R v CGJ, 2019 BCPC 252

A custodial sentence, with a lengthy period of probation, is appropriate and proportionate for an Indigenous offender found guilty of sexually assault. Serving a conditional sentence would not endanger the safety of the community with the imposition of appropriate conditions.

Indigenous Law Centre – CaseWatch Blog

This matter involves the sentencing of an Indigenous man who was found guilty of the offence of sexual interference, contrary to s 151 of the Criminal Code [“CC”]. At the time of the offence he was 18 years of age and the victim was 13 years of age and they both attended the same secondary school.

Sexual interference is a hybrid offence; the Crown may elect to proceed by way of indictment or summary conviction. The Crown proceeded by way of summary conviction, under s 151(b) CC. The convicted is therefore liable upon sentencing to a term of imprisonment of not more than two years less a day, and to a mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment for a term of 90 days. The convicted has no prior criminal record and is now a first-time offender. He challenges the constitutionality of the mandatory minimum sentence of 90 days imprisonment provided for in s 151(b) CC, as being a violation of his s 12 Charter right of not being subjected to cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

It was recently held that the mandatory minimum of a one-year term of imprisonment under s 151(a) CC, where the Crown can proceed by way of indictment, violates s 12 of the Charter and cannot not be saved under s 1 (R v Scofield, 2019 BCCA 3). The defence submits part of the individualized sentencing process this Court should consider is a suspended sentence pursuant to s 731(1)(a) CC, with a lengthy period of probation. Alternatively, if imprisonment is necessary, it should be served in the community under a conditional sentence order pursuant to s 742.1 CC, then followed by a significant period of probation. The existence of the s 151(b) CC statutorily prevents this Court from imposing either of the suggested sentences, until it has concluded that the mandatory minimum sentence violates s 12 of the Charter and cannot be saved under s 1. If the Court comes to that conclusion, it can then apply the available remedy within its jurisdiction.

It was agreed among the parties that if this Court found that the appropriate sentence is 90 days or higher, it can impose the sentence without addressing the constitutional question, as it would be unnecessary to do so (R v Lloyd, [2016] 1 SCR 130). If this Court, however, concludes that the proportionate sentence is below 90 days, then it should assess whether the 90-day mandatory minimum sentence is grossly disproportionate personally for the convicted.

Sentencing is an individualized process which requires the court to take into account both the circumstances of the offence and the specific circumstances of the offender (R v Shoker, 2006 SCC 44; R v Angelillo, 2006 SCC 55). Section 718.2(e) does not permit the court to impose an unfit sentence (R v Jackson, 2012 ABCA 154). In deciding whether an Indigenous offender should be incarcerated, a judge must use all available information before the court about an offender to determine whether restorative justice should be given more weight than traditional objectives of sentencing, such as deterrence and denunciation.

In sentencing an Indigenous offender, the sentencing judge must carry out a three-step process: 1) examine the unique systemic or background factors common to Indigenous people as a group; 2) consider the personal circumstances of the offender which resulted in the offender committing the crime for which that offender is before the court; and 3) strive to arrive at a sentence that is informed, just, and appropriate in the circumstances, having regard to the information obtained (R v Gladue, [1999] 2 CNLR 252).

There is no burden on an Indigenous offender to establish a causal link between Gladue factors and the commission of the offences (R v Eustache, 2014 BCCA 337). Although the accused bears the onus of establishing mitigating factors on a balance of probabilities, it can be difficult for Indigenous offenders to establish direct causal links between the circumstances and the offending behaviour (R v Ipeelee, [2012] 2 CNLR 218). While an Indigenous offender need not establish a direct causal link, the Gladue factors nonetheless need to be tied to the offender and the offence in some way (R v DB, 2013 ONCA 691).

The conditional sentence order will permit the convicted to continue to receive the significant benefit of his cultural engagement, the support of his family and his community, be able to continue his employment, and at the same time to receive sex offender treatment. The Accused is sentenced to a five-month conditional sentence order and 30 months of probation. Subsequent to this determination, there will be a pending consideration by this Court of the s 12 Charter arguments.

Troller v Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation, 2019 MBQB 157

Application denied. The actions of the Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation to limit the Applicant’s freedom of expression on his personalized license plate are a reasonable restriction in a free and democratic society.

Native Law Centre CaseWatch Blog

The Applicant is a resident of Winnipeg, Manitoba and an enthusiast of Star Trek, a science fiction television and movie franchise. He requested, and was granted, a personalized licence plate [“PLP”] from Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation [“MPI”] with the combination of letters and a number “ASIMIL8”. He asserts that this combination is a reference to a Star Trek character, the Borg and displayed the PLP for almost two years without incident. However, he was notified by MPI that the PLP was considered offensive and was demanded its immediate surrender, to which the Applicant complied.

