litigation Guideline #12: To narrow the scope of litigation, admissions ought to be made, where possible.

Admissions of facts that support claims of historical harm should be acknowledged, with approval from the client and Assistant Deputy Attorney General. In pleadings, facts that are known to support the statements in the Indigenous party’s pleading and that may advance reconciliation should be explicitly stated and not just admitted where appropriate. For example, instead of only listing those paragraphs with such facts in a generic statement of admission, counsel should affirmatively plead those facts:

In response to paragraph x of the statement of claim, since at least the date of contact, the plaintiffs and their ancestors have lived at various sites in the vicinity of the identified area.

Litigation Guideline #13: Denials must be reviewed throughout the litigation process.

Denials made at early stages of litigation, when the facts may be unknown and when it would be imprudent to admit too much, must be withdrawn if and when it becomes clear that such denials are inconsistent with the available evidence.

Litigation Guideline #14: Limitations and equitable defences should be pleaded only where there is a principled basis and evidence to support the defence.

Long-standing federal positions such as extinguishment, surrender and abandonment are discouraged by the Principles. These defences should only be pleaded where there is a principled basis and evidence to support to the defence. Moreover, where litigation has been long delayed, defences such as laches and acquiescence are preferable to limitation defences.

Litigation Guideline #15: A large and liberal approach should be taken to the question of who is the proper rights holder.

This guideline speaks to the right of Indigenous peoples and nations to define for themselves who the rights-bearing collective is. Canada should not object to the entitlement of a group to bring litigation when rights are asserted on behalf of larger entities where no conflicting interests exist.

Litigation Guideline #16: Where litigation involves Federal and Provincial jurisdiction, counsel should seek to ensure that the litigation focuses as much as possible on the substance of the complaint.

Litigation Guideline #17: Oral history evidence should be a matter of weight, not admissibility.

Litigation Guideline #18: Decisions on judicial reviews and appeals should be subject to full consultation within government and be limited to important questions.

Litigation Guideline #19: Intervention should be used to pursue important questions of principle.

This guideline indicates that intervention requires consideration of whether the Attorney General’s intervention can assist the course through the provision of legal or constitutional perspective not addressed by the parties to the dispute.

Litigation Guideline #20: All files must be reviewed to determine what lessons can be learned about how the Principles can best be applied in litigation.

The final guideline suggests a review process that will enable counsel and the client department to learn from each litigation case by reflecting on how similar litigation cases can be avoided in the future.

For more information on the Principles see: Principles respecting the Government of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous Peoples.

For more information on the Directive see: The Attorney General of Canada’s Directive on Civil Litigation Involving Indigenous Peoples.

Editor’s Note: Professor Larry Chartrand of the University of Ottawa and former Director of the Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre, contributed his thoughts and expertise that assisted the improvement of the Directive.

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).

MRC de Roussillon v MRN, 2017 QCCS 3744

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

Application dismissed. There is no duty to consult between the province and its municipalities about lands being transferred to the Federal government for the purposes of adding to a First Nation reserve.

The Applicants sought to have an Order in Council of the Government of Québec declared invalid on the basis of bad faith or abuse of power by the Québec government. The Order concerns vacant lands located on the territory of the Municipalité Régionale de Comté de Roussillon (“RCM”) and adjacent to the Kahnawake Reserve (the “Lands”), which the Ministère des Transports du Québec (“MTQ”) acquired several years ago to extend a highway. With the extension completed, the Lands were no longer needed for road purposes. The Order transfers the usufruct of the Lands to the Government of Canada for a possible addition to the territory of the Kahnawake Reserve. In the alternative, the Applicants also argued that condition No. 3 of the Order is ambiguous and void, as it has the effect of expanding the Kahnawake Reserve. They claim the Province does not have the legislative authority to create an Indian Reserve.

The Order transfers the usufruct of the Lands free of charge to the federal government for the benefit of the Kahnawake Mohawk Indian Band. Some of the Lands and the extension of the highway were located on the territory of the Seigneurie du Sault-Sault-Louis (SSSL), for which the Mohawks of Kahnawake filed a specific claim in the early 1990’s, alleging that the King of France gave them the territory. Since 2003, this specific claim has been under discussion with the federal government and is still ongoing.

The mechanism for transferring lands of the Québec province in order to reserve them for Indians is regulated under Québec and federal laws. The Minister of Natural Resources and Wildlife first designates the lands, and then the Québec government may “reserve and allot” the lands by adopting an order to transfer, gratuitously, the usufruct of the lands to the Government of Canada, with a view to administering it in trust for the Indian bands. No other legislative condition limits the exercise of the Québec government’s discretion in this regard. The Order, however, is only the first step in an administrative process by which the provincial lands will be added to the Kahnawake reserve as “designated lands” within the meaning of section 2(1) of the Indian Act. The process of creating an Indian reserve or adding to an existing reserve (known as “ATR” – Additions to Reserves) is subject to a specific legislative framework. A federal directive also regulates the ATR process including “an early and healthy dialogue between the First Nation, the public and affected individuals and interest groups to increase awareness and deal with potential issues”. However, “municipal governments do not have a general or unilateral veto over the granting of reserve status” and discussions with municipal governments “should not unreasonably delay the proposal” of an ATR.

The Order is political and therefore a purely administrative decision of the Québec government, or Cabinet, which is the top of the administrative and political power hierarchy. The adoption of the Order is a political decision and carries no obligation of procedural fairness or consultation with regard to the individuals affected. In respect of the autonomy, latitude and discretion enjoyed by the government in this area, any challenge to such a decision can be based only on very limited grounds. In making a political decision, the government cannot act against the law or abuse its discretion. The Order does not contravene any law. As for the rest, the government must answer for its political decisions to the electors and not the courts.

Quewezance v Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations [FSIN], 2018 SKQB 313

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

Application dismissed for a judicial review and a quashing of the decision to divest Mr. Quewezance as a Senator of the FSIN. The FSIN is not a governmental body and as such its decisions are not subject to judicial review as there is no freestanding right to procedural fairness with respect to decisions taken by voluntary associations.

Theodore Quewezance applied for an order to have a decision to be quashed by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations [FSIN] which had him removed him from the position as a Senator of the FSIN through judicial review. Such jurisdiction depends upon the presence of a legal right, such as a breach of a private law wrong in contract, tort or other valid cause of action, that Mr. Quewezance has made no claim. There cannot be a judicial review of a freestanding right to procedural fairness.

Judicial review, in its origin and present conceptualization, is a public law concept under which superior courts engage “in surveillance of lower tribunals” in order to ensure that these tribunals respect or adhere to the rule of law (Knox v Conservative Party of Canada). It is well established that the decisions of Indian Bands are subject to judicial review. However, the FSIN was created or established by its Convention in 1982, which was an agreement entered into among all Indian Bands, except one, within the Province of Saskatchewan. The Court agrees with how the FSIN has been described in Battlefords Tribal Council Inc. v Federation of Saskatchewan Indians Inc.: the FSIN is a political organization with undetermined legal status that is likened to a voluntary unincorporated association of the Chiefs in Saskatchewan. The FSIN represent the interests of First Nations persons in Saskatchewan based upon the principles and procedures outlined in their founding document, The Conventions Act, 1982.

By way of analogy, rural municipalities in Saskatchewan are local governments by virtue of The Municipalities Act. However, the organization Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities [SARM], formed by the Rural Municipalities to advance their collective interests, is a voluntary organization and not a governmental body. SARM’s decisions are not subject to judicial review. The Court in Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Judicial Committee) v Wall, stated that first, judicial review is limited to public decision makers, which the Judicial Committee of SARM is not, and second, there is no free-standing right to have such decisions reviewed on the basis of procedural fairness.

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.

Gift Lake Métis Settlement v Alberta, 2018 ABQB 58

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

The Applicants’ claim that the membership provisions in ss 75, 90 and 91 of the Métis Settlements Act of Alberta are invalid due to the principle interjurisdictional immunity, is dismissed.

The Métis Settlements Act of Alberta, Chapter M-14 (MSA) provides for limitations on settlement membership, including an automatic termination provision under which membership automatically terminates if a person voluntarily registers as an Indian under the Indian Act. The Applicants are three former members of the Gift Lake Métis Settlement, whose memberships were terminated after each voluntarily registered as an Indian under the Indian Act to access health benefits. They asked for a declaration that certain membership sections of the MSA, are, in pith and substance, laws in relation to “Indians or Lands reserved for the Indians” and therefore outside provincial legislative competence, under section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867.

The doctrine of interjurisdictional immunity does not apply to the impugned membership provisions of the MSA as their pith and substance can be related to a matter that falls within the jurisdiction of the Alberta legislature. Further, the impact of these provisions does not impair the core power of the federal government under s. 91(24). Also, there is no principled basis on which the doctrine of interjurisdictional immunity would have applied only to the impugned sections. Because the membership provisions are integral to the operation and purpose of the legislation, had the doctrine applied, it would have applied to the whole MSA, rendering the MSA entirely inapplicable to Alberta’s Métis population. Consequently, this group would have lost the benefits and protections the MSA affords them. Additionally, it would have would have created a legislative vacuum, as there is no corresponding federal legislation that would fill the void.

Unlike Indians, with whom the Federal Crown made treaties and granted reservations and other benefits, the Métis communities were not given a collective reservation or land base. They also did not enjoy the protection of the Indian Act, or any equivalent. Under the Accord, the Alberta government granted the Métis Settlements General Council fee simple title to the lands now occupied by eight Métis communities and passed legislation, including the MSA to protect Métis rights.

The MSA contains membership eligibility and termination provisions. An Indian registered under the Indian Act is not eligible to apply for membership in the Métis community except in limited circumstances, none of which apply in this case. Further, s. 90(1)(a) provides that if a person voluntarily becomes registered as an Indian under the Indian Act, that person’s Métis settlement membership terminates. There has been an amendment to the MSA in 2004, making the automatic termination provisions of s. 90 subject to a Métis Settlements General Council Policy that “provides otherwise”. However, there has been no alternative provision policy made so far that would alter the automatic termination provisions. As well, at this time, there is no way for the Applicants to withdraw their registration under the Indian Act.

The MSA recognizes and promotes the preservation of the distinct Métis culture and identity apart from other Aboriginal groups. The impugned provisions are necessary to achieve this objective. These sections only act to exclude specific individuals from membership in settlements and its benefits that are established under the MSA. The settlements under the MSA are creatures of provincial statute and were created and operate independently of Parliament’s jurisdiction over Indians under s 91(24). The fact that Métis are now recognized as Indians under s 91(24) does not change this. Membership in these settlements is not determinative of whether or not an individual is Métis and one can still be legally considered Métis under the test developed in R v Powley.

CCAS v GH and TV, 2017 ONSC 742

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

A mere claim that someone is “Native” is not enough for a court to consider that an Aboriginal child will be at a “disadvantage” when weighing legislative factors in child protection matters. There needs to be more evidence of what is important to the family, the child, and the Aboriginal community the child is said to be a member of.

The Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton (the Society) sought an order for Crown wardship with no access regarding the child EDV, born […], 2015, who was apprehended at birth. The mother, GH, and the father, TV, were known to the Society since 2012 regarding protection issues with the couple’s older children. After the Society commenced a protection application regarding EDV on May 5, 2015, it decided to pursue a summary judgment motion in relation to that application in February 2016. It is then that the Respondent father, TV, argued that EDV is a Métis child, and that as such, he should be treated in the same manner as children who fall within the definitions of “Indian”, “Native person” and “Native child” under Ontario’s former Child and Family Services Act (CFSA) [the CFSA has since been replaced by the Child, Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA) as of April 30, 2018]. All parties conceded that Métis children did not fall within the scope of those definitions as they stood at the time of the hearing, and that EDV therefore did not have “Indian” or “Native” status within the meaning of the CFSA.

TV alleged that the definitions of Indigenous identity in the CFSA violated s 15(1) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the basis that they did not extend to Métis children. He sought an order pursuant to section 52(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982 declaring these invalid and a remedy pursuant to section 24(1) of the Charter directing that EDV be treated as if he were an “Indian”, “Native person” or “Native child” for the purposes of these child protection proceedings. The Society did not take a formal position on the CFSA’s identity definitions, and it stated that it had in all material respects treated EDV as if he were “Indian” or “Native”. As well, the CFSA identified the cultural background and ethnicity of all children as an important factor in child protection proceedings, which was apparent from numerous provisions in the Act.

After considering many factors, including Gladue principles, the Court concluded it should not deal with abstract questions, especially in the context of a constitutional question. Absent a more complete record, the s 15 claim could not succeed. This may not have been the result if there were a fuller evidentiary record, but the issue in this case was too theoretical. When considering Gladue principles in sentencing matters, they do not on their own justify a different sentence for Aboriginal offenders, but provide the necessary context for understanding and evaluating the case-specific information presented by counsel. It is difficult to apply the context referred to in R v Gladue and R v Ipeelee to the disposition stage of a child protection hearing. The child protection court is directed to order in the best interests of a child. Taking judicial notice of the historical reasons that may have contributed to an Aboriginal parent’s current circumstances is less likely to be helpful to the child protection judge faced with the decision of whether to return a young child to the parent than it may be to a sentencing judge grappling with whether to order a custodial sentence and, if so, its duration.

As for the issue of EDV’s “Native” status, it was noted that the Métis Ontario coordinator of their Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program contacted the Catholic Children’s Aid Society in 2012. The representative told them that TV had self-reported that he was a member of the Métis Eastern Woodlands of Nova Scotia, and as a result of that self-report, she was working with this family. However, no one pursued the issue until 2016 when the matter came up for summary judgment before Justice Chappel, where the parties consented to a finding that the child was Métis. There were extensive efforts to serve and seek out the involvement of the Eastern Woodlands Métis of Nova Scotia. However, the response was that they were not going to participate, they did not have any placement options, and that they were supporting the plan of the Catholic Children’s Aid Society to have the child EDV adopted. Justice Chappel ordered that the child EDV be considered “Native” for the purposes of this and any other child protection application.

The Society made every effort to see if other Métis communities would participate in the litigation or provide the family with a placement option. No one came forward. TV never followed up on any suggestions given for obtaining assistance for his many issues. He did not describe his family background at all, or give any testimony about his Aboriginal background or any connections that he had or has in a Métis community other than his relatively brief contact with the Métis Ontario Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program. The Court stated that it had compassion toward and recognition of the importance of “Native” heritage and families but this special status does not equate to a blanket exemption from legislation carefully crafted to protect vulnerable and often damaged children. The paramount purpose of the CFSA is to promote the best interests, protection, and well-being of children. Where a person is directed in the Act to make an order or determination in the best interest of a child and the child is an “Indian” or “Native person”, the person shall take into consideration the importance, in recognition of the uniqueness of “Indian” and “Native” culture, heritage and traditions, presevering the child’s cultural identity.

In SB and BRM v Children’s Aid Society of Algoma and Mississauga First Nation, the Court addressed an appeal from an order for Crown wardship without access to the parents. The position of the Band was that access should continue so as to maintain the child’s connection to her Aboriginal community and to avoid the long-term consequences of cultural dislocation and estrangement from her roots, including from her siblings who resided on the reserve. However, there must be evidence of the nature of the involvement of the child’s family in the “Native” community which is lacking in this case. The mere claim that someone is “Native” does not allow the Court to consider the relevant factors within the legislative scheme, without some evidence of what is important to the family, the child, and the Aboriginal community the child is said to be a member of.

The Court decided that it was in the best interest of EDV to be made a Crown ward with no access, the Society was directed to make every effort to ensure that any foster parent and/or adoptive placement was willing to educate the child on his Aboriginal heritage and culture, to expose the child to this culture on an age-appropriate basis and provide the child with knowledge of any governmental benefits available to the child as a result of his “Native” status.

Children’s Aid Society of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo v CT, 2017 ONCA 931

Self-identification of Indigenous ancestry submitted at the appeal level of court, does not alone constitute as fresh evidence to overturn a trial decision when there has been no error of law. Trial decision of no access for a Crown ward restored.

This is the second appeal from a trial decision involving a 10-year-old girl that was made a Crown ward with no access for the purpose of adoption. The biological parents appealed the no access order. The first appeal judge concluded that, although the trial judge did not err, the parents should have access. He outlined what he considered to be: a miscarriage of justice; the trial judge’s interference, bias and abuse of the trial process; procedural delay; and the incompetence of trial counsel. He invited costs submissions personally against trial counsel for the parents. This appeal restores the trial judge’s order of no access; dismisses the parents’ cross-appeal; and allows the cross-appeal of counsel on ineffective assistance and the consequent costs order.

After the initial trial, the parents filed affidavits that declared for the first time that the father was Cree and the mother was Mi’kmaq. The reasons from the first appeal judge are a scathing review of Ontario’s child welfare system and an apology to the parents for the manner in which they were “treated, ignored, demeaned and disbelieved.” He considered fresh evidence, including an affidavit which indicated that the child loves her parents, wanted to see her parents, but also wanted to be adopted by the proposed adoptive parent. By this time, the child had been with the proposed adoptive parent for almost two years and was flourishing.

The test for fresh evidence in a child protection matter is more flexible than in other types of cases. Statutory requirements for access to a Crown ward according to the Child and Family Services Act (the Act), however, puts the onus on the parents who seek access to present evidence that satisfies the test in CAS Hamilton v CG. First, the relationship between the person and the child must be beneficial and meaningful to the child, as opposed to the person seeking access. Second, the access must not impair the child’s opportunities for adoption. There was uncontroverted evidence that the adoptive mother would not adopt if there was contact with the parents, which would then make the access order statutorily impossible. The first appeal judge nonetheless ordered access and erred in doing so. Simply put, when a Crown wardship order is granted with access, the parental relationship with the child is preserved. When a Crown ward is sought to be placed for adoption, the goal is permanency and the success of the adoption.

The parents submitted on the first appeal, and before this court, that a child’s Indigenous heritage introduces different considerations into the access analysis. There is potential harm to Indigenous children if adopted by non-Indigenous families, as they often experience challenges, risks, and vulnerabilities that other children adopted across cultural and racial boundaries do not have. The parents argued that if they do not have access to the child, she is likely to suffer from a lack of connection to her Indigenous culture, heritage and community. Courts recognize the pervasive effects of the historical and continuing harms to First Nations families. This does not, however, automatically exempt Indigenous children from the access provisions for Crown wards under the Act.

A parallel can be drawn with the court’s approach to the sentencing of Indigenous offenders. In R v Ipeelee, the Supreme Court describes the proper approach where courts must take judicial notice of such matters as the history of colonialism, displacement, residential schools and how that history continues to translate into lower educational attainment, lower incomes, higher unemployment, higher rates of substance abuse and suicide, and higher levels of incarceration for Aboriginal peoples. These matters, on their own, do not necessarily justify a different sentence for Aboriginal offenders but provide the necessary context for understanding and evaluating the case-specific information presented by counsel. While Gladue principles do not directly apply to access to a Crown ward, the Supreme Court’s comments about context and the need for case-specific evidence are instructive.

The first appeal judge made no mention that the parents or the child were in any way involved in an Indigenous community or its culture. There is no evidence that the parents had any connection to their culture, that the child was ever exposed to the Indigenous culture, or that anyone from the Indigenous community had ever been involved with the parents or the child. Because of this, the second appeal judge found that there was no evidentiary record in this case to balance the importance of the uniqueness or preservation of the Aboriginal heritage of the child when considering the other factors set out in the CFSA.

Although the second appeal judge recognized that Indigenous membership has expanded to include self- identification, there still must be evidence in relation to the child so a determination can be made as to whether access is beneficial and meaningful to her. The first appeal judge erred by ordering access based on nothing but the parents’ self-identification with Indigenous heritage in the absence of any evidence on this issue specific to this child.

Alberta (Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, Director) v JR, 2018 ABPC 258

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action, and Gladue principles inapplicable to child protection matter.

JR and AL are the parents of seven children ranging in age from nine months to nine years. Both parents have been diagnosed with cognitive and intellectual disabilities. Throughout their time spent together and apart, JR and AL suffered from multiple addictions, which aggravated domestic violence issues between them. All seven children have spent considerable time in state care due to the domestic violence and addictions suffered by their parents. The youngest children even tested positive for methamphetamines post-birth. The oldest children display severe behavioural issues and are likely to struggle in future years, thereby needing a stable and safe environment.

The applicant, Kasohkowew Child Wellness Society (KCWS), exists pursuant to a tripartite agreement between the Province of Alberta, the Government of Canada and the Samson Cree Nation. KCWS brought an application under the Child Youth and Family Enhancement Act RSA 2000 c C-12 (CYFEA), for a permanent guardianship order for all seven children and this was ultimately granted by the Court. Counsel for AL opposed the application, making submissions in favour of less invasive action based on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action, and the principles set out in R v Gladue, [1999] 1 SCR 688.

With respect to UNDRIP, counsel for AL pointed to Article 7.2, which states “Indigenous individuals have the collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to any act of genocide or any other act of violence including forcibly removing children of the group to another group (emphasis added)”. In response, the Court pointed out that KCWS is a delegated First Nations authority established under a tripartite agreement to provide child, youth and family services to Samson Cree Nation. The Court found it difficult to assume that such an authority would be at all involved in discriminating against its own people. Instead, the Court assumed that the director would only remove children and place them with non-Aboriginal foster parents as a last resort, and that the director found it in the best interests of the children to do so. The Court held that UNDRIP is aspirational and does not trump the best interests or physical and mental safety of the child.

Counsel for AL quotes several TRC Calls to Action that relate to reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care. She pointed out that some of the child welfare workers directly involved with the family were not Cree or even Aboriginal. However, the TRC Calls to Action she quoted only calls for child welfare workers to be properly educated and trained in the history and subsequent impacts of the residential school system, and about the potential for Aboriginal communities and families to provide more appropriate solutions to family healing. The TRC did not say that all child welfare workers must be Aboriginal.

As for the potential applicability of R v Gladue, submissions of this type are usually in the context of criminal law cases, not child protection matters. The Court noted that the purpose of the CYFEA is not to punish parents, but to protect children and achieve what is in their best interests. In this case that would be stable, permanent and nurturing relationships and continuity of care for all seven children. As far as the negative impacts regarding the transmission of Cree culture, steps had been taken to keep the children together as much as possible. It was necessary to have the two youngest children placed in a group home, but the older five children are all together in one foster home. In terms of the preservation of the uniqueness of the children’s Aboriginal culture, heritage, spirituality and traditions, the Court was convinced that all appropriate steps were taken by KCWS to ensure these needs are met for the children.

Beaver v Hill, 2018 ONCA 816

A claimant should not be barred from seeking leave of the court to pursue a s. 35 claim because his claim engages collective Aboriginal rights or incidentally engages questions of self-government.

In Beaver, Lauwers J.A. reversed the motion judge’s ruling, which dismissed Mr. Hill’s claim under s. 35 of the Constitution Act,1982. In his claim, Mr. Hill sought to challenge the applicability of the Children’s Law Reform Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. C.12 and Family Law Act, R.S.O. 1990 c. F.3, on the basis that he had a right to resolve support obligations under the Indigenous family dispute laws of the Haudenosaunee. The motion judge barred Mr. Hill from pursuing his claim on grounds of standing and justiciability. Regarding standing, the lower court pointed to the uncertainty in the law regarding an individual’s ability to personally pursue Aboriginal rights. Regarding justiciability, the motions judge cited Delgamuuk for the proposition that courts cannot adjudicate on claims involving broadly framed rights of self-governance.

In reversing this ruling, Lauwers J.A. pointed to various governing principles established in the case law. Among these was the principle that the basic purpose of s. 35 articulated in Van der PeetDelgamuukw and Haida Nation, is to pursue reconciliation of the pre-existence of Aboriginal societies with the sovereignty of the Crown. Secondly, citing Behn, Lauwers J.A. emphasizes that in matters engaging Aboriginal treaty claims, a full hearing that is fair to all stakeholders is essential. Thirdly, he restates Binnie J’s caution in Lax Kw’alaams Indian Band that judges should avoid making definitive pronouncements regarding s. 35 at these early stages in the jurisprudence. He further adds that the reconciliation of individual and collective aspects of Aboriginal and treaty rights is an unresolved issue. Citing Behn, Lauwers J.A. notes that the Supreme Court “resisted the invitation of intervenors to classify or categorize [A]boriginal or treaty rights into those that are exclusively collective, those that are predominantly individual and those that are mixed.”

Applying these principles, Lauwers J.A. concludes that Mr. Hill’s claims are not exclusively claims to self-government. Instead, he seeks a right to have his support obligation determined by the Indigenous family system, which isn’t itself a claim to self-government. Moreover, while Mr. Hill’s claim may affect other Haudenosaunee people, this is simply the nature of constitutional litigation. Mr. Hill does not make claims for the Haudenosaunee peoples as a group. Lauwers J.A. continues to clarify that while this decision would enable separate spheres of jurisdiction (i.e. the provincial family law system and the Indigenous family law system) this is in keeping with the vision of s.35 as a tool for reconciliation.