Fort McKay First Nation v Prosper Petroleum Ltd, 2020 ABCA 163

Appeal allowed. When administrative tribunals deal with “public interest” in respect to natural resource development, they should be looking at more than the duty to consult, as the honour of the Crown is a far broader doctrine. In this matter, the tribunal should have addressed an unfulfilled promise of a protected area that was being negotiated.

Indigenous Law Centre – CaseWatch Blog

This appeal arises out of negotiations that began in 2003 between the Government of Alberta and the Fort McKay First Nation [“FMFN”] to develop a Moose Lake Access Management Plan [“MLAMP”] to address the cumulative effects of oil sands development on the First Nation’s Treaty 8 rights. The MLAMP has not yet been finalized. The FMFN is an “[A]boriginal people of Canada” under s 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 and a “band” within the meaning of the Indian Act, that has treaty rights to hunt, fish and trap within the Moose Lake Area, part of its traditional territory. The Moose Lake Area is of cultural importance to the FMFN.

The Alberta Energy Regulator [“AER”] approved an application by Prosper Petroleum Ltd [“Prosper”] in 2018 for the Rigel bitumen recovery project [“Project”], which would be located within 5 kilometers of the FMFN’s Moose Lake Reserves. The AER approval is subject to authorization by the Lieutenant Governor in Council [“Cabinet”], which has yet to be granted.

The FMFN was granted permission to appeal on the question of whether the AER erred by failing to consider the honour of the Crown and refusing to delay approval of the Project until the FMFN’s negotiations with Alberta on the MLAMP are completed. FMFN is concerned that the ability of its members to pursue their traditional way of life in the Moose Lake Area has been severely and adversely affected by the cumulative effect of oil sands development in the surrounding area. FMFN specifically sought a 10 km buffer zone from oil sands development around the Moose Lake Reserves. Alberta denied this request and in 2013 FMFN applied for a review. In 2014, Alberta’s then Premier, the late Jim Prentice, met with Chief Jim Boucher of FMFN to discuss the MLAMP. In 2015, Premier Prentice and Chief Boucher signed a Letter of Intent to confirm “our mutual commitment and interest in an expedited completion of the [MLAMP]”. Despite the 2015 Letter of Intent, the MLAMP has still not been finalized and is the subject of ongoing negotiations between Alberta and the FMFN.

The Project would be located within the 10-kilometer buffer zone surrounding the Moose Lake Reserves; that is, within the area covered by the MLAMP. After previously suspending the Project, in 2016 the AER resumed the approval process for the Project because “MLAMP is still not finalized, there is no indication that finalization of the MLAMP is imminent and there is no certainty when submission of the plan will occur”. The AER issued its decision in 2018 that found the Project to be in the public interest and approved the Project on conditions, subject to authorization by Cabinet. The panel declined to consider the MLAMP negotiations that contemplated the 10-kilometer buffer zone, the 2015 Letter of Intent, and whether it implicates the honour of the Crown. The AER concluded the status of the MLAMP negotiations was not a valid reason to deny Prosper’s application.

To review this decision, the Court used the standard of correctness. The AER is a public agency which exercises adjudicative functions pursuant to the Alberta Public Agencies Governance Act. As the regulator of energy development in Alberta, the AER is mandated to provide for the efficient, safe, orderly and environmentally responsible development of energy resources in the province. It has final decision-making power over many energy project applications, pending where Cabinet authorization is required.

The AER has broad powers of inquiry to consider the “public interest” in making its decisions. Tribunals have the explicit powers conferred upon them by their constituent statutes. However, where empowered to consider questions of law, tribunals also have the implied jurisdiction to consider issues of constitutional law as they arise, absent a clear demonstration the legislature intended to exclude such jurisdiction (Rio Tinto Alcan Inc v Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, [2010] 4 CNLR 250 [“Rio Tinto”]. This is all the more so where the tribunal is required to consider the “public interest”. In such circumstances, the regulatory agency has a duty to apply the Constitution and ensure its decision complies with s 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 (Clyde River (Hamlet) v Petroleum Geo-Services Inc, 2017 SCC 40 [“Clyde River”]). As the Supreme Court of Canada [“SCC”] has noted, “[a] project authorization that breaches the constitutionally protected rights of Indigenous peoples cannot serve the public interest” (Clyde River). The tribunal cannot ignore that aspect of its public interest mandate.

The AER therefore has a broad implied jurisdiction to consider issues of constitutional law, including the honour of the Crown, as part of its determination of whether an application is in the “public interest”. The question raised by this appeal is whether the AER should have considered the honour of the Crown in relation to the MLAMP negotiations as part of this assessment. A conclusion that legislation precludes considering certain matters does not relieve the decision-maker of its obligation if that legislative interpretation proves incorrect. Nor can a decision-maker decline to consider issues that fall within its legislative mandate because it feels the matter can be better addressed by another body.

The responsibility to ensure the honour of the Crown is upheld remains with the Crown (Chippewas of the Thames First Nation v Enbridge Pipelines Inc, 2017 SCC 41). However, the Crown can determine how, and by whom, it will address its obligations to First Nations, meaning that aspects of its obligations can be delegated to regulatory bodies. Alberta has delegated procedural aspects of the duty to consult and to consider appropriate accommodation arising out of that consultation to the AER. The Government of Alberta has retained the responsibility to assess the adequacy of Crown consultation on AER-regulated projects. Are the matters that FMFN sought to put before the AER in relation to the MLAMP negotiations limited to the “adequacy of Crown consultation”? The Court finds they are not.

The honour of the Crown can give rise to duties beyond the duty to consult. It will give rise to different duties in different circumstances (Haida Nation v British Columbia (Minister of Forests) [2005] 1 CNLR 72; Mikisew Cree First Nation v Canada (Governor General in Council), 2018 SCC 40). In the present case, the honour of the Crown is implicated through treaty implementation (Manitoba Métis Federation Inc v Canada (AG), 2013 SCC 14; Mikisew Cree First Nation v Canada (Minister of Canadian Heritage), 2005 SCC 69). The honour of the Crown infuses the performance of every treaty obligation, and stresses the ongoing relationship between the Crown and First Nations brought on by the need to balance the exercise of treaty rights with development under Treaty 8.

There was no basis for the AER to decline to consider the MLAMP process as part of its assessment of the public interest rather than deferring the issue to Cabinet. The public interest mandate can and should encompass considerations of the effect of a project on [A]boriginal peoples, which in this case will include the state of negotiations between the FMFN and the Crown. To preclude such considerations entirely takes an unreasonably narrow view of what comprises the public interest, particularly given the direction to all government actors to foster reconciliation. The AER is directed to reconsider whether approval of the Project is in the public interest after taking into consideration the honour of the Crown and the MLAMP process.

George Gordon First Nation v HMQ in Right of the Province of Saskatchewan and Canada (AG), 2020 SKQB 90

Application dismissed. The Government of Saskatchewan was not subject to a duty to consult with the First Nation regarding further mineral dispositions, as this was satisfied with the processes stipulated in the Treaty Land Entitlement agreement.

Indigenous Law Centre – CaseWatch Blog

George Gordon First Nation [“GGFN”] initiated this action by statement of claim, naming as defendants Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Saskatchewan [“Saskatchewan”] and Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada [“Canada”]. It claimed various relief, including an interim and permanent injunction against the defendants from granting further mineral dispositions in the Jansen Area or Evaporite Area, and ten billion dollars in damages. Where an Entitlement Band requests acquisition of Crown minerals, the Ministry places a temporary freeze on the minerals pending its review of the request. If approved, the freeze will continue to allow the Band time to acquire the surface rights. This freeze period can continue for up to three years.

