Case Watch for November 2016

FROM OUR PUBLICATIONS DESK

Case Watch

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

Equality rights of Métis children & families in child protection

Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton v GH, 2016 ONSC 6287: The Ontario Superior Court of Justice released a decision in a Crown wardship application where it was found that the definitions of “Indian”, “Native person”, and “Native child” in Ontario’s Child and Family Services Act were invalid on the basis that they unjustifiably infringe s 15 of the Charter. The Court found that the impugned definitions do not extend to all individuals who self-identify as being Aboriginal. In fact, all parties conceded that they do not extend to Métis children. The Court also found that the Act afforded significant special protections for individuals falling into these definitions at every stage of a child protection intervention. The Court recognized that all Aboriginal peoples, including Métis, have been subject to a legacy of prejudice, stereotyping, and disadvantage. With this context in mind, the Court determined that the definitions created distinctions based on the analogous ground of “Aboriginality without membership in a community designated as “Native” under the [Act]”. It also concluded that these distinctions created or perpetuated disadvantage for Métis children and their families due to their inability to access the special protections under the Act. In conducting this analysis, the Court noted that the Act clearly created these unfair and objectionable disadvantages on its face and this could be discerned through logical reasoning alone. There was no need for social science evidence and empirical data. As no s 1 argument was advanced, the infringement was not saved. A suspended declaration of invalidity was issued and it was ordered that the Métis child in this case be treated as if he were an Indian, Native person or Native child within the meaning of the Act.

Inadequate investigation of vote-buying allegations by INAC

Good v Canada (Attorney General), 2016 FC 1272: The Federal Court released a decision allowing in part an application for judicial review of INAC’s dismissal of an election appeal under the Indian Act. The applicant first unsuccessfully sought to appeal the March 2014 election of the Red Pheasant First Nation through INAC based on allegations of misconduct by the electoral officer and corruption in the form of vote-buying. She then sought judicial review of INAC’s rejection of that appeal. However, a subsequent election had since taken place in March 2016. The Court found that INAC’s delegate erred by choosing to dispense with any investigation of the applicant’s vote-buying allegations and proceeding to dismiss the appeal on the basis that corruption had not been proven on a balance of probabilities. The Court noted that this approach appears to have become settled practice within INAC’s Elections Unit. While the Court was sympathetic to INAC’s desire to streamline its management of appeals, it had significantly changed the very nature of the appeals process in a manner tantamount to attempting to amend the law via internal policy. The Court took no issue with how the delegate addressed the issue of electoral officer misconduct, but found that the delegate’s refusal to investigate conflicting evidence on vote-buying was unreasonable, based upon an error of law and procedurally unfair. While these issues were moot due to the subsequent election, the Court exercised its discretion to deal with the central controversy between the parties as roughly 40% of First Nations hold elections under the regime at issue in this case.

Relevance of Aboriginal equity stake to remedy in consultation case –

Michipicoten First Nation v Ontario (Minister of Natural Resources and Forests), 2016 ONSC 6899: The Ontario Superior Court of Justice dismissed an application for judicial review of provincial approvals for the Bow Lake Wind Farm Project on the shared traditional territory of the Michipicoten and Batchewana First Nations in northeastern Ontario. Michipicoten argued that the Crown breached its duty to consult and sought to quash the approvals, preclude further approvals until more consultation takes place, and have the court remain seized of remedies or order removal of the infrastructure, remediation of the lands, and costs. The Court noted that Michipicoten had inexplicably delayed several months in pursuing and perfecting its application for judicial review, which caused the proponent and Batchewana, which has a 50% interest in the project, serious harm. For this reason, the Court dismissed the application on its own motion. In the alternative, the Court went on to conclude that consultation was adequate as Michipicoten failed to provide any evidence of potential adverse impacts on its Aboriginal or treaty rights in spite of many requests to do so. Furthermore, the Court concluded that the remedy sought in terms of decommissioning the project was inappropriate. Michipicoten argued that a proponent’s commercial interests may not come into play in determining the balance of convenience in a consultation dispute between the Crown and an Aboriginal community. However, the Court found this principle inapplicable in this case since Batchewana would face irreparable harm if the relief sought was granted.

Validity of a Will under the Indian Act not providing for spouse –

Poitras v Khan, 2016 SKQB 346: The Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench allowed an application for letters probate under a Will created pursuant the Indian Act. The testator met the man who became her husband and married him after she had already made her Will. Under provincial legislation, the testator’s spousal relationship would have automatically revoked her Will. However, the testator was a status Indian living on reserve and there was no such provision under the Indian Act to invalidate her Will automatically. Under the Indian Act, the Minister had the power to declare the Will void if it imposed hardship on persons to whom the testator had responsibility or was contrary to the interests of the band or the public. In this case, the Minister had referred the matter to the Court, conferring its power to declare the Will void on the Court. The testator’s husband, Mr. Khan, sought to invoke this power on the basis that he was not provided for in the Will. The Court confirmed the validity of the Will, but also noted that Mr. Khan could still potentially seek a claim for one half of the testator’s family property accrued from the date of marriage until death under provincial legislation.

Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s jurisdictional limits re: Indian Act –

Beattie v Canada (Attorney General), 2016 FC 1328: The Federal Court dismissed an application for judicial review of a decision of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal where a complaint was dismissed as being solely a challenge to legislation beyond the Tribunal’s jurisdiction. The applicant, Mr. Beattie, sought to register two leases and an assignment of lease in the Indian Lands Registry. The Registrar rejected the applications on the basis that the leases did not include the Crown as a party and no ministerial approval had been provided. Since the leases could not be registered, the assignment could not be registered either. As a result of this decision, the applicants brought a complaint to the Tribunal alleging that the respondent had discriminated against them on the basis of their race, national or ethnic origin by denying a service customarily available to the public. The Tribunal dismissed the complaints on the basis that they were beyond its jurisdiction since they were challenging the Indian Act itself, which obliged the Registrar to reject the leases and assignment. The Court was satisfied that the Tribunal’s decision was reasonable and it was reasonable to rely on other Federal Court and Tribunal decisions where such challenges to legislation were dismissed as beyond the Tribunal’s jurisdiction. The Court also rejected the applicants’ assertion that title to the reserve lands at issue in this dispute were vested in an individual pursuant to either a Certificate of Possession or customary tenure.

Court’s duty to explicitly consider & inquire into Gladue factors –

R v Park, 2016 MBCA 107: The Manitoba Court of Appeal allowed an appeal from sentence for impaired driving and drug possession due in part to the sentencing judge’s failure to adequately consider Gladue factors. It was conceded that defence counsel during the sentencing hearing did not address Gladue factors other than to note that the accused was Aboriginal. No Gladue report was ordered. The Crown argued that defence counsel expressly waived the Gladue rights of the accused whereas counsel for the accused on appeal argued that the Court had a duty to make further inquiry when no advocacy was provided on Gladue factors during sentencing. The Court of Appeal found there was no express waiver in this case. Defence counsel at sentencing acknowledged there were Gladue factors but focused on other arguments. A waiver must be express and clear. Both defence and Crown counsel have an obligation to bring forward Gladue information. Where that does not happen, the Court may need to go further and has a duty to at least make further inquiries. The Court must also make explicit its consideration of Gladue factors and its determination that it has adequate information on those factors before it. It is unsatisfactory for both the offender and the public to have to infer such circumstances were properly considered. The sentencing judge failed to expressly confirm that Gladue factors were considered and failed to clarify defence’s reliance on Gladue, which in turn had an impact on the sentence. The sentence was varied.

No need for ‘linkage’ between Gladue factors & offence –

R v Predham, 2016 ABCA 371: The Alberta Court of Appeal allowed an appeal from sentence with respect to convictions for driving while disqualified, breach of recognizance, failure to appear and possession of a stolen licence plate. The appellant argued that the sentencing judge erred in failing to give appropriate weight to his Gladue factors, among other things. In particular, the appellant took issue with the sentencing judge’s reasons where it was suggested that Gladue factors were less relevant to the offence of driving while disqualified in the absence of alcohol, drugs or violence. The sentencing judge stated that there must be “some relationship between the Gladue factors and the offending in order for there to be that sort of linkage”. The Court of Appeal held that it was an error of law to require a linkage between Gladue factors and the offending conduct. The Court stated that it is also an error to carve out a certain category of offences as being immune from the Gladue analysis. The Court was also satisfied that the sentencing judge’s error influenced his ultimate decision. The sentence was varied.

