Kennedy v Carry the Kettle First Nation, 2020 SKCA 32

Appeal allowed of a judicial review that quashed a customary decision to remove opposing members on a First Nation’s election code tribunal. The Federal Court of Canada had exclusive original jurisