Gitxaala Nation v Wolverine Terminals ULC et al, 2020 FC 382

Motion dismissed. The Metlakatla First Nation and Lax Kw’alaams should not be joined as respondents or interveners in the Gitxaala Nation’s underlying application for judicial review.

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Wolverine Terminals ULC, has proposed to construct and operate the Prince Rupert Marine Fuels Service Project [“Project”] in the Port of Prince Rupert. The Project is a floating refuelling station intended for refuelling vessels calling in the Port. It is located on federal lands and is subject to a review under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act [“CEAA”]. Under the CEAA, the Prince Rupert Port Authority and Transport Canada [“Federal Authorities”] could not enable the Project to proceed unless a determination was made that the Project was not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. As part of its evaluation process, the Federal Authorities consulted the six First Nation communities with asserted rights and interests within the Project area regarding potential environmental effects that included the Gitxaala Nation [“Gitxaala”], Metlakatla First Nation, Lax Kw’alaams, Gitga’at First Nation, Kitsumkalum, and Kitselas.

In the underlying application for judicial review [“Application”], Gitxaala challenges the decision of the Federal Authorities that the Project will not cause significant adverse environmental effects pursuant to the CEAA, and that the Crown’s obligation to consult with respect to the Project has been fulfilled [“Decision”]. The Metlakatla First Nation and Lax Kw’alaams [“Moving First Nations”] have brought a motion for an order to allow them to be joined as party respondents in the Application. In the alternative, they seek an order to allow them to jointly intervene. This motion is dismissed.

If the Moving First Nations had a direct interest in quashing the Decision that was actually made, they could and should have asserted it by bringing their own application for judicial review on a timely basis. It would be an “impermissible end-run” for them to join the proceedings, in substance as co-applicants, well after the limitation period for applying has passed (Tsleil-Waututh Nation v Canada (AG), 2017 FCA 102).

The Court is not persuaded that the relief sought, if granted, will inevitably impose legal obligations on the Moving First Nations to re-engage in the consultation process. For example, if the Decision is set aside on the narrow basis that the Federal Authorities failed to adequately consult with Gitxaala, due to unique gaps or inadequacies in the specific consultation process undertaken with Gitxaala, it does not inevitably follow that the Federal Authorities will be required to also re-consult with the other five First Nation communities with asserted rights and interests within the Project area. Even if the relief sought by Gitxaala would require the Federal Authorities to re-engage with the Moving First Nations, the Court is not satisfied that the Moving First Nations would be directly affected by the relief sought in the Application.

The Moving First Nations argue that the relief sought will adversely and directly affect their legal rights by causing them to become legally obligated to participate in a more onerous statutory and consultative process, and incur additional time and expense to re-engage with the Federal Authorities. They rely on the legal principle of a reciprocal duty on First Nations to consult with the Crown in good faith and they cannot, by their conduct, place unnecessary obstacles in the way of the consultation process (Ahousaht First Nation v Canada (Fisheries and Oceans), [2008] 3 CNLR 67).

The reciprocal duty imposed on First Nations is significantly different in nature from the duty imposed on the Crown to consult with First Nations. The Crown’s duty to consult with First Nations gives rise to co-extensive right in First Nations to be consulted, and the breach of which is actionable in the Courts. The same cannot be said of the reciprocal duty on First Nations to engage in consultation with the Crown. Unlike the Crown’s duty to consult, the reciprocal duty imposed on First Nations is not an enforceable legal obligation.

The Moving First Nations have not satisfied the Court that their participation as respondents is necessary to determine the adequacy of Gitxaala’s consultation process, or demonstrated how this issue cannot be effectively and completely settled unless they are made respondents on the Application (Canada (Minister of Fisheries and Oceans) v Shubenacadie Indian Band, 2002 FCA 509).

As for being added as intervenors, acting under the guise of having a different perspective, an intervener cannot adduce fresh evidence or make submissions that are in reality fresh evidence (Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) v Ishaq, 2015 FCA 151). A proposed intervener must rely on the same evidence in the record that others are relying upon and focus on how they can assist the Court’s determination of the existing proceedings. The Moving First Nations’ proposed position appears to be an expansion of the issues raised in the existing Application. If they intend to argue, in effect, that Gitxaala has no valid asserted claim to the potential existence of Aboriginal title or rights in the project area, the corollary to that argument would be that no duty to consult arose. Gitxaala does not challenge the Decision based on any such finding, but rather on the basis that the Federal Authorities failed to adequately consult with Gitxaala. While the Moving First Nations assert that their participation will assist, it is the Court’s view they have not discharged the burden of proof to demonstrate how it will assist (Forest Ethics Advocacy Association v Canada (National Energy Board), 2013 FCA 236).

Maliseet Grand Council et al v New Brunswick et al, 2019 NBQB 198

Motion granted. The two applications for judicial review are dismissed. The applicants have not established standing. Judicial reviews are not an appropriate forum for how the dispute regarding s 35 Aboriginal rights is framed.

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In a bid to enhance winter tourism in northern New Brunswick, the Province decided to improve the snowmobile trail system, by proceeding with the development of a snowmobile grooming hub in 2015 at Mount Carleton Park. The two judicial review applications arose in the context of this decision made by the Province. The initial judicial review focused on whether the Province’s decision to develop the grooming hub was in violation of the Province’s Parks Act and to first conduct an environmental impact assessment. The second judicial review application challenged the Province’s decision to exempt work on, and the replacement of, two bridges from a subsequently conducted environmental impact assessment. In addition, all of the judicial review applicants alleged a breach of Aboriginal and Treaty rights. These lands were, according to the judicial review applicants, never ceded by treaty.