Injunction against Cleveland baseball team’s name & logo denied –

Cardinal v Major League Baseball, 2016 ONSC 6929: The Ontario Superior Court issued its reasons for dismissing an urgent interim injunction application to restrain the Cleveland baseball team, Rogers Communications, and Major League Baseball (MLB) from displaying the team’s name or logo during a game in Toronto and while the underlying federal and provincial human rights complaints proceed. In the underlying complaints, the applicant, Douglas J. Cardinal, is alleging that the use of the team’s name and logo constitutes prohibited discrimination and harassment against him on the grounds of race, ancestry, colour, ethnic and national origins, and constitutes a publication or display intended to incite infringement of the Ontario Human Rights Code. The Court held that it had jurisdiction over the application, rejecting MLB’s argument that it ought to allow the United States Supreme Court to determine the underlying issues in this case based on principles of comity. The Court was also satisfied that the parties raised serious issues to be tried in terms of whether a service had been offered and whether the team’s name and/or logo offend the provisions of federal and Ontario human rights legislation, as well as the relevance of MLB’s freedom of expression to the dispute. However, the Court did not accept the applicant’s assertion that he would sustain irreparable harm if an injunction was not granted, noting that damages were available and disputes over use of the impugned name and logo have been ongoing for years. The Court noted that the applicant sought a change to the status quo and his last minute application, if granted, would materially prejudice the respondents. The issue of delay went to both the question or irreparable harm and the balance of convenience.

Settlement approved in Newfoundland & Labrador school claims –

Anderson v Canada (Attorney General), 2016 NLTD(G) 179: The Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court approved the terms of a $50 million settlement in a class action brought by Aboriginal individuals who attended schools, dormitories or orphanages in the province between 1949 and 1980. The plaintiffs claimed that Canada breached a fiduciary duty to the students who attended these facilities to protect them from actionable physical or mental harm. The Court was satisfied that the settlement was fair, reasonable, made in good faith, and in the best interests of the class as a whole. It was also satisfied that the fees and disbursements of the plaintiffs’ counsel were fair and reasonable. The settlement includes both General Compensation Payments for years that students resided at the facilities at issue, and Abuse Compensation Payments that depend on the harm individual students suffered. The settlement provides for a confidential paper-based claims process and Canada is committed to funding mutually agreeable commemoration and healing initiatives over and above its compensation funding.

Tax Court’s exclusive jurisdiction over tax assessment challenges –

Horseman v Canada, 2016 FCA 252: The Federal Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal from a decision to strike the appellant’s claims as falling under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Tax Court of Canada. The appellant received a Notice of Assessment and Requirement to Pay $59,000.06 of outstanding GST. He initiated this Federal Court action for a declaration that the Requirement to Pay is null and void and contrary to the Indian Act, Treaty No. 8, and s 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The Court found that this challenge was properly characterized as an indirect challenge to a tax assessment, making it plain and obvious that the Tax Court had exclusive jurisdiction. The Tax Court has jurisdiction to consider the constitutional validity, applicability or operability of federal legislation and regulations and can issue remedies if a notice of constitutional question is properly served. It is also well-established that the Tax Court can determine claims under s 87 of the Indian Act over the applicability of tax requirements, or involving tax exemption claims under Treaty No. 8. Such assertions are properly tested in the Tax Court.

Provincial human rights tribunal’s jurisdictional limits re band store –

Dinsmore v Slenyah Store, 2016 BCHRT 176: The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal dismissed a human rights complaint alleging discrimination in the area of employment on the basis of colour or race with respect to a business in Fraser Lake, British Columbia known as the Slenyah Store. The business was operated by the Stellat’en First Nation up until April 2014. The majority of its customers are status Indians who are able to purchase gas and cigarettes at tax exempt rates there. In 2013, the store was in serious financial difficulty. It was kept afloat via overdraft protection from Stellat’en and Stellat’en paid the store’s back taxes to get it out of its financial difficulties. In 2014, the store was incorporated to be operated at arm’s length through a limited partnership. As a result of these changes, all the store’s employees were laid off by Stellat’en and encouraged to reapply for positions with the limited partnership that would operate the store going forward. The Tribunal found that while the store was operated by Stellat’en it was an integral part of the First Nation’s overall governance and operations. Its purpose was to permit members to avail themselves of their tax-free status, it was financially integrated with the First Nation, its employees were employees of the First Nation, and its operations were continuously concerned with the status, rights and privileges of Stellat’en’s members. As a result, the store fell under federal jurisdiction and outside the Tribunal’s jurisdiction while it was operated by Stellat’en. While operated at arm’s length through a limited partnership, however, the store was a provincial undertaking subject to the Tribunal’s jurisdiction. The Tribunal went on to dismiss the complaint against both entities on the ground that it had no reasonable prospect of success if it were to proceed on its merits.

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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

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

Case Watch for September 2016

 FROM OUR PUBLICATIONS DESK

Case Watch

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

Crown’s duty to consult & the constitutional competence of the NEB

Tsleil-Waututh Nation v Canada (National Energy Board), 2016 FCA 219: The Federal Court of Appeal dismissed a statutory appeal from three interlocutory decisions of the National Energy Board (NEB) with respect to the Trans Mountain Pipeline proposal. Tsleil-Waututh Nation (TWN) challenged the NEB’s determination that the application for the project was sufficiently complete to proceed with an assessment and public hearing, a determination that included a listing and scoping of factors to be considered during the assessment, and an order detailing the steps and deadlines governing the assessment. While TWN raised complex arguments with regards to the NEB’s obligation to either discharge or assess Crown consultations, among others, the Court of Appeal dismissed its appeal largely on preliminary issues. The Court held that none of the challenged decisions were final and TWN ought to have first raised its concerns before the NEB itself rather than proceeding directly to the Court of Appeal. While the Court declined to intervene with respect to the Crown’s duty to consult at this stage, it did so without prejudice to TWN’s ability to challenge the final decisions of the Governor in Council on consultation for this project.

Modern treaty signatory added as defendant in Aboriginal rights case –

Cowichan Tribes v Canada (Attorney General), 2016 BCSC 1660: The British Columbia Supreme Court allowed an application from Tsawwassen First Nation (TFN) to be added as a defendant in an action brought by Cowichan Tribes and others for declarations of Aboriginal rights and title in what is now the City of Richmond. While Cowichan’s claims overlap with TFN’s territory, as defined in its modern treaty, Cowichan argued against joinder on the basis that its claims are narrowly defined and do not overlap with any TFN lands under its treaty. The Court accepted that TFN’s rights to the portion of its territory in conflict with Cowichan’s claims are largely consultative, but held that these are still section 35 rights to be accorded recognition. These rights were also sufficient to provide TFN with a direct interest in the litigation. TFN’s rights under the agreement fluctuate depending on the land-holding status of the area underpinning these rights, and the litigation could result in the introduction of an extra party into negotiations over fishing areas that TFN has rights to under its agreement.

Property taxation on reserve and statutory interpretation –

Musqueam Indian Band v Musqueam Indian Band (Board of Review), 2016 SCC 36: The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed an appeal from Musqueam Nation against a 2011 property taxation assessment of a golf and country club on its reserve land being calculated on the basis of its use as a golf and country club, as opposed to its value as residential land. The reserve land in question was surrendered in 1957 for lease to the golf and country club and its value for property tax purposes was consistently assessed on the basis of the restrictions under that lease from that point on. In 1996, however, Musqueam amended its property assessment bylaw to reduce the types of restrictions that an assessor could consider to “any restriction placed on the use of the land and improvements by the band” (emphasis added). In 2011, Musqueam challenged the consideration of the restrictions under the lease in a property tax assessment on the basis that the lease was negotiated between the Crown and the golf and country club and its restrictions were therefore not imposed “by the band”. Musqueam also argued that the 1996 amendment was made to account for its newly recognized land management powers under the Framework Agreement on First Nations Land Management. Both arguments were rejected.

Determination between competing 60’s scoop class actions –

Thompson v Manitoba (Minister of Justice), 2016 MBQB 169: The Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench exercised its discretion to permit one of two class actions to proceed with respect to individuals affected by the 60’s scoop in Manitoba (Meeches v Canada). It also stayed the other proposed class action (Thompson v Manitoba), issued a declaration that no further proposed 60’s scoop class actions are to be commenced in Manitoba on the same facts without leave, and granted leave to amend Meeches to ensure it covers the class members from Thompson. While Thompson was filed first, counsel did not take steps to seek certification in a timely manner. Meeches was also framed more consistently with the Brown case that has already been certified in Ontario with respect to 60’s scoop survivors there.

Addressing FASD in context to Gladue factors –

R v Drysdale, 2016 SKQB 312: The Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench extensively considered the Gladue factors and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) of an Aboriginal man in sentencing him for assault and threatening to use a weapon, relying on a full Gladue report and four witnesses for this purpose. The Court held that in the circumstances, a “needs based” as opposed to a retributive sentence was appropriate. The Court held that “a Gladue impacted individual affected by FASD has a reduced moral and legal responsibility” with respect to actions such as those underlying the offence in this case, which exhibited impulsiveness and a disconnect between actions and consequences common among FASD affected individuals. The Court also considered the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action 34, which focuses on better addressing the needs of offenders with FASD, in crafting its sentence.

First Nations advisory organization declared provincial entity –

Treaty 8 Tribal Association v Barley, 2016 FC 1090: The Federal Court allowed an application for judicial review of a federal adjudicator’s conclusion that the Treaty 8 Tribal Association was a federal undertaking for the purpose of the application of the Canada Labour Code. The adjudicator was held to have failed to apply the functional test to determine whether the nature, operations and habitual activities of the Association fell under the head of power of “Indians, and Lands reserved for the Indians”. The Association provides advisory, administrative, advocacy and other services to its members and other First Nations, but does not provide services under the Indian Act nor within the realm of First Nations governance or reserve land. The habitual activities of the Association did not fall under subsection 91(24) of the Constitution Act either.

Defamation by way of band council resolution –

Hazel v Rainy River First Nations, 2016 ONSC 5875: The Ontario Superior Court of Justice rejected the defendant First Nations’ motion for summary judgment and instead allowed summary judgment in favour of the plaintiffs in a defamation claim. The defendant First Nations described the plaintiffs as “undesirables” in a band council resolution (BCR), declared them trespassers on its territory, and resolved that they were to be removed and charged as trespassers if they were found on its territory. The Court held that placing the BCR into a book available to community members was a sufficient act of publication for the purposes of sustaining an action for defamation regardless of whether anyone had looked at the BCR in question. The Court also held that there was no dispute that describing the plaintiffs as “undesirables” was defamatory. Arguments with respect to qualified privilege, issue estoppel and abuse of process were all rejected.

Severance of criminal charges in context to constitutional challenge –

R c Rice, 2016 QCCS 4610 (in English): The Superior Court of Quebec severed criminal charges against three men from Kahnawake in relation to the alleged sale of tobacco to non-Aboriginals without collecting and remitting the retail consumer tax from these sales to the federal and provincial authorities. The defendants raised a constitutional challenge in this case involving various rights asserted on behalf of the Mohawk Nation, including rights of self-determination and internal sovereignty, a right to harvest, produce and sell tobacco products, and a right to exemption from taxation under s 87 of the Indian Act. The Court held that there was no reasonable likelihood that the s 35 rights claimed, assuming they were proven, would be unjustifiably infringed by the defendants’ obligations to collect and remit consumer taxes from non-Aboriginal customers. The Court also held that there was no reasonable likelihood of the s 87 exemption being successfully invoked against the defendants’ obligations to collect and remit taxes from non-Aboriginal customers. The Court was unable, however, to conclude that there was no reasonable likelihood of the defendants being able to prove that s 87 exempted them from the imposition of duties on tobacco products. The two charges related to the last argument were severed from the others and the Court ordered for a trial to proceed separately with respect to the charges that were not implicated by this argument.