The Supreme Court of Canada instructed a court as to how it should address an alleged violation of freedom of expression; s 2(b) of the Charter (Irwin Toy Ltd v Quebec (AG), [1989] 1 SCR 927 [“Irwin Toy”]). This Court found that “ASIML8” does attempt to convey a meaning and meets the first step, as the word itself does not attempt to convey a violent form of expression. This expression is within the protected sphere of conduct. The second step was to determine if the method of expression or the location of the expression is entitled to s 2(b) protection. The third step as outlined in Irwin Toy, was to determine whether the purpose or effect of the government action was to restrict freedom of expression. It was established that MPI’s purpose was to restrict the Applicant’s expression. The s 2(b) analysis in this case turns on the second step, the location of this expression.

The test for location, with respect to expression on government-owned property, is whether the place is public and where one would expect constitutional protection for free expression on the basis that expression in that place does not conflict with the purposes which s 2(b) is intended to serve: 1) democratic discourse, (2) truth finding and (3) self-fulfillment. To answer this question, the following factors were considered: a) the historical or actual function of the place; and b) whether other aspects of the place suggest that expression within it would undermine the values underlying free expression (Montréal (City) v 2952-1366 Québec Inc, 2005 SCC 62). The presence of a PLP, like advertising on a bus, is in the public space, not a private space.

Section 1 Charter rights and freedoms, however, are limited in scope and sets Canadian jurisprudence apart from American jurisprudence on free expression. The Court found that Charter protections were engaged, and the proportionate balancing required an understanding by the Court of the PLP program (Doré v Barreau du Québec, 2012 SCC 12; Loyola High School v Quebec (AG), 2015 SCC 12). The MPI brochure sets out the restrictions for a PLP. Its review committee takes extensive steps to avoid unintended meanings outside of their collective knowledge. The Court accepted that “ASIMIL8” was originally approved because the search term entered was “asimilate” as opposed to “assimilate”. The error itself is of no import because MPI reserves the right to recall a PLP and the length of time it took in making the decision was not crucial. MPI believed that when they became apprised of a complaint, this decision required immediate attention and “falls within a range of reasonable alternatives” (RJR-MacDonald Inc v Canada (AG), [1995] 3 SCR 199).

MPI submits that offensiveness is a matter of community standards and the word “assimilate” when considered in the context of Canadian history is on its face objectionable. The assimilation of Aboriginal people was the official policy of the Government of Canada and the Prime Minister in 2008 formerly apologized on behalf of all Canadians for its implementation and ongoing effects (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 2015 [“TRC Report”]). Given the history of assimilate, the mere presence of “ASIMIL8” is contrary to a respectful and welcoming environment.

The Court accepts that by choosing to display the PLP on his vehicle, the Applicant was not denigrating Indigenous people. The standard of review, however, is reasonableness. The action of the Registrar in revoking the PLP was determined to be reasonable. The Path to Reconciliation Act played a significant part in the decision. The policy of the assimilation of Indigenous people appears 151 times in the TRC report. The word assimilate has taken on a new meaning within this country. In order to meet the Doré test, the Charter right must be minimally impaired. Following the surrender of the “ASIMIL8” PLP, Troller chose a different word to express his love of the Borg character in Star Trek and was issued a new PLP.

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

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

Native Law Centre Case Watch

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

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

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

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

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

Toney v Toney Estate, 2018 NSSC 179

Application allowed. The surviving spouse, who is non-Status and a non-band member, has been allowed to continue to occupy a family home on reserve.

Wiyasiwewin Mikhiwahp Native Law Centre
Case Watch

Marlene Toney, a widow, sought an order for indefinite exclusive occupation of her family home on reserve pursuant to s 21 of the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act [“FHR”]. The order also included half the value of her late husband, Lawrence Toney’s interest in the home and outbuildings pursuant to s 34 of FHR. Central to this application was the fact that Marlene is non-Status and a non-band member of the Annapolis Valley First Nation [“AVFN”]. For over 30 years, she and her spouse lived in their family home, investing over $140,000.00 of their own money in permanent improvements after Lawrence obtained a Certificate of Possession for the house in 1998. Marlene was an active part of the community for many years, and even served as the band manager for two years until she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The only substantial asset in Lawrence’s estate is his right and interest in the Certificate of Possession for the land upon which the family home sits and the house itself.

The FHR also includes detailed “Provisional Federal Rules” [“Rules”] intended to govern First Nation communities that have not enacted matrimonial property laws of their own. These Rules, however, apply only to First Nations that have not yet enacted matrimonial property rules under the FHR. Any validly enacted First Nation laws oust the Rules in respect of that First Nation. If a First Nation has signed a self-government agreement with the federal government, under which it has power to manage its reserve lands, the Rules do not apply, even if the First Nation has not enacted matrimonial property laws of its own, unless the federal minister declares that the Rules apply to that First Nation. A First Nation enrolled under the First Nations Land Management Act [“FNLMA”] can oust the application of the Rules by bringing into effect a land code, separate matrimonial property laws under the FNLMA, or matrimonial property laws under the FHR. The FHR identifies how these Rules apply to First Nations who have adopted a land code pursuant to the FNLMA, and to First Nations under self-government agreements with the federal government. It is agreed that AVFN has not entered a self-government agreement with the federal government, nor enrolled under the FNLMA. These Rules apply to the AVFN.

The case at hand is the first decision to provide a comprehensive analysis of the FHR, in particular ss 21 and 34. These sections authorize courts to grant exclusive occupation of the family home and compensation to a surviving spouse for interests in matrimonial assets. The FHR respects the principle of non-alienation of reserve lands and its rules do not lead to non-Status or non-band members acquiring permanent or tangible interests in reserve lands pursuant to s 21 or receiving compensation for the value of reserve lands pursuant to s 34. The FHR, however, balances the equality rights of spouses under ss 15 and 28 of the Charter along with recognition of Aboriginal and Treaty rights under s 35 of the Constitution Act (1982).

Women appeared to have played an important and equal role in all aspects of tribal life and governance in most First Nations during pre-colonial times, and some were even matrilineal societies. The interpretation of the FHR recognizes the role and status of spouses of either gender, not if they are both members of the band. This is consistent with this appearance of Aboriginal values in pre-colonial times as shown in the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples [RCAP]. Gender equality is a universal value that transcends nationality or race and it is in this context that the FHR promotes and protects a compelling and substantial legislative objective. The Court awarded Marlene indefinite exclusive occupation of the family home pursuant to s 21 of FHR, with the condition that she does not cohabitate with anyone during her occupation, except for one of her children or grandchildren. She must maintain the home and not commit waste.

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.

Law Society of British Columbia v Coutlee, 2018 LSBC 33

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

A law society hearing panel agreed to adjourn a hearing and recommend that it be reconstituted with an Indigenous member on the basis that its lack of Indigenous representation raised an apprehension of institutional bias.

A Hearing Panel of the Law Society of British Columbia (the Panel) granted an application to adjourn the hearing of a disciplinary citation against the Respondent, that concerned a failure to abide by practice restrictions. The decision to adjourn the hearing was in reaction to the second of two applications made by the Respondent at the outset of the hearing of the citation. The Respondent’s first application was dismissed. It asked that the citation be withdrawn or stayed as being baseless and in breach of natural justice and procedural fairness. The Respondent’s second application was for a determination that the Hearing Panel should include a person who is either an Indigenous lawyer or Elder. The Respondent did not assert any actual bias in the members of the Panel. Yet he argued that he would be more confident in the decision of the Panel, if reconstituted as requested, as being non-discriminatory and having weighed the evidence fairly. Counsel for the Law Society took no position on this application except to oppose any decision by the Panel that would result in an adjournment of the hearing of the citation.

The Respondent referred to the analysis of the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in R v Kokopenace as a basis for his right to be treated differently, at least to the extent of ensuring that he is “tried” or heard by a panel that includes an Elder. The Respondent argued that this give him more confidence that the Panel was not biased against him as an Indigenous person. Counsel for the Law Society distinguished Kokopenace as dealing with an accused’s right to a fair trial under Section 11 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, submitting that this does not apply to the proceedings before a Law Society hearing panel because they do not attract true penalty consequences.

In reaching its decision, the Panel did not rely on Kokopenace, but they were guided by challenges identified in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report. The Panel also concluded that specifically addressing cultural competencies on the Panel is warranted in this case.

The Panel granted the Respondent’s application by adjourning the hearing and making a recommendation to the President’s Designate that the Panel be reconstituted to include an Indigenous person. The Panel found that a failure to reconstitute the Panel with an Indigenous member would be inconsistent with the values and objectives of the Law Society that are made evident in its commitment to its Truth and Reconciliation Advisory Committee Report.