Central to this dispute is the Mascarene Treaty of 1725/26, the so-called Peace and Friendship Treaty. The Mascarene Treaty represented a negotiated end to the Dummer’s War between the British and the Wabanaki Confederacy. The Eastern Wabanaki Confederacy are a confederation of First Nation and Native American people from (present day) Eastern Canada and the State of Maine, USA. The Mascarene Treaty of 1725/26 was signed by the numerous traditional chiefs of the Eastern Wabanaki Confederacy. This included traditional chiefs of the Wolastoqewiyik (Maliseet) peoples located in present day New Brunswick. The Wabanaki Confederacy is said to also be in the process of “being rebuilt”.

Having carefully considered the substantive submissions of the parties and having reviewed all of the numerous authorities in the context of both Aboriginal and Treaty rights litigation across Canada, the Court concluded that the Province’s motion to dismiss the two applications for judicial review will succeed. It was determined the applicants on judicial review have not established standing, which is fatal to both judicial reviews. As well, judicial reviews are not an appropriate forum to determine the existence of an Aboriginal section 35 rights-bearing collective.

Counsel for the judicial review applicants acknowledges these to be unique circumstances, however, it does not require this Court to adopt unique and novel legal constructs. “Aboriginal rights exist within the general legal system of Canada” (R v Van der Peet, [1996] 4 CNLR 177 [R v Van der Peet]). There is ample and longstanding authoritative support for the notion that both Aboriginal and Treaty rights are collective or communal in nature (Haida Nation v British Columbia (Minister of Forests), [2005] 1 CNLR 72). While such rights may be exercised, in certain circumstances, by individual members of the community, these rights remain collective or communal (R v Powley, [2003] 4 CNLR 321). While the judicial review applicants initially based their claims against the Province over its failure to consult them, to a great degree, on “Aboriginal rights”, they now premise their relief on a breach of the Mascarene Treaty of 1725/26.

In the matter before this Court, the judicial review applicants believe a fair interpretation of the wording of the Mascarene Treaty allows for them to seek relief by way of judicial review for a breach of the Maliseets people’s rights. While they do not seek any declaratory relief specifically recognizing them as an authorized Aboriginal or Treaty rights holder for the Maliseet Nation, they do seek an order against the Province requiring it to fulfill a duty to consult prior to further work on the project continuing. Ostensibly, the judicial review applicants rely on the wording “any Indian” found in the Mascarene Treaty of 1725/26 so as to suggest they have “constitutional standing” to proceed. While creative, there is no merit to this argument. Even if this Court were satisfied with the specific interpretation of the wording found in the Mascarene Treaty of 1725/26, and in the manner now espoused by the judicial review applicants, there is an absence of evidence any of the judicial review applicants actually or actively pursued the very rights alleged to have been impacted and at the allegedly affected parts of Mount Carleton Park.

Even if the Court is in error with respect to standing, this dispute, as framed, is not appropriate for judicial review. A judicial review application should not be turned into a hearing de novo or an appeal. The Court’s role on judicial review is not to consider the matter anew or adjudicate conflicting expert opinions based on new evidence, but to review the decision on the basis of the material before the decision-maker. Aboriginal rights must be proven by tested evidence; they cannot be established as an incident of administrative law proceedings that centre on the adequacy of consultation and accommodation. To permit this would invite uncertainty and discourage final settlement of alleged rights through the proper processes. Aboriginal rights claims require that proper evidence be marshalled to meet specific legal tests in the context of a trial (R v Van der Peet; Delgamuukw v British Columbia, [1998] 1 CNLR 14; and Mitchell v MNR, [2001] 3 CNLR 122).

There are a few cases where standing was made an issue. In those few cases, it was held that the Aboriginal party must show it, in fact, has recognized authority to represent an Aboriginal collective, or portions thereof, for purposes of section 35 constitutional reconciliation or litigation. In this matter, the judicial review applicants argue that they need not do so as the Mascarene Treaty of 1725/26 expressly provides for their standing. Any Treaty interpretation, especially cases with such potentially broad application as in this case, must take into account all of the Aboriginal parties to the Treaty and the government(s). The judicial review applicants have chosen to proceed, not only without evidence of current representational authority for the collective Maliseet Nation, but they have done so in a forum to the exclusion of numerous recognized Maliseet entities, such as the First Nations communities in New Brunswick who quite likely may be affected by this proceeding and the relief sought.

Mi’kmaq of PEI v PEI (Her Majesty the Queen), 2019 PECA 26

Appeal dismissed. Prince Edward Island [“PEI”] satisfied the duty to consult with the Mi’kmaq in PEI, when it came to the transfer of the Mill River golf course property to private ownership.

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The Mi’kmaq in PEI [“Mi’kmaq”] have asserted Aboriginal title to all of the lands and waters of PEI. Their claim is based on exclusive occupancy at the time of first contact with Europeans and at the assertion of British sovereignty. The Province of PEI [“Province”] approved the conveyance of the Mill River golf course and resort to a private sector company. Since the Mill River property was Crown land, and the Mi’kmaq had previously given notice to the Province that it intends to bring a claim for Aboriginal title to all of PEI, the Government initiated consultation.

The Mi’kmaq brought an application for judicial review before the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island. They sought declarations that the Province failed to adequately consult or accommodate and that the Orders-in-Council approving transfer for the properties are invalid and to be set aside. It was determined that the Province provided the Mi’kmaq with timely and appropriate information regarding its general intention to divest its four golf course properties, including requesting information and evidence in support of the Mi’kmaq claim to Aboriginal title and as to its concerns over potential adverse effect of the proposed conveyance.

The Mi’kmaq in PEI now appeal to this Court. They assert the reviewing judge made numerous errors. They challenge the finding that the Province gave adequate consultation. In this appeal they ask whether the government acted reasonably in carrying out consultation and if it was sufficient in the circumstances. This Court determined that the consultation was reasonable and also points out that the duty to consult was not triggered in the circumstances (Haida Nation v British Columbia (Minister of Forests), [2005] 1 CNLR 72). As to Aboriginal title, there was very little information or evidence provided in support of the assertion that, based on exclusive occupancy at the time of British sovereignty, it had Aboriginal title to all of PEI or the property.

Consultation is a two-way street. The Mi’kmaq provided little by way of evidence or information to show how its asserted title claim would be eventually proven or as to its historic connection with the property. The information provided was mainly repeated assertions with general statements of entitlement to title that did not materially contribute to an evidence-based assessment. The Mi’kmaq claim as presented to the Province was tenuous. A potential for adverse effect needs to be raised. There needs to be a nexus shown between the potential activity on or regarding the land and the interest sought to be protected (Rio Tinto Alcan Inc v Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, [2010] 4 CNLR 250). There was no information or evidence provided to show potential infringement or adverse impact on identified Mi’kmaq interest or association with the Mill River property as a result of conveyance of the property. The reviewing judge performed the proportionality test properly and without error.

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation v Alberta, 2019 ABCA 401

Appeal dismissed. The chambers judge correctly declared that: 1) the Aboriginal Consultation Office has authority to decide whether the Crown’s duty to consult has been triggered; and 2) a “mere” taking up of land does not in itself adversely affect the treaty rights of a First Nation.

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The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN) sought judicial review of a decision of the Aboriginal Consultation Office (ACO) that the duty to consult was not triggered in relation to a pipeline project. The chambers judge did not judicially review the ACO’s Decision about the duty to consult. The ACFN, however, appeal two declarations out of the five that was made by the chambers judge: 1) whether the ACO has any authority in law to make the decision on whether the duty to consult is triggered; and 2) whether the “mere” act of taking up land by the Crown in a treaty area is sufficient to trigger the duty to consult.

TransCanada Pipelines Limited/Phoenix Energy Holdings Limited [“TransCanada”] contacted the predecessor to the ACO, the Alberta Department of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, seeking guidance on consultation with First Nations for a proposed pipeline project [“Project”]. They were advised that consultation was required with eight First Nations in the affected area. The ACFN was not among these eight. TransCanada decided on its own initiative, however, to provide notice to thirty-three additional First Nations, including the ACFN. TransCanada shared information with respect to the Project and the regulatory process and consulted with the ACFN, funding a study relating to the Project.

Subsequently the ACO submitted its final report [“Decision”] to the Alberta Energy Regulator [“AER”], the decision-maker responsible for approving the construction and operation of the Project. It stated that consultation with the ACFN was not required with regard to the Project. The basis for the Decision was that the Project was outside the geographic area in which the ACO ordinarily requires consultation with the ACFN. The ACO advised that the ACFN was aware of its consultation area. If it wished to modify the area, the appropriate approach was through the GeoData Mapping Project, a cross-ministry initiative whose goal is to create standardized maps, continually updated with contributions from First Nations, of the areas in which First Nations exercise their treaty rights. The purpose of the maps is to provide assistance in determining whether a given project might adversely affect a First Nation’s treaty rights and, therefore, whether the Crown owes a duty to consult.

The AER decides whether to approve pipeline projects such as the Project. The Crown is represented by the Minister of Aboriginal Relations and the ACO is a branch of the Ministry established under the Government of Alberta’s Policy on Consultation with First Nations on Land and Natural Resource Management, 2013. The purpose of the ACO is to manage the consultation process for the Crown and to bring consultation matters under one Ministry, rather than several. It is the ACO’s responsibility to provide advice to the AER on the adequacy of such consultations.

The chambers judge correctly declared that the ACO has authority to decide whether the Crown’s duty to consult has been triggered. The duties of a Minister are normally exercised under the authority of the Minister by responsible officials of a department. Public business could not be carried on if that were not the case. Constitutionally, the decision of such an official is, of course, the decision of the Minister (Carltona Ltd v Commissioner of Works, [1943] 2 All ER 560 (CA)).

Treaty 8 is one of the most important of the post-Confederation treaties. Made in 1899, the First Nations who lived in the area surrendered to the Crown 840,000 square kilometres. The ACFN submits that Treaty 8 gives its members the right to hunt, trap and fish “throughout the tract surrendered excepting such tracts as may be required or taken up from time to time for settlement, mining, lumbering, trading or other purposes”. Therefore, whenever there is a taking up of land anywhere in the land surrendered in Treaty 8, this reduces the available land to Treaty 8 First Nations for hunting, trapping and fishing, and triggers the duty to consult. Any taking up of land triggers the duty.

This dispute is about the meaning of adverse effect. The ACFN’s position is that any taking up of Treaty 8 land automatically has an adverse effect on Treaty 8 rights because it reduces the total land in the Treaty area available to First Nations to exercise those rights. The Crown’s position is that a further step is required to determine if the taking up has, or potentially has, an adverse effect on ACFN’s treaty harvesting rights. The Court agrees that a contextual analysis is required. The signatories to Treaty 8 understood that land would be “taken up” when it was put to a “visible use that was incompatible with hunting” (R v Badger, [1996] 2 CNLR 77). This implies a certain degree of relationship between the taking up and the impact on the First Nation. It cannot be presumed that a First Nation suffers an adverse effect by a taking up anywhere in the treaty lands. A contextual analysis must occur to determine if the proposed taking up may have an adverse effect on the First Nation’s rights to hunt, fish and trap. If so, then the duty to consult is triggered.

Taseko Mines Limited v Tsilhqot’in National Government, 2019 BCSC 1507

Interlocutory injunction granted in favour of the Tsilhqot’in Nation against Taseko Mines Limited work permit, on the basis that it infringes their Aboriginal rights.

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Taseko Mines Limited [“Taseko”] applied to prohibit members of the Tsilhqot’in Nation [“Tsilhqot’in”] from blockading its access to an area where the mining company wants to carry out an exploratory drilling program [“NOW program”]. Taseko has access pursuant to a notice of work permit [“NOW permit”] issued under the Mines Act. That application is now moot since the Court decided Tsilhqot’in’s application will succeed for an injunction prohibiting Taseko from carrying out its NOW program until the Tsilqot’in’s underlying claim to quash the NOW permit is heard.

In this matter, the issue is whether granting Tsilqot’in the interim injunction prohibiting Taseko from undertaking the NOW program would amount to a final determination of the action, which would effectively remove any benefit of proceeding to trial. The NOW permit will expire in July 2020, and if Taseko is enjoined until the action is heard, it is very unlikely the trial could be completed in time to for the 4-6 weeks required to complete the NOW program. In the Court’s view, the extension is essentially mechanical and concludes that Taseko will have until July 2022 to complete the NOW program, because Taseko can extend the NOW permit by two years under s 5(1) of the Permit Regulation.

Issues pertaining to infringement and justification, which will be the focus of the trial, are not new to the parties. Because some of the factual and legal elements have been argued before different courts for years, the discovery process will not be as time consuming as it would be if the issues were new to the parties. Based on the evidence and submissions before the Court, if the parties prioritize the matter, the timeline should be adequate to prepare for trial. The injunction is not tantamount to granting relief nor is it bound to impose a hardship removing any benefit of trial. The threshold merits test is the serious question to be tried standard (R v Canadian Broadcasting Corp, 2018 SCC 5). This threshold is relatively low as a prolonged examination of the merits is generally neither necessary nor desirable (RJR-MacDonald Inc  v Canada, [1944] 1 SCR 311).

It was determined that given the nature of the harm to the Tsilhqot’in, and the waiving of the undertaking as to damages, there was a material risk of irreparable harm to both parties. When there is a risk of both parties suffering a material risk of irreparable harm, the court should favor the status quo (AG British Columbia v Wale (1986), 9 BCLR (2d) 333 (CA)). It was determined that the NOW program would change the status quo as it would disturb the land. The Tsilhqot’in stand to suffer greater irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted. Despite that the Tsilhqot’in pursued a self-help remedy of a blockade outside the courts, the imperative of reconciliation was such that the balance of convenience was in the Tsilhqot’in’s favour.

Fort McKay Métis Community Association v Alberta Energy Regulator, 2019 ABCA 15

Permission to appeal denied. The Fort McKay Métis Community Association expressed fears about the potential impact of a project on their Aboriginal rights. It is yet to be answered whether such subjective fears interfere with an undefined Aboriginal right.

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The Fort McKay Métis Community Association (Fort McKay Métis) applied for permission to appeal a decision of the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) that approved Prosper Petroleum Ltd.’s (“Prosper”) oil sands project (the “Project”). The Fort McKay Métis asserts that it has Métis Aboriginal rights to harvest for food in its community and traditional harvesting area and that the Project would adversely affect these constitutionally protected rights. The Project would be located near and operate within part of the Fort McKay First Nation’s reserves. Prosper applied to the AER for approvals in 2013 so it could proceed with the Project under the Oil Sands Conservation Act, the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, and the Water Act, which was granted. The Project, however, still needs Cabinet approval, and at the time of this current application, it has not yet been issued.

The AER found the Project to be in the public interest and was consistent with statutory objectives of protecting the environment and promoting sustainable resource development while considering economic growth. It approved the Project on the condition that Prosper will seek input from the Fort McKay Métis with respect to reclamation. The AER found the fear of contamination and other potential impacts to Métis Aboriginal rights was genuine, but implicitly not justified. The content of an Aboriginal right is a legal issue. The AER has a legal obligation to carry out its regulatory responsibilities in a manner consistent with s 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 (Chippewas of the Thames First Nation v Enbridge Pipelines Inc, [2017] 3 CNLR 45 (“Chippewas”)). The regulator must consider Aboriginal rights “as rights, rather than as an afterthought to the assessment” (Clyde River (Hamlet) v Petroleum Geo-Services Inc, [2017] 3 CNLR 65 (“Clyde River”)). None of the applicant’s authorities supported the view that genuine fears about the effects of the Project, which are not objectively reasonable, are sufficient by themselves to constitute interference with a right protected under s 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. An independent regulatory agency’s approval of an energy project could trigger the Crown’s duty to consult Aboriginal groups whose treaty and Aboriginal rights might be adversely affected by the project, and this agency could fulfill the Crown’s duty to consult on its behalf (Clyde River; Chippewas).