Metis Settlement’s jurisdiction to specify membership requirements –

Kikino Metis Settlement v Metis Settlements Appeal Tribunal (Membership Panel), 2016 ABCA 260: The Alberta Court of Appeal has granted permission to appeal on a question of law from a decision of the Metis Settlements Appeal Tribunal setting aside a membership decision by the Kikino Metis Settlement. Kikino has passed a bylaw that appears to provide it with discretion to reject an application for membership from a candidate who is otherwise eligible to apply under the Metis Settlements Act and meets the minimum standards for admission under the Act. An otherwise eligible applicant who was rejected for reasons not set out in the Act successfully challenged her rejection before the Appeal Tribunal. The Court of Appeal will allow an appeal to proceed on two questions: 1) whether a Metis settlement can establish membership criteria that is more onerous than the minimum standards under the Act; and 2) if so, whether the criteria applied to the applicant rejected in this case was a lawful exercise of Kikino’s jurisdiction under its membership bylaw.

Placement of Métis child with non-Aboriginal adoptive parents –

LM v British Columbia (Director of Child, Family and Community Services), 2016 BCCA 367: The British Columbia Court of Appeal dismissed two appeals related to the intention of the Director of Child, Family and Community Services to place a Métis child from British Columbia in the care of a non-Aboriginal couple in Ontario that has already adopted two of the child’s siblings. The appellants have been the child’s foster parents since two days after her birth and one of the appellants is also of Métis heritage. The first appeal was dismissed primarily because the appellants were found to be seeking an adoption order for which there was no basis in the statutory scheme. The Court of Appeal rejected an argument that the lower court had not paid adequate attention to the child’s Métis heritage, concluding that this was not relevant to the Director’s decision that the appellants were challenging on judicial review. The Court of Appeal rejected the second appeal on the basis that the Charter arguments that the appellants wished to raise were correctly found to be subject to res judicata and there was an insufficient evidentiary record to decide these argument on appeal in any event.

Stays of proceedings for unreasonable delay (section 11(b)) –

R c Gilpin, 2016 QCCQ 9459 (in French only): The Court of Quebec allowed an application to stay criminal proceedings against two men in the judicial district of Abitibi on the basis that delays in these proceedings had violated their right to be tried within a reasonable time under s 11(b) of the Charter. The Court applied the analysis recently mandated by the Supreme Court of Canada in R v Jordan to conclude that the delays in each applicant’s case were beyond the presumptive ceiling for reasonable delay, and there were insufficient exceptional circumstances to rebut this presumption of unreasonableness. The Court acknowledged past jurisprudence where the unique circumstances of communities in northern Quebec were found to justify trials taking longer, but concluded that these circumstances will no longer be considered “exceptional” for the purposes of applying s 11(b).

R c Rice, 2016 QCCS 4659 (in English): The Superior Court of Quebec allowed a s 11(b) application to stay criminal proceedings against three men from Kahnawake on charges relating to the alleged sale of tobacco to non-Aboriginals without collecting and remitting the retail consumer tax from these sales to the federal and provincial tax authorities. The Court held that even prior to the Supreme Court’s recent Jordan decision, the delays in this case would have been sufficient to ground an application for a stay of proceedings under s 11(b). While the defendants had presented a tardy constitutional challenge to the charges against them, this had no bearing on any delays they faced for the purpose of the s 11(b) analysis.

Stays of proceedings pending appellate decision on Métis rights –

Québec v Savard, 2016 QCCS 4391 (in French only): The Superior Court of Quebec allowed an application to stay proceedings in which Quebec is seeking to evict the applicant from a hunting camp. The applicant’s sole defense rests on his assertion that he is a member of the Métis community of Domaine du Roy and Seigneurie de Mingan and his community has Métis hunting rights that are protected under s 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982. Another member of this same community, Ghislain Corneau, was unsuccessful in defending himself from a parallel application for eviction from the hunting camp before the Superior Court of Quebec early last year (see Québec c Corneau). In Corneau, the Superior Court ruled that the Métis community to which Mr. Corneau and Mr. Savard belong does not meet the Supreme Court of Canada’s Powley test. Mr. Corneau has since appealed that decision to the Quebec Court of Appeal and an appellate decision remains outstanding. The proceedings against Mr. Savard have been stayed until the Court of Appeal renders its judgment in Corneau.

Note that parallel applications were granted in two other proceedings: Québec v Bouchard, 2016 QCCS 4392 & Québec v Desbiens, 2016 QCCS 4393