R v Penunsi, 2020 NLSC 101

Appeal dismissed. Newfoundland’s failure to enact the option of curative discharges does not result in a breach of the Constitution.

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The Appellant, an Innu woman who resides in the community of Sheshatsiu, Newfoundland and Labrador, was convicted of driving while her blood alcohol was in excess of the legal limit. The conviction was her third for such an offence. Notwithstanding that she faced mandatory imprisonment, she advised the sentencing court that she wished to seek a curative discharge. The option was not available in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Appellant challenged the constitutionality of legislation affording the Provinces the discretion whether to enact the curative discharge provision in the Criminal Code. She asserted that the failure to be able to take advantage of a curative discharge disadvantaged her as an Aboriginal offender. The sentencing judge dismissed her application and the Appellant was sentenced to the mandatory minimum of 120 days imprisonment.

The Appellant has now appealed arguing that the sentencing judge erred in dismissing the application. Her application seeks to have the Court find that the legislation that affords the provinces the discretion whether to enact the curative provision, s 209(2)1 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act [“CLA”] violates her rights to equal treatment under s 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [“Charter”], in that it permits the Province to decline enacting the curative sentencing section. As an Aboriginal offender, she submits she is entitled to a restorative approach to sentencing, relying on s. 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code and the interpretation that section has received (R v Gladue, [1999] 2 CNLR 252; R v Ipeelee, [2012] 2 CNLR 218).

At the hearing of the appeal in this Court, the Appellant was afforded the opportunity to present her argument not solely as to how the sentencing judge erred in the manner in which the application was heard, but also as to why section 209(2) was unconstitutional.

The Applicant relied on the reasoning in R v Daybutch, 2015 ONCJ 302 for support that her rights under s 15 were violated. The Court, however, does not find the reasoning in R v Daybutch persuasive as it fails to consider the legitimate differences in treatment of persons under the criminal law as part of the administration of criminal law in a federal system. In contrast, a recent and thorough examination of the same issue was conducted in R v Sabbatis, 2020 ONCJ 242. Like the Applicant in this matter, and the accused in R v Daybutch, the accused in R v Sabbatis is Aboriginal. In assessing whether the accused’s rights under s 15 were violated, the court declined to follow the reasoning in R v Daybutch, but instead came to the opposite conclusion. There is no basis to find that the discretion of the Province, as permitted by s 209(2) of the CLA, namely whether to enact the curative provision under the Criminal Code, violates the Appellant’s right to not be discriminated against under s 15, on the basis of her being an Aboriginal person.

The Court determined there was no error committed by the sentencing judge reasoning in dismissing the application and holding that s 209(2) of the CLA does not discriminate against the Applicant under s 15 of theCharter. This appeal from sentence is dismissed. The stay of the Appellant’s sentence is set aside, and the Appellant is to surrender herself into custody at the police detachment nearest to her current place of residence.

Alberta (CYFEA, Director) v NL, 2020 ABPC 118

This is a decision with respect to ordering costs against the Director of child and family services in Alberta, which is relatively unusual and difficult to obtain. While it is not per se an “Aboriginal law” case, the Court considered the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in protection as a factor in favour of issuing an order for costs under s. 24(1) of the Charter

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A Permanent Guardianship Order was determined as not warranted for a child apprehended by the Director of child and family services in Alberta. The Court orders the child to be returned to the mother [“NL”] over a period of three months pursuant to a Supervision Order. This was necessary because the child had been in the custody of the Director for a period of almost 2 years, and not because of any concern about the mother’s ability to care for the child. Counsel for the mother asks the Court for costs against the Director.

As background, concerns were enough for the Director to properly apply for an apprehension order in 2017 due to numerous medical difficulties that caused concern for health and medical professionals. As well, NL at the time did not seem to be taking the appropriate measures that were suggested. Although there had been previous concerns with respect to NL’s care of her other children in the past, none of the children had been apprehended and issues with respect to drinking, partnership issues and so on, always seem to be resolved and did not appear to be an insurmountable situation. Another issue regarding NL’s care for the child was that medical appointments were located in Red Deer, approximately one hour away from her residence by car. NL does not have a car or driver’s license.

There does not appear to have been any investigation into whether NL was suffering from postpartum depression or at least the anxiety brought on by having the child’s medical problems added on to the fact that she was caring for another child, age three, who had her own medical difficulties. It appears that the medical and psychological experts assumed that what they termed as NL’s passivity or lack of affect, was a personality defect rather than a situational reaction to the stressful situation she found herself in.

The foster mother gave evidence to the child’s present circumstances. She has been the foster parent for the child since he was apprehended at approximately four months of age. The child is a typical energetic, curious, active two-year-old and does not appear to have any difficulty eating, sleeping or anything else out of the ordinary. She is regularly in contact with NL and they share information on the child’s progress and any changes that are necessary with respect to his sleeping eating or activity patterns. This evidence exposes the Director’s evidence as being out of date, yet still having been used to pursue a permanent guardianship order. There was also no evidence before the Court of the child having FASD, nor did the Director provide any evidence that this concern was pursued at all since apprehension.

Effectively nothing was done with respect to re-uniting this family during the whole time the chlid was in care. This is in direct conflict with the Director’s mandated obligations under the CYFEA. Medical information should have been updated to show the child was still in need or the child should have been returned to the mother.

The difficulty in dealing with the question of costs in child protection matters is that there are a number of cases both in Provincial Court and The Court of Queen’s Bench which take differing views with respect to the Provincial Court’s jurisdiction to award costs against the Director in a child protection matter. One may assume that costs is not an issue for child protection litigants because through Legal Aid they get “free” lawyers. This is not actually the case in Alberta as new clients are required to sign documentation acknowledging that they will repay any amounts billed by counsel, prior to counsel taking on their matter. This Court can see no reason why child protection litigants, a significantly large proportion of whom are Indigenous women and men, should be denied court costs in instances of the Director’s failure to carry out its mandate under the CYFEA.

Having found that there is conflicting case law; and having found that the CYFEA remains silent with respect to this issue and thereby creating an apparent conflict; the Court finds that the Respondent’s rights ensured by the Charter pursuant to section 7 and 15 have been infringed or denied. This in turn leads to the Court to considering an appropriate remedy. Section 24 of the Charter states “(1) Anyone whose rights or freedom’s, as guaranteed by this Charter, have been infringed or denied, may apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to obtain such remedy as the court considers appropriate and just in the circumstances”. The Court finds that the appropriate remedy for the respondent in this case is an award of damages against the Director in an amount equal to the legal fees the Respondent is required to repay to Legal Aid Alberta.

R v Itturiligaq, 2020 NUCA 6

Appeal allowed. The mandatory minimum punishment of imprisonment of four years is not a grossly disproportionate sentence for this offence and this offender.  The Indigenous accused is now finished the custodial portion of his sentence and is well into his probation, therefore the sentence of imprisonment is stayed.

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A 24-year-old Inuit man and traditional hunter for country food, who had lived his entire life in Nunavut, intentionally fired his hunting rifle at the roofline of a house he knew to be occupied. The single bullet exited the roof and caused no injuries. He was charged with intentionally discharging a firearm at a place, contrary to s 244.2(1)(a) of the Criminal Code.

The accused was interviewed by the RCMP and took full responsibility for his actions. He told police that on the day of the incident he had been upset that his girlfriend had not been spending enough time with him and their small daughter. He was angry that she had gone to her friend’s place without telling him and that she refused to leave with him. He told police that he only took one shot and was not trying to aim the gun at anybody, as he knew that he is not supposed to do so.

No formal Gladue report was prepared, but it is clear that some Gladue factors were relevant to the accused’s background. He and his family described that he had a good upbringing. The accused had no known history of residential schooling in his family’s background. He was in good physical health, save a hearing deficit and the need for hearing aids, a condition also shared by his father. While history of colonialism and its intergenerational effects must be acknowledged, the Gladue factors in this case do not operate to significantly diminish the high level of moral culpability underlying this offence.

The accused, who had no criminal record, entered an early guilty plea. He successfully challenged the constitutionality of the mandatory minimum punishment, on the basis that it violated s 12 of the Charter (R v Itturiligaq, 2018 NUCJ 31). The accused was ordered a custodial sentence of slightly less than two years, with credit for pre-trial remand, followed by two years probation.

The Crown appealed the sentence imposed on the accused as demonstrably unfit, and the court’s declaration that s 244.2(3)(b) is unconstitutional. While not joined, this appeal was heard at the same time as the oral hearing in R v Ookowt, 2020 NUCA 5 [“Ookowt”], which also involved a declaration that s 244.2(3)(b) was unconstitutional pursuant to s 12 of the Charter. As stated in Ookowt, both of these appeals arose as a result of young men resorting to the use of hunting rifles in response to what they believed to be personal slights or problems in their personal lives. The appeal is allowed, and the court’s declaration of s 244.2(3)(b) is set aside.

R v Ookowt, 2020 NUCA 5

Appeal allowed. The declaration of unconstitutionality of a mandatory minimum sentence imposed by the sentencing judge is set aside, and a four-year penitentiary term is substituted. Significant time has elapsed since the Indigenous accused was sentenced – and who now has finished that sentence, therefore the sentence of imprisonment is stayed.

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A 19 year old Inuit man, in retaliation for being bullied, fired a bullet into a house, which shattered a window and missed striking a man by inches. The accused entered a guilty plea to intentionally discharging a firearm into a place knowing that or being reckless as to whether another person was present, contrary to s 244.2(1)(a) of the Criminal Code. The mandatory minimum sentence for this offence is four years.

At the sentencing hearing, a Notice of Constitutional Challenge was filed by the Defence arguing that the mandatory minimum sentence was grossly disproportionate to a fit sentence for this offence and this offender, contrary to s 12 of the Charter. The sentencing judge determined that a fit sentence for the accused was two years less one day, plus one year of probation, and the imposition of the mandatory minimum sentence in this case would result in a sentence that is double the appropriate sentence (R v Ookowt, 2017 NUCJ 22). The Crown appeals to this Court, contending the sentencing judge failed to properly assess the gravity of this offence and that the accused’s conduct warranted the four year mandatory minimum sentence.

It is common for those who live in Nunavut’s communities to own rifles. They are used for subsistence hunting, supporting a traditional way of life. Sadly, this also means they are often readily accessible for unlawful and dangerous purposes such as intimidation, revenge, domestic violence, and retaliation.

This Court concludes that the sentencing judge committed errors in principle by imposing a disproportionate and demonstrably unfit sentence. Further, it is concluded that the four year mandatory minimum sentence under s 244.2(3)(b) is not a grossly disproportionate sentence for this offence and this offender. The Court sets aside the sentencing judge’s declaration that the imposition of the four year mandatory minimum sentence would breach the accused’s s 12 Charter rights.

In the Court’s view, the sentencing judge underemphasized the accused’s high moral blameworthiness for this offence, and overemphasized intoxication, bullying and Gladue factors. As a result, the sentencing court failed to give sufficient weight to denunciation and deterrence in reaching a sentence that was ultimately disproportionate and unfit in all of the circumstances. The sentencing judge did not provide any persuasive reasons for imposing a sentence that did not address the well-established seriousness of this firearm offence, and failure to do so was an error (R v Mala, 2018 NUCA 2). In sum, an offender who commits the offence of intentionally discharging a firearm into a place, knowing or being reckless as to whether anyone is in that place, is guilty of significant morally blameworthy conduct.

The accused’s admitted act of “extreme premeditated violence is completely disproportionate to any reasonable and measured response to the bullying he suffered”. It was sheer luck that his bullet did not hit and kill either of the two men in the house, only one being the target of his “warning”. Gladue considerations do not significantly reduce the accused’s moral blameworthiness in this matter (R v Swampy, 2017 ABCA 134).

The trial judge found the accused did not have a disadvantaged upbringing, nor does there appear to be a history of family violence, displacement, residential schooling or “constrained circumstances” (R v Ipeelee, [2012] 2 CNLR 218). Rather, the accused enjoyed a culture-centred and close family upbringing throughout his life. He is both intelligent and educated, communicating in both English (written and oral) and Inuktitut (oral). He opted to leave formal schooling to pursue his vocation as a traditional hunter, earning a living from the land by selling furs and supporting his family and community with the country food he harvested, and by keeping their machines and dog teams in good order. While a history of colonialism must be taken into account, including substance abuse and suicide in this matter, it is difficult to identify any background factors that greatly diminish the accused’s moral blameworthiness for this serious firearm offence, at least to the extent found by the sentence judge to “temper the usual deterrence sentence” by more than two years.

R v Kapolak, 2020 NWTTC 12

The NWT Territorial Court found a provision for sexual assault against a minor under the Criminal Code to breach s 12 of the Charter and therefore declined to apply it and ordered a conditional sentence for an Inuk offender with FASD.

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This decision bears in mind the cognitive challenges associated with FASD with the Indigenous accused. It had to balance between the protection of Indigenous victims and the need to implement the Gladue principles for Indigenous offenders. Like provincial courts, the territorial court cannot strike down any provisions but it may become a persuasive precedent for other courts in the territories and elsewhere.

This case involved a single incident, and the victim suffered no apparent injury. This was a bold act, committed on a residential street, in the daytime, as opposed to a surreptitious act committed behind closed doors, on a sleeping victim, or in a context where the victim is physically isolated and cannot get away from the perpetrator. The victim initially did not feel threatened by the accused, because she was familiar with him, and likely because of his diminutive size and almost child-like appearance. But the accused then touched the victim’s body many times and in many places, and he failed to disengage when prompted verbally by her. She had to resort to physical violence to make him stop. This was a crime of opportunity, committed on impulse. The victim was in foster care at the time of the incident. She did not file a Victim Impact Statement, but it is inferred that she is from Inuit ancestry from her name.

Because the mandatory minimum sentence of imprisonment for six months applies to all offenders having committed any form of sexual assault on a victim aged anywhere between 1 day and 16 years, it is vulnerable to Charter scrutiny. Imposing a sentence of six months in jail on this accused who is a first offender when there are many mitigating factors and when the circumstances of the offence, while being serious, are not too egregious, is fundamentally unfair and as a result, disproportionate. As a result, the accused’s right to be protected against cruel and unusual treatment or punishment is infringed by the mandatory minimum punishment found at section 271(b) of the Criminal Code. The provision is not saved by section 1 of the Charter, and accordingly the mandatory minimum punishment is declined.

The presence of an intellectual disability that affects the accused’s cognitive functions makes it difficult to assess the risk to reoffend. Although present, and in light of other circumstances, the risk is not viewed as high, or determinative. However, the offence of sexual assault is prevalent in Northern communities, 5.3 times the national ratio in 2017. The accused’s early guilty plea is highly mitigating, as it spared the victim from having to testify in court.

The personal circumstances of the accused, which include the diagnosis of Alcohol-Related Neuro-Developmental Disorder, suggest a reduced moral blameworthiness. For a first offender, sentencing usually focuses on rehabilitation. There is nothing to say that a community-based sentence would not work for this accused. The risk to reoffend that this accused presents because of the impulsivity associated with his condition, as well as his intellectual limitation, is compensated by the fact that he benefits from family support. He has a home in which supervision may occur, and he has shown that he is able to comply with conditions.

For an offender with challenges to his executive functions, repetition of instructions, structure, and professional follow-up, appear to be key. A carefully crafted conditional sentence order can bring the necessary restrictions to a person’s freedom while providing rehabilitative tools, and thus achieve deterrence.

The Supreme Court of Canada determined that the standard for finding that a sentence represents a cruel and unusual punishment is that it be grossly disproportionate. An option to preserve the constitutionality of offences that cast a wide net is to provide for residual judicial discretion to impose a fit and constitutional sentence in exceptional cases (R v Lloyd, 2016 1 RCS 13).

In this case, the offender presents with cognitive challenges, and is sentenced more than one year after the commission of the offence. The immediate link between consequence and cause may be lost and as a result a sentence of imprisonment may not achieve the necessary deterrence. Reducing the over-incarceration of Aboriginal offenders is as important an objective as that of protecting vulnerable victims, and must be given equal consideration. The accused is to serve a conditional sentence of imprisonment of 120 days, to be followed by a period of probation of 18 months.

R v Sabattis, 2020 ONCJ 242

Application dismissed. The applicant, a young Indigenous first offender, has not established that the mandatory minimum sentence results in a grossly disproportionate sentence for either herself or for other persons in reasonably foreseeable cases.

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A young Indigenous first offender was found guilty of impaired driving and operating a motor vehicle while her blood alcohol concentration exceeded 80 mg/100 ml of blood, contrary to s 253(1)(a) and s 253(1)(b) of the Criminal Code.

In this matter, the applicant submits that a curative discharge is most appropriate, but this remedy is not available because the Criminal Law Amendment Act allows Ontario to decline to proclaim the Criminal Code provision for a curative discharge into force. As a mandatory minimum sentence for a first offence, the applicant must pay a $1000 fine, and receive a one-year driving prohibition. The applicant alleges that the Criminal Law Amendment Act, violates the applicant’s s 15 Charter rights by allowing the provinces to opt out of the curative discharge provisions. This disregards Gladue principles, causing “differential treatment” of Aboriginal offenders and other members of society in the sentencing process. As well, she submits that the mandatory minimum sentence subjects the applicant to cruel and unusual punishment contrary to s 12 of the Charter. In respect of both alleged breaches, the applicant submits that the provisions are not saved by s 1 of the Charter and therefore seeks the imposition of a curative discharge as a remedy.

The Court finds that the applicant has not established that the mandatory minimum sentence results in a grossly disproportionate sentence for either the offender or for other persons in reasonably foreseeable cases. Similarly, the applicant has not established that the non-proclamation of the curative discharge provisions results in a grossly disproportionate sentence contrary to s 12 of the Charter. Given the finding that there is no violation of s 12 or s 15 of the Charter, the Court is bound by the mandatory minimum sentence. Using the relevant sentencing principles including Gladue principles, and having regard to the circumstances of the offence and of the offender, it is the Court’s view an appropriate sentence is a $1200 fine, a 15-month driving prohibition, and probation for a period of two years with the requirement that the offender attend counselling as directed by her probation officer related to her consumption of alcohol and other counselling as directed.

The fine and prohibition imposed is greater than the statutory minimums to recognize the need for denunciation and deterrence, the aggravating factors of the case, and to give effect to s 255.1, which provides that evidence of a blood alcohol concentration in excess of 160 mg/100 ml of blood is a statutorily aggravating factor. This non-custodial sentence, which includes two years probation with a requirement for alcohol counselling, recognizes the importance of rehabilitation for this youthful first offender and takes into account the restorative Gladue principles. The Court is satisfied that alcohol counselling is a necessary rehabilitative component of the sentence. This sentence is still at the lowest end of the range of what is appropriate given the aggravating features of the offence, but also reflects the significant mitigating personal circumstances of the offender.

R v Duncan, 2020 BCSC 590

Application granted. The Indigenous accused is to be released on bail, subject to stringent conditions, on the tertiary grounds for pre-trial custody in excess of 90 days and concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic in jails.

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This matter is a detention review hearing pursuant to s 525 of the Criminal Code. The 32 year old accused from Musqueam First Nation has been in pre trial custody for ten months. His custody relates to multiple alleged offences, including breaking and entering. As per the Gladue factors, his life reflects the intergenerational legacy of the horrific historical treatment of Aboriginal peoples in this country. The accused has a lengthy criminal history.

Counsel for the accused provided new evidence combined with a change in circumstances that warrants a re-visiting and reassessment of the restrictive and supervised treatment program at VisionQuest as a viable and proportionate alternative to the accused’s continued detention. It has culturally relevant programming and a high level of supervision.

The overarching question before the Court is whether the continued detention of the accused until his trial(s) is still justified on one or more of the three grounds specified in s 515(10) of the Criminal Code (R v Myers, 2019 SCC 18). The Court is satisfied that a release plan requiring the accused’s participation in VisionQuest’s isolated residential treatment program combined with strict mobility restrictions would be a culturally responsive and appropriate application of the Gladue factors in this particular case.

There also remains the question of the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of the case law that has developed thus far on this subject deals with the tertiary ground for detention. There are an increasing number of cases which have held that the risk of infection posed to inmates while incarcerated in detention centers awaiting trials is also a valid factor when considering the secondary ground for detention specified in s 515(10)(b) of the Criminal Code (R v TK, 2020 ONSC 1935).

The government is well aware of the risks involved and has implemented a number of measures designed to reduce the spread of the infection in jails. In this particular case Court already concluded that the accused’s proposed release plan satisfactorily addresses public safety concerns, however, COVID-19 concerns would have tipped the balance in favour of interim release rather than continued detention on secondary grounds. Although the break and enter offenses are serious, no physical violence was involved.

The accused is a drug addict with a criminal history of property crimes fuelled by his addiction. That addiction and most, if not all, of the disadvantages he has suffered in life are the product of the sad social problem that is the legacy of the mistreatment of Aboriginal peoples in Canada.

R v Hartling, 2020 ONCA 243

Conviction appeal dismissed. Sentence appeal allowed in part along with a stay of a second breach of probation charge. The Crown tried to rely on the delays involved in obtaining a Gladue report to justify the post-verdict delay.

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Following an afternoon of heavy drinking with her adult son and boyfriend, the complainant was seriously assaulted. She told first responders that her son was responsible. The son was charged. The mother testified for the Crown that her son attacked her and her boyfriend following an argument. Months later the trial resumed. This time the mother testified for the defence. She changed her testimony and said that it was her boyfriend, not her son, who attacked her.

The trial judge convicted her son for aggravated assault against his mother, assault causing bodily harm against the boyfriend and two counts of breach of probation. He was given a global sentenced of 30 months in custody. After considerable delays, the trial judge found the appellant guilty of aggravated assault against his mother, her boyfriend along with resisting arrest and two counts of breach of probation. Following 8.2 months of pretrial custody, he was sentenced to 21.8 months of incarceration.

The son appealed his convictions and sentence. However, the post-verdict delay was determined unacceptable to this Court. It took 14 months after conviction for the sentence to be imposed. This delay was not caused by ineffective judicial management. It was not caused by the appellant, nor was it caused directly by the actions of the prosecutor. It was caused by the lack of institutional resources to obtain a Gladue report. Immediately upon conviction, trial counsel obtained an order for a Gladue report from the trial judge. However, court administration services denied funding. Ultimately, the appellant, with the assistance of his counsel, chose to pay privately. The issue of post-verdict delay was addressed by this Court in R V Charley, 2019 ONCA 726 [“Charley”], where a presumptive ceiling of five months was set for the time from verdict to sentence.

In an attempt to justify the delay, the Crown alleged extraordinary circumstances because of the issues with the Gladue report and because the case was already in the system when Charley was decided. The Court does not accept that the circumstances are exceptional. It cannot be said that it is exceptional to require a Gladue report in the Algoma district where there is a large Indigenous population. Gladue reports were created in order to address systemic injustice that uniquely affects Indigenous offenders, and which leads to overrepresentation in the criminal justice system. A long delay undermines the purpose of the Gladue report by creating another level of unfairness. Moreover, to submit that the preparation of such a report is exceptional is untenable.

The appellant was entitled to a Gladue report, the trial judge ordered it, and subsequently relied on it. According to R v Jordan, 2016 SCC 27, the new framework, including the presumptive ceiling, applies to cases currently in the system, subject to qualifications but these qualifications do not apply in this matter. A 14-month delay was unreasonable and breached the appellant’s s 11(b) Charter rights.

A stay of a valid conviction would impact public confidence in the administration of justice. The possibility of vacating a valid conviction based on sentencing delay is “an unjustified windfall” for the accused (Betterman v Montana, 578 US, 136 S. Ct. 1609). The appropriate and just remedy here should target the sentence, not the conviction. The appellant was convicted of a violent offence against his mother in her home. It would bring the administration of justice into disrepute to stay the conviction. For the remedy to target the sentence, it must be based on and align with sentencing principles. The sentence is reduced by five months.

Dumais et al v Kehewin Band Council et al, 2020 FC 25

Motion dismissed. The reasons for dismissal is not the merits of the Plaintiffs’ grievances against Kehewin Band Council et al for refusing them memberships under Bill C-31, but rather this Court has no jurisdiction to entertain them.

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The Plaintiffs have asked for default judgement against the Kehewin Band and Band Council [“Kehewin”]. Due to the historical gender discrimination that existed against women with registered Indian status under the enfranchisement, or “marrying out”, provisions of the Indian Act, SC 1956. In 1985, however, the Indian Act was amended, also known as Bill C-31, to be consistent with s 15 of the Charter. Bill C-31 automatically restored band membership to the women who had lost their Indian status directly through enfranchisement.

Kehewin refused to recognize Bill C-31 or accept any of its eligible individuals or their children as band members. As a result, the Plaintiffs commenced the underlying action in 2000 seeking declaratory relief and damages against Kehewin and Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, as represented by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development [“Canada”]. The Plaintiffs claim there was a fiduciary duty owed towards them and there was a breach of that duty.

In this matter, the Plaintiffs seek default judgment for damages resulting from Kehewin’s discrimination and associated denial of all tangible and intangible benefits of band membership. The action against Canada has been held in abeyance pending disposition of the present motion. The action moved forward by fits and bounds for almost a decade. Throughout this period, Kehewin engaged in a deliberate and systematic pattern of delay, using all possible means to frustrate the Plaintiffs’ efforts to conduct an orderly and complete discovery.

Kehewin never formally took control of its membership lists. Kehewin rebuffed all attempts to restore membership to the Plaintiffs, refusing to comply with Bill C-31 or recognize Canada’s authority. Kehewin also failed to file an action or application to challenge the constitutionality of Bill C-31. Kehewin simply ignored Bill C-31. Kehewin refused to recognize any Bill C-31 eligible individuals as Kehewin Band members. Kehewin’s adoption and application of their Kehewin Law #1 made it impossible for individuals reinstated to registered Indian status or Kehewin Band membership under Bill C-31 to qualify for Kehewin Band membership.

The applicable test to establish if this Court has jurisdiction is set out by the Supreme Court of Canada: 1) there must be a statutory grant of jurisdiction by the federal Parliament; 2) there must be an existing body of federal law which is essential to the disposition of the case and which nourishes the statutory grant of jurisdiction; and 3) the law on which the case is based must be “a law of Canada” as the phrase is used in s 101 of the Constitution Act, 1867 (ITO-Int’l Terminal Operators v Miida Electronics, [1986] 1 SCR 752 [“ITO”]).

The Plaintiffs rely on the provisions of ss 17(4) and paragraph 17(5)(b) of the Federal Courts Act [“FCA”] to find jurisdiction. First, the nature of the proceeding generally contemplated by ss 17(4) is an interpleader. To the extent any obligation may be owed by Kehewin or Canada to the Plaintiffs, are concurrent, not conflicting. The obligation can only be owed to one. It is the claims as against Canada by other parties which must be in conflict to fulfill the requirements of ss 17(4) (Roberts v Canada, [1989] 1 SCR 322). While Kehewin takes a different legal position regarding the Plaintiffs’ status as band members, this does not create a conflicting claim as against Canada. Therefore, this Court does not have jurisdiction to entertain the Plaintiffs’ action against Kehewin under ss 17(4) of the FCA.

Next, paragraph 17(5)(b) of the FCA grants concurrent jurisdiction to the Federal Court to entertain claims against persons in relation to the performance of their duties as an officer, servant or agent of the Crown. Band councils have been recognized as legal entities separate and distinct from their membership with the capacity to sue and be sued by courts at all levels. On the one hand, they may act from time to time as an agent of the Crown with respect to carrying out certain departmental directives, orders of the Minister and the regulations passed for the benefit of its members. On the other hand, the band councils do many acts which are done in the name of and which represent the collective will of the band members, all of which is directly related to the elective process provided for in the Indian Act whereby the band members elect its governing body. The element of control is key to a finding of agency (Stoney Band v Stoney Band Council, [1996] FCJ No 1113).

The difficulty with the Plaintiffs’ argument is that no facts have ever been advanced in their pleadings which could support a finding of agency, nor does the notice of motion seek a declaration or finding of agency. It is not open to the Plaintiffs on a motion for default judgment to now assert liability of Kehewin based on agency. The introduction of this new theory of liability at this late stage of the proceeding is problematic. In any event, the facts established by the Plaintiffs on this motion do not support a conclusion that Kehewin was under the control of Canada when it refused to provide benefits to the Plaintiff. Regrettably, the Plaintiffs have failed to satisfy the first branch of the ITO test.

R v Marr, 2019 NSSC 327

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

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

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

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

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