Pictou Landing First Nation v Nova Scotia (Aboriginal Affairs), 2018 NSSC 306

Application granted. A potential for adverse impact suffices to trigger the duty to consult. Although the question is open on whether “government conduct” attracting the duty to consult includes the legislative process, the doctrine does extend to strategic, higher level decisions that may have an impact on Aboriginal claims and rights.

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Located at Abercrombie Point, Pictou County, is a bleached kraft pulp mill (“the mill”) that is owned and operated by Northern Pulp Nova Scotia Corporation (“Northern Pulp”). The Boat Harbour Act(“BHA”), provides that the use of the mill must cease on January 31, 2020. Northern Pulp, however, is in the planning stages to apply for an Environmental Assessment (“EA”) (Environmental Act) for the design, construction and operation of a new Effluent Treatment Facility (“ETF”), otherwise the current ETF must be closed as required by the Act. The Province is currently in active consultation with the Pictou Landing First Nation (“PLFN”) regarding this application and has confirmed $70,000.00 in capacity funding to support PLFN’s meaningful participation in that process. The Province has disclosed it is also engaged in confidential discussions directly with Northern Pulp regarding potential Crown funding to support construction of the new ETF (“Potential Crown Funding”), but no such decision has yet been made.

PLFN applied for judicial review of a decision by the office of Provincial Minister of Aboriginal Affairs to deny consultation with respect to the issue of whether the Province may fund the construction of a new EFT. PLFN took the position that any such Potential Crown Funding by the Province is a separate decision that triggers an independent duty to consult with the PLFN, as this decision will have the effect of continuing the operation of the mill beyond the 2020 deadline. It could further impact the asserted rights and interests of the PLFN, but the Province disagrees that any form of Potential Crown Funding would trigger an independent duty to consult with the PLFN, as it does not meet the established legal test. There is yet no additional or potential adverse impact on the PLFN’s rights and interests.

The Court concluded upon the facts that: 1) the current ETF is an integral part of the current operation of the mill as a whole; 2) that the current ETF must close no later than January 31, 2020; 3) that the new ETF which will replace the existing facility will be integral to the continued operation of the mill beyond the deadline, and it must replace those functions discharged by the current ETF; 4) each additional potential source of funding that is available for the project makes it more likely that the new ETF project will happen; and 5) that as a consequence of a Provincial decision to fund the project, even if it is not the only potential source of funding, it would make it more likely that the mill will remain open.

An application for judicial review is the appropriate mechanism by which to seek a determination as to whether there has been a breach of the duty to consult. The Court, however, is not being asked to review a completed process of consultation replete with an extensive activity record. This would ordinarily trigger the application of a standard of reasonableness. But in these circumstances, the extant case law frames the applicable standard of review as one of correctness. Either the duty to consult exists or it does not (Mi’kmaq of Prince Edward Island v Prince Edward Island [2018] PESC 20). The duty to consult is triggered at a low threshold, but it must remain a meaningful threshold. There must be some appreciable or discernible impact flowing from the impugned Crown conduct before a duty to consult will arise. This is both logical and practical because there has to be something for the Crown and the Aboriginal group to consult about. It is conceivable that the Crown may proceed after consultation with a new ETF against the strong opposition of PLFN. But if it did, there becomes an issue of compatibility with the honour of the Crown. “Meaningful consultation” requires a “meaningful effort by the government to act in a manner that is consistent with the honour of the Crown in that particular context” (Mikisew Cree First Nation v Canada (GGC), [2019] 1 CNLR 277 (SCC)).

A potential for adverse impact suffices to trigger the duty to consult as it extends to strategic, higher level decisions that may have an impact on Aboriginal claims and rights (Rio Tinto Alcan Inc v Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, [2010] 4 CNLR 250 (SCC)). As to what constitutes an “adverse effect”, the claimant must show a causal relationship between the proposed government conduct or decision and a potential for adverse impacts on pending Aboriginal claims or rights. Although there is a generous, purposive approach to this element, past wrongs, including previous breaches of the duty to consult, and speculative impacts does not suffice to be an adverse effect (R v Douglas, [2007] 3 CNLR 277 (BCCA)). The adverse effect must be on the future exercise of the right itself, but an adverse effect on a First Nation’s future negotiating position also does not suffice. Adverse impacts extend to any effect that may prejudice a pending Aboriginal claim or right. Often the adverse effects are physical in nature, however, it could also be in connection with what constitutes Crown conduct, high-level management decisions or structural changes to the resource’s management, even if these decisions have no immediate impact. This is because such structural changes to the resources management may set the stage for further decisions that will have a direct adverse impact on land and resources.

The Province’s interest as lender funding the new ETF will undoubtedly influence “higher level” strategic decision making. If the Province is to become the lender, not only is it providing the means by which the ETF will be built, but it will have an interest to ensure that the mill will continue to remain in operation into the future so as to at least recover the taxpayers’ investment. Separation of the potential funding issue would result in the loss of an opportunity for the two sides to discuss whether the financing, if it was to be provided by the Province, should or could be tied into a system of penalties or rewards for achieving, or failing to achieve, proposed emission or effluent discharge targets. This may, potentially, impact upon the likelihood that these targets would be attained. The bifurcation of issues of the “design and construction” from the “actual funding” of the ETF, artificially compartmentalizes a process which should be treated more holistically.

Mikisew Cree First Nation v Canada (Governor General in Council), 2018 SCC 40

By Daniel Quainoo and Benjamin Ralston

The honour of the Crown is engaged in the development of legislation but not the Crown’s duty to consult

In Mikisew Cree the Supreme Court of Canada considered the question of whether the Crown’s duty to consult and accommodate Aboriginal peoples extends to the legislative process. Mikisew Cree First Nation sought a declaration acknowledging the role of ministers in developing policy for the formulation of legislation as “Crown conduct” that triggers the Crown’s duty to consult and accommodate. The Court also addressed whether s.18 of the Federal Courts Act provides the Federal Court with jurisdiction to review matters engaging the law-making process and whether enabling courts to review legislative processes would be in keeping with Canada’s constitutional order. While the Court was unanimous in deciding that the Federal Court lacked the jurisdiction to consider the question under s.18 of the Federal Courts Act, it was divided as to whether an executive actor could be said to have a duty to consult while participating in the legislative process and why.

In the result, a 7-2 majority of the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Crown’s duty to consult and accommodate Aboriginal peoples does not apply to any stage in the legislative process. At the same time, a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court of Canada concluded that the constitutional principle of the honour of the Crown applies to legislative processes even if these justices disagreed over whether the duty to consult was the appropriate means to uphold the principle in this context.

Karakatsanis J, writing the judgment for herself, Wagner CJ and Gascon J, held that the duty to consult cannot apply to the law-making process as this would contradict the constitutional principles of the separation of powers, parliamentary sovereignty and parliamentary privilege. She added that as a matter of pragmatism, imposing a duty to consult on the policy development stage of the legislative process could limit the possibility of meaningful accommodation since a proposed bill can be freely amended once introduced into Parliament. It would also lead to incongruous treatment of private member bills that do not involve any comparable Crown conduct to trigger the duty. Karakatsanis J concluded that the duty to consult doctrine is ill-suited to be applied directly to the law-making process.

At the same time, Karakatsanis J held that the constitutional principle of the honour of the Crown applies to the law-making process and that it would undermine the endeavour of reconciliation to allow the Crown to use legislation to circumvent its duty to consult and accommodate Aboriginal peoples. She pointed out the Ross River decision of the Yukon Court of Appeal where it was stated that legislation will be unconstitutional to the extent that it prevents meaningful consultation and accommodation from occurring. Karakatsanis J left open the possibility of other remedies for breaches of the honour of the Crown in the legislative context and suggested that the extent of any consultation may be a relevant consideration to other forms of recourse.

Brown J affirmed the conclusion that the constitutional principles of the separation of powers and parliamentary privilege prevent the judiciary from applying the duty to consult to the law-making process. He also opined that Crown conduct necessarily excludes parliamentary functions of the state and thus these functions cannot be subject to a duty to consult. Finally, he indicated that by leaving open the possibility that there may be other doctrines developed to enable review of the legislative process, even in the absence of a successful claim that Aboriginal or treaty rights have been unjustifiably infringed, the judgment written by Karakatsanis J undermines the conclusion that constitutional powers prevent judicial review of the legislative process. He stated that this position leaves the law in a state of considerable uncertainty and invites Aboriginal peoples to return to the courts to identify what “other form of recourse” might be available as an alternative to the duty to consult in the legislative context.

Writing for himself along with Moldaver and Cote JJ, Rowe J affirmed the arguments articulated by Brown J, and elaborated on three further points. First, he indicated that Aboriginal claimants continue to have remedies pursuant to the SparrowHaida and Rio Tinto decisions once legislation is enacted. Second, he outlined how the recognition of the duty to consult in the legislative process could be disruptive to the legislative process and pointed to numerous questions that are raised by imposing a duty of consultation on legislatures. Finally, he argued that providing the Mikisew Cree with the declaration they sought would demand that courts become interventionist in a manner that is not in keeping with the principle of separation of powers.

Abella and Martin JJ articulated a different vision for the judicial review of the legislative process. Writing for both Martin J and herself, Abella J held that any consideration of the duty to consult must begin with the Honour of the Crown and the overriding goal of reconciliation. In that light, she stated that the Court must reconcile the need to protect the legislative process from judicial interference with the need to protect Aboriginal rights within the legislative process. Abella J acknowledged that recognizing the honour of the Crown and duty to consult in this context may impact the legislative process, but held that the need for adjustments could not justify the erasure of constitutionally mandated rights. She noted that section 35 was recognized as a constitutional limit on the exercise of parliamentary sovereignty in the Sparrow decision and objected to parliamentary sovereignty now being used as a shield to prevent a claim for consultation. Abella J’s reasons highlight the essential role that the honour of the Crown and the duty to consult play in reconciling Aboriginal and Crown sovereignty. Abella and Martin JJ reasoned that the courts ought to play a role in evaluating whether legislative processes are in keeping with the special relationship between Indigenous peoples and the Crown.

The full reasons of the Supreme Court of Canada can be found here and a short summary is provided here.

Case Watch for November 2016

FROM OUR PUBLICATIONS DESK

Case Watch

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

Equality rights of Métis children & families in child protection

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

Inadequate investigation of vote-buying allegations by INAC

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

Relevance of Aboriginal equity stake to remedy in consultation case –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Settlement approved in Newfoundland & Labrador school claims –

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

Tax Court’s exclusive jurisdiction over tax assessment challenges –

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

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

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

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This Case Watch blog post has been brought to you by the Native Law Centre in partnership with Pro Bono Students Canada – University of Saskatchewan

Case Watch for October 2016

FROM OUR PUBLICATIONS DESK

Case Watch

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

Jurisdiction of superior courts over transboundary Aboriginal rights

Uashaunnuat (Innus of Uashat and Mani-utenam) c Iron Ore Company of Canada, 2016 QCCS 5133 (in French only): The Superior Court of Quebec dismissed an application from the defendants to strike portions of the plaintiffs’ claims. The Innu plaintiffs are suing the defendants, a mining company and a railway company, for $900M in damages for alleged harms to their section 35 rights within their traditional territory, the Nitassinan, which covers a large portion of the Quebec-Labrador peninsula. The defendants argued that to the extent the plaintiffs’ claims relate to land outside Quebec’s borders, those claims are outside the jurisdictional competence of the Quebec Superior Court, as per the Quebec Civil Code. The claims are premised on asserted Aboriginal rights and title, as well as treaty rights. In determining this application, the Court noted the need to consider the Aboriginal perspective when addressing section 35 rights, the sui generis nature of these rights, and the fact that recognition of these rights is ancillary to the primary focus of this litigation, which is on damages. The Court also rejected forum non conveniens and Crown immunity arguments. It noted in the latter case that the section 35 rights of the Innu are existing rights, not rights created by the courts, and should therefore not differ as between Quebec and Labrador.

Freedom of expression in context to injunction application for blockade

Siksika Nation v Crowchief, 2016 ABQB 596: The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench granted the Siksika Nation an interlocutory injunction against a group of its members to prevent them from interfering with its contractor’s efforts to rebuild homes in an on reserve development. The respondent stated that his purpose for initiating the blockade was to draw attention to alleged issues of oversight, accountability and transparency with respect to the applicant’s use of financial resources on this project, among other things. The respondent invoked his Charter right to freedom of expression in defence of the protest and blockade. The Court found that the applicant was able to meet the test for an interlocutory injunction. The Court also held that the Charter did not apply in the circumstances, since the injunction was aimed at ensuring the applicant and its contractor could fulfill the terms of a private agreement, and the applicant was not seeking to prevent the respondents from pursuing legal avenues to express their dissent. The Court further concluded that the injunction would be a justifiable infringement of the respondents’ Charter rights even if the Charter had applied.

Annuity claims and the unique context of each Numbered Treaty –

Horseman v Canada, 2016 FCA 238: The Federal Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal from a Federal Court decision that declined to certify a proposed class proceeding for treaty annuities owed under each of the Numbered Treaties. The Federal Court had concluded that there was insufficient commonality between the circumstances of each treaty’s annuity clause for the purposes of a class action. The Court of Appeal upheld the decision and substantially agreed with the Federal Court’s analysis. It held that treaty interpretation requires an intensive inquiry into the mutual intent of the parties and the purposes for which they entered treaty. Due to the unique historical, cultural, and economic context surrounding each treaty, class proceedings would likely not have issues of commonality unless they were limited to a particular Numbered Treaty.

Admission of extrinsic evidence re: duty to consult on judicial review –

Sipekne’katik v Nova Scotia (Minister of Environment), 2016 NSSC 260: The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia allowed the admission of affidavit evidence beyond the record in a statutory appeal from ministerial approvals under Nova Scotia’s Environment Act. The approvals were for the development of an underground natural gas storage facility. Sipekne’katik claim Aboriginal and treaty rights to hunt and fish in the area where the project will be developed. The Court held that evidence beyond the record would only be admissible in exceptional circumstances, such as breaches of natural justice and procedural fairness. All parties relied on the Crown’s duty to consult falling within the broad heading of a “breach of procedural fairness” in order to argue that their respective affidavits were admissible. The Court noted that affidavit evidence would not be admissible merely because the honour of the Crown was raised as an issue. They must relate to the scope and content of the duty to consult and whether that duty has been fulfilled. Under this test the Court accepted all the affidavits, subject to the striking of some argumentative portions.

Injunction granted against logging blockade –

D.N.T. Contracting Ltd v Abraham, 2016 BCSC 1917: The Supreme Court of British Columbia granted a logging company’s application for an injunction prohibiting members of the Takla Lake First Nation (TLFN) from blocking, physically impeding, or delaying access to harvesting sites under a timber licence. Members of the TLFN stated that their burial sites and traditional territory were within the cut block boundaries of the licence. They also stated that TLFN receives a larger number of consultation referrals than they can manage due to their small size and financial management issues from previous administrators. TLFN indicated it was willing to negotiate with the applicant and allow the logging if accommodation could be reached. The Court held that the blockade constituted irreparable harm as further delays would threaten the economic standing of the company’s operations and harm it significantly. The Court held that TLFN should have brought its issues forward during the consultation process before the licences were approved, rather than threatening the administration of justice by blocking access to the harvesting sites long after the time for consultation had passed.

Appraisal of lease rates for on reserve recreational properties –

Schnurr v Canada, 2016 FC 1079: The Federal Court resolved three common issues in a class action lawsuit filed by a group of on reserve cottagers. The plaintiffs are disputing a rental increase proposal of up to 700% for each year of a five-year rental term. The primary issue was the appropriate methodology for determining the fair market rental value of the leased properties. The Court determined that the appropriate method was to consider comparable lease rates on comparable property. The Court sided with the plaintiffs’ real estate appraiser because of his greater knowledge of the subject property, and familiarity with the Saskatchewan market and the recreational lands in the province. It did not accept the argument that provincial park rates should be excluded from the calculation due to policy constraints on those rates.

Public interest standing on judicial review of Chief Coroner’s decision –

Blackjack v Yukon (Chief Coroner), 2016 YKSC 53: The Yukon Supreme Court dismissed an application to strike the Little Salmon Carmarks First Nation (LSCFN) from an application for judicial review on the basis that it had no standing. Theresa Blackjack and LSCFN jointly filed a petition for judicial review of the Chief Coroner’s decision to close an investigation into the death of Theresa’s daughter, Cynthia Blackjack, without ordering an inquest. The Chief Coroner asserted that LSCFN had no standing in relation to the subject matter of the petition. The Court concluded that LSCFN had public interest standing to proceed with the petition because LSCFN raised a serious justiciable issue, had a real stake or genuine interest in that issue, and the proposed suit was a reasonable and effective way to bring the issue before the courts.

Limitations period for negligence claim based on sexual assault:

Fox v Narine, 2016 ONSC 6499: The Ontario Superior Court of Justice dismissed an application to strike a statement of claim alleging that a shelter was negligently operated when the late plaintiff was sexually assaulted there. The plaintiff was subsequently murdered. The Court held that there was a sufficiently proximate relationship between the late plaintiff and the shelter where she was staying at the time of her assault. There was also no reason to override or limit the scope of the duty of care. The statutory provision that would allow this action to proceed was created to improve the protection that the law offers to victims of sexual violence. While a limitation period under the Trustee Act, 2002 would ordinarily have barred the claim from being brought more than two years after the plaintiff was killed, there is no limitation period under the Limitations Act, 2002 where an action is based on sexual assault. The more general statute must yield to the more specific one, which was the limitations legislation in this case.

Canada not estopped from estoppel argument in Treaty 8 tax litigation –

Tuccaro v Canada, 2016 FCA 259: The Federal Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal from an interlocutory order of the Tax Court of Canada. Mr. Tuccaro unsuccessfully sought to strike portions of Canada’s reply where it was asserted that he was estopped from asserting a treaty right to tax exemption under Treaty 8. Mr. Tuccaro argued that this issue was definitively addressed in a past Federal Court of Appeal decision in this litigation with respect to an appeal from another motion to strike, and Canada was therefore estopped from raising its estoppel argument. Both the Tax Court and the Federal Court of Appeal disagreed. The Court of Appeal did not find it plain and obvious that Canada would be estopped from raising its estoppel argument, especially considering the discretion that a trial judge maintains over whether it accepts such an argument. The Court of Appeal also suggested that Mr. Tuccaro’s argument could have grave consequences if it were accepted. It could force litigants to raise grounds that they know have no chance of meeting the stringent test for motions to strike in order to avoid potential issue estoppel arguments on those unpleaded grounds.

Duty to reference Gladue factors in reasons for sentence –

R v Wheatley, 2016 BCCA 397: The British Columbia Court of Appeal allowed an appeal from a sentence of 18 months imprisonment for breach of a residency requirement in a long-term supervision order. The sentencing judge made no mention at all of Mr. Wheatley’s Aboriginal background or his traumatic upbringing, although this was established during the sentencing hearing and the subject of submissions. The judge was clearly aware of the law, having been the sentencing judge for one of the sentences on appeal in the Supreme Court’s Ipeelee decision. However, the importance of Mr. Wheatley’s Aboriginal background and the traumas he suffered growing up appear to have been “lost in the shuffle” when it came to the imposition of a sentence. The Court of Appeal held that “[t]oday, reference to an Aboriginal offender’s circumstances should be seen as mandatory”. The sentencing judge erred in failing to particularly consider Mr. Wheatley’s Aboriginal circumstances and Gladue factors, resulting in an unfit sentence.

Gladue factors applied in determining whether s 24(1) of Charter supported curative discharge –

R v Daybutch, 2016 ONCJ 595: The Ontario Court of Justice ordered a curative discharge for Ms. Daybutch with respect to her convictions for impaired driving offences, finding it to be both appropriate for the defendant and in the public interest. Earlier in these proceedings the Court had concluded that Ontario was in violation of the s 15 equality rights of Indigenous people in Ontario by failing to request the proclamation into force of a curative discharge option for impaired driving offences. This decision on sentence adopted a remedial approach under s 24(1) of the Charter. The Court had before it a Gladue report on Ms. Daybutch that indicated how her offences related to the systemic and background factors she faced as an Aboriginal woman. The Court took the view that the use of a curative discharge where warranted for Aboriginal offenders would permit sentencing judges to act in a Charter-compliant manner in accordance with the Supreme Court’s directions in Gladue and Ipeelee.

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This Case Watch blog post has been brought to you by the Native Law Centre in partnership with Pro Bono Students Canada – University of Saskatchewan