This application had a long and complex history, but it had the benefit of case management by an experienced justice of this Court. The parties involved in this application are sophisticated and represented by experienced and able counsel. To determine if the summary judgement process was suitable to dispose of this matter, the Court answered three questions in the affirmative: 1) can the judge to make the necessary findings of fact; 2) can the judge to apply the law to the facts; and 3) if this is a proportionate, more expeditious and less expensive means to achieve a just result (Hryniak v Mauldin, 2014 SCC 7). This matter was determined suitable for summary judgment. A trial was not required to determine the issues.

The allegation is that both Saskatchewan and Canada had and have a duty to consult with GGFN before Saskatchewan makes any mineral disposition on lands which could be selected by GGFN to satisfy its treaty land entitlement. Canada and Saskatchewan argue there was, and is, no duty to consult. Saskatchewan also argues that the GGFN Treaty Land Entitlement agreement [“TLE”] was intended to conclude the dispute and barred any further claims, including this one.

Canada had a duty to consult with and, where proved, accommodate GGFN and other TLE Bands with respect to land claims under Treaty No. 4. This was done through treaty land entitlement negotiations and agreements, including the GGFN TLE. Saskatchewan had no corresponding duty to consult under Treaty No. 4. Saskatchewan’s obligations under the TLE were to Canada, not GGFN.

Canada and Saskatchewan satisfied any duty to consult through the negotiations leading to the TLE Framework Agreement and, in the case of GGFN, the negotiations resulting in the GGFN TLE. If Saskatchewan had a duty to consult with GGFN about Crown mineral dispositions, that duty was satisfied by its practice of providing information to TLE Bands. GGFN’s claim of a duty to consult that extended to both notice of any applications and a right to supersede those applications went beyond any required consultation and accommodation. This would amount to a veto which the courts have rejected.

Even without a duty to consult, the honour of the Crown would still apply to Saskatchewan’s implementation of the GGFN TLE. Saskatchewan’s practices were fair and balanced. The honour of the Crown, which did apply, was respected. GGFN received the payments to which it was entitled from Canada and was able to obtain within the prescribed period its shortfall acres and other land, with minerals.

The claim of GGFN against Saskatchewan is therefore dismissed. Its claim against Canada was based on a duty of Canada to compel or assist GGFN to enforce its claim against Saskatchewan. The foundation for this claim is lacking. Canada does not exercise supervisory jurisdiction over the provinces with respect to the exercise of their constitutional authority. Nor did the GGFN TLE provide a contractual basis for Canada to compel Saskatchewan to provide GGFN with the requested notice of mineral dispositions and right of first refusal. GGFN’s claim against Canada was premised on a breach of duty by Saskatchewan. Since the claim against Saskatchewan is dismissed, there is no basis for a claim against Canada.

 

 

Petahtegoose et al v Eacom Timber et al, 2016 ONSC 2481

Motion dismissed. The applicants have failed to meet the test for an interlocutory injunction against sustainable forest licence holders.

Indigenous Law Centre
Indigenous CaseWatch Blog

The applicants that operate Camp Eagle Nest, a not-for-profit corporation, seek an interlocutory injunction preventing sustainable forest licence holders to stop immediately any cutting, road building, or aerial spraying of herbicides on lands promised for survey by treaty in the Benny area. The Camp develops and delivers arts, wilderness education and Anishnawbek cultural and spiritual training sessions that improve First Nations cultural literacy, and also delivers employment training for First Nations youth and families.

The Atikameksheng Anishnawbek First Nation [“AAFN”] Reserve is located adjacent to the city of Sudbury and is outside of the Spanish Forest. In addition to rights to hunt and fish held under the Robinson-Huron Treaty, AAFN asserts that it has traditional territory rights in the area of Benny, within the Spanish Forest. Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation is also a party to the Robinson-Huron Treaty, and also asserts traditional territory rights in this same area.

The three part test for an interlocutory injunction is set out as follows: 1) the applicant must demonstrate a serious question to be tried; 2) the applicant must convince the court that it will suffer irreparable harm if the relief is not granted; and 3) the balance of convenience must favour the applicant (RJR-MacDonald Inc v Canada, [1994] 1 SCR 311). The remedy of an injunction is an all-or-nothing solution. Either the project proceeds or not.

By contrast, the duty to consult assists in balancing Aboriginal interests and societal interests by reconciling Crown interests with Aboriginal interests. The jurisprudence makes it clear that in disputes involving First Nation peoples and the protection of First Nation culture and heritage, there is a duty to consult and to accommodate the concerns of First Nation peoples wherever possible (Haida Nation v British Columbia (Minister of Forests), [2005] 1 CNLR 72 [“Haida”]). The Supreme Court of Canada makes it clear in Haida that the duty to consult is paramount, but not the duty to agree.

Forest management plans for the removal of timber and the sustainability of forests are created after a long process of consultation and negotiation with stakeholders and people who would be directly affected. The consultative summary submitted to the Court is detailed and extensive. In this matter, there is overwhelming evidence that the duty to consult has been met by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry in attempting to accommodate the concerns of the First Nations Peoples in the Spanish Forest Management Plan in and around the area of the hamlet of Benny. Even applying a low threshold, that threshold has not been met to establish that there is a serious question to be tried.

The applicants have not been specific about the harm that they would suffer if an injunction is not granted. They spoke in terms of generalities. Generalities do not satisfy the degree of proof required to establish irreparable harm. The Court concluded on the evidence and the facts of this case that the applicants have failed to establish all three requirements for an interlocutory injunction.

Further, a First Nations band may authorize an individual to represent its interest for the purpose of asserting the rights of the band, but that was not the situation in the case at bar. The applicants were not authorized by the AAFN to represent or speak for the band in its dealings with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry concerning the Spanish Forest Management Unit in or around the hamlet of Benny. On the contrary, the AAFN was very much involved in the consultative process as seen by the consultative record. The applicants asserted that as First Nations people they are entitled to be consulted separate and apart from the AAFN. The duty to consult exists to protect the collective rights of First Nation peoples and therefore the duty to consult is owed to First Nation groups as a whole and not to individual members of the band (Behn v Moulton Contracting Ltd, 2013 SCC 26).

Ross River Dena Council v Yukon, 2019 YKSC 26

Application dismissed. Yukon has engaged in “deep consultation” with the RRDC in respect to wildlife matters. There has been no breach of the duty to consult, and where appropriate, to accommodate.

Native Law Centre CaseWatch Blog

Ross River Dena Council [“RRDC”] applied pursuant to Rule 31(6) of the Rules of Court, for the following order: 1) A declaration that the issuance of hunting licences and seals might adversely affect the Aboriginal title of the RRDC members in and to the Ross River Area by permitting conduct in that Area inconsistent with Aboriginal title; 2) A declaration that the Government of Yukon has a duty to consult with, and where indicated, accommodate the RRDC prior to issuing hunting licences and seals; and 3) A declaration that, in respect of each of the 2016/2017, 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 hunting seasons, the Government of Yukon failed to consult with and, where indicated, accommodate the RRDC prior to issuing hunting licences and seals. The Government of Yukon [“Yukon”] opposed the application and relied on RRDC v Yukon, 2015 YKSC 45 [“RRDC 2015 wildlife case”], where this court refused to grant a declaration of a constitutional duty to consult on wildlife matters as it was unnecessary when Yukon was ready, willing, and able to negotiate and consult on wildlife matters as set out in Haida Nation v British Columbia (Minister of Forests), [2005] 1 CNLR 72 [“Haida Nation“].

The context and content of Yukon’s duty to consult with RRDC in wildlife matters required a consideration of the previous decisions. In Ross River Dena Council v Yukon, 2012 YKCA 14 the Court of Appeal recognized that the Yukon had a duty to consult with RRDC in determining whether mineral rights on Crown land within lands compromising the Ross River Area are to be made available to third parties. Further, that Yukon has a duty to notify, and where appropriate, consult with and accommodate RRDC before allowing any mining exploration activities to take place within the Ross River Area. In the RRDC 2015 wildlife case, it was concluded that the Haida Nation test for the duty to consult, had been met.

After reviewing the principles set out in Haida Nation, there were a number of reasons why deep consultation was required by Yukon. First, in Ross River Dena Council v Canada (Attorney General), 2019 YKCA 3, the Court of Appeal confirmed the constitutional obligation in the Rupert’s Land and North-Western Territory Order (UK) which was important for the case at bar to recognize the historic and legal nature of the RRDC claim to title and its application to Yukon. Second, there have been significant impacts on the RRDC traditional territory ongoing for at least 50 years. Third, Yukon and the RRDC have been negotiating land claims on and off from 1973 to 2002 which supports the strength of the claim as negotiations would only proceed on the understanding that there was an asserted but as yet undefined underlying claim to title. Fourth, the strength of the claim was enhanced by the lands set aside, on an interim basis, for settlement purposes. Last, the comprehensive nature of the Framework for a Government-to-Government Agreement between representatives of the Kaska Nation, including RRDC.

RRDC was at the claim stage of asserting Aboriginal title. Yukon had consulted extensively with RRDC representatives through sharing the harvest results, the population surveys, and discussing wildlife management issues. Yukon had further provided RRDC with notification of planned wildlife initiatives; shared specific wildlife data and information; and provided funding to RRDC to participate in discussions and negotiations. RRDC had acknowledged the correspondence. While RRDC believes that the entire Ross River Area should be a permit hunt area, Yukon saw this as a way to limit hunting access rather than a useful wildlife management tool. It must be remembered that failure to agree does not necessarily result in a breach of the duty to consult. Yukon was also prepared to continue discussing the proposal. After responding to concerns from RRDC indicating a decline in the Finlayson Caribou Herd, Yukon closed the permit hunt for the Finlayson Caribou Herd and set the outfitter quota to zero for the 2019/2020 hunting season which was seen as significant accommodation. For these reasons, there had been “deep consultation” with RRDC with respect to wildlife matters and no breach of the duty to consult, and where appropriate, to accommodate. RRDC’s application was dismissed.

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

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MRC de Roussillon v MRN, 2017 QCCS 3744

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

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

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

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

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

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

Da’naxda’xw/Awaetlala First Nation v BC Hydro, 2017 BCSC 2179

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

Application for judicial review dismissed. A party seeking a remedy in damages must do so in an action, not in an application for judicial review.

Kleana Power Corporation [KPC], proposed a run-of-the-river hydro-electric project on the Klinaklini River (the “Project”) in 2008 within the asserted traditional territory of the Da’naxda’xw/Awaetlala First Nation [DAFN]. KPC wished to submit a proposal in the 2008 “Clean Power Call” issued by British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority (“BC Hydro”), with a view to being awarded an energy purchase agreement for the sale of electricity generated from the Project to BC Hydro. The DAFN considered the Project to be an economic opportunity consistent with their cultural and ecological interests. The proposed boundary of a protected conservancy, however, was within the traditional territory claimed by the DAFN, which created a barrier to the Project. Both petitioners say that in 2008 they received an assurance from the respondent Minister of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas (the “Energy Minister”). The assurance was that when the Project could proceed, but if KPC lost the opportunity to participate in the 2008 Clean Power Call due to a delay in amending the conservancy boundary, then the Energy Minister would direct BC Hydro to enter into negotiations with KPC for an energy purchase agreement at a price for power that was linked to the results of the winning bids in the call. The petitioners say that the Energy Minister’s assurance was clear, unambiguous and unqualified, therefore they acted in reliance on the Energy Minister’s assurance. They spent time and resources pursuing the boundary amendment necessary for the Project to proceed.

The petitioners sought judicial review in 2010, of the refusal of the then Environment Minister to recommend to the Lieutenant Governor in Council an amendment to the conservancy boundary. The reviewing judge found that the Environment Minister had a legal duty to consult with the DAFN concerning their request for an amendment to the boundary with a view to considering a reasonable accommodation and had failed to fulfill this duty to consult (Da’naxda’xw/Awaetlala First Nation v British Columbia (Environment), [2011] 3 CNLR 188 (BCSC) “Da’naxda’xw 2011”). The Court concluded in Da’naxda’xw/Awaetlala First Nation v British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority, 2015 BCSC 16 (“Da’naxda’xw 2015”) that the petitioners had not established that they were entitled to any remedy on the administrative law grounds raised. But declarations were issued to the effect that the DAFN were entitled to further relief and a remedy in respect of the original breaches of the duty to consult. The petitioners appealed and the Energy Minister and Province cross-appealed with respect to the declaratory relief that was ordered. In Da’naxda’xw/Awaetlala First Nation v. British Columbia (Energy, Mines and Natural Gas), 2016 BCCA 163 (“Da’naxda’xw CA”), the Court of Appeal dismissed the petitioners’ appeal and ordered that the declaration be set aside. The cross-appeal was allowed and the petition was remitted for reconsideration of the remedy for the DAFN. This proceeding was an application for a judicial review.

The Amended Petition was in part premised on the asserted failure of the Energy Minister to give a direction to BC Hydro consistent with what the DAFN alleged was the commitment given to them in 2008, and was how the application was framed, responded to, and argued. This petition has never been further amended nor was the Environment Minister named as a respondent. No relief was sought in respect of the consultation ordered in Da’naxda’xw 2011, or the actions of the Environment Minister in 2008. There was no pleaded case of a failure to comply with the Da’naxda’xw 2011 order. Since Da’naxda’xw have never sought leave to further amend the Amended Petition in any respect, no further remedy can now be granted as it is res judicata.

Given the conclusions in Da’naxda’xw 2015 regarding the scope of the Minister’s commitment, and the dismissal by the Court of Appeal of the petitioners’ appeal, there are only two grounds on which to possibly grant a remedy for the DAFN: (1) the Environment Minister’s 2010 breach of the duty to consult regarding the request by the DAFN for an amendment to the conservancy boundary; and (2) the consultation that followed the Da’naxda’xw 2011 order, up to and including the Order-in-Council amending the conservancy boundary in June 2012. Neither can provide support for a remedy for the DAFN in the circumstances of this case. Whether the Environment Minister breached the duty to consult the DAFN in 2010 was the central issue in Da’naxda’xw 2011 and led to the remedy granted in that matter. It is a final order, and neither the Environment Minister nor the DAFN appealed. These cannot now be relitigated based on the outcome of Da’naxda’xw 2015 and the subsequent dismissal of the DAFN’s appeal in Da’naxda’xw CA.

Where a pleading fails to fulfill its function, that defect should not be overlooked, even in Aboriginal litigation. “The trial of an action should not resemble a voyage on the Flying Dutchman with a crew condemned to roam the seas interminably with no set destination and no end in sight” (Lax Kw’alaams Indian Band v. Canada (Attorney General), 2011 SCC 56. The Amended Petition sought judicial review and relief only in respect of the conduct of the Energy Minister. The petitioners have never sought leave to further amend the Amended Petition. There was no complaint that there was a failure to comply with the order for further consultation or a breach of the duty owed to the DAFN that followed the Da’naxda’xw 2011order, nor was it asserted that the consultation was inadequate. A failure to plead the adequacy of consultation results in the issue not being properly before the court (Adams Lake Indian Band v Lieutenant Governor in Council, 2012 BCCA 333). Any further consultation concerning the decisions made by the Environment Minister in 2008 and 2010 could not lead to anything other than a discussion about some measure of compensation, in other words, monetary damages.

 

Lac Seul First Nation v Canada, 2017 FC 906

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

Canada breached its fiduciary duty to the Plaintiffs and must pay equitable damages of $30 million; third party claims against Ontario and Manitoba dismissed.

The Lac Seul First Nation [LSFN] claimed that Canada breached its treaty with the LSFN (Treaty No. 3), the Indian Act, and its fiduciary duties and obligations. LSFN sought damages from Canada for losses from the flooding of part of the LSFN Reserve following the construction of the Ear Falls Storage Dam where Lac Seul drains into the English River. LSFN requested punitive damages and costs along with equitable compensation for a loss of opportunity for hydroelectric benefits, past present and future, in the amount of $506.6 million including avoidable losses due to erosion, loss of timber and community infrastructure in the amount of $40 million.

The Lac Seul Storage Project provided the water reservoir necessary to permit power generation for the City of Winnipeg and Northwestern Ontario. In 1929, the Ear Falls Storage Dam was completed, as part of a project to maximize the potential for hydroelectric developments on the Winnipeg River in Manitoba to provide power to the City of Winnipeg. The parties agreed that this part of the LSFN Reserve land is now under water. With the flooding, the LSFN lost the use and enjoyment of this portion of its Reserve. Other impacts from flooding on the LSFN included lost houses, wild rice fields, and the separation by water of two of its communities, Kejick Bay and Whitefish Bay.

Ultimately the Court assessed the Plaintiffs’ equitable damages at $30 million. The factors considered included the amount of the calculable losses and that many of the non-quantifiable losses created in 1929 persisted over decades, and some still continue. The failure to remove the timber from the foreshore created an eyesore and impacted the natural beauty of the Reserve land. This created a long-term water hazard effecting travel and fishing for members of the LSFN. The flooding negatively affected hunting and trapping. Although Canada supplied the materials to build the replacement houses, the LSFN members supplied their own labour. The LSFN docks were not replaced, as well hay land, gardens and rice fields were destroyed. Two LSFN communities were separated by water and one became an island, impacting the ease of movement of the people who lived there. Canada failed to keep the LSFN informed and never consulted with the band on any of the flood related matters that affected it, creating uncertainty and anxiety for the band. Canada failed to act in a prompt and effective manner to deal with compensation with the LSFN prior to the flooding and many years after the flooding, despite being aware of the negative impact on the band members.

It was determined that this $30 million in equitable compensation would be sufficient to put LSFN back in the place they would have been but for the breach and would meet the objectives of retribution, deterrence, and denunciation, as there have been no punitive damages awarded in an Aboriginal law context. A declaration was also sought that the LSFN legal interests in the flooded lands and the freeboard area have not been encumbered or extinguished. Canada admitted and accepted that LSFN had “retained the flooded Reserve lands.” A declaration would therefore serve no purpose. Canada claimed a defence of laches, but this defence does not apply as the trial record revealed a singular failure of Canadian government departments to communicate with the members of the LSFN. Similarly, the decisions made regarding the cutting of timber on the foreshore, the use of the unemployed men as a relief project, and its later abandonment were events that also occurred with little or no communication with the LSFN. Lastly, the negotiation of a payment to the LSFN was done in 1943 and accepted by Canada with no evidence that the LSFN was ever informed of the structure of the settlement, or its amount.

It is inexplicable in the evidence as to why Canada took no steps either at the time of the first flooding or subsequently to legally authorize the expropriation through flooding of these Reserve lands. Moreover, no compensation was paid to LSFN relating to the flooded lands or consequent damages suffered until November 17, 1943, which was not an appropriate amount and was in breach of Canada’s fiduciary duty to LSFN. Canada defended the main action and commenced third party claims against both Ontario and Manitoba for contribution and indemnity, pursuant to the terms of the Lac Seul Conservation Act (Canada) and An Act Respecting Lac Seul Storage (Ontario). Where the third parties have no fiduciary duty to the beneficiary, the defendant cannot apportion its liability for equitable compensation to them. Canada is not being asked to pay more than its share of the losses as it is solely responsible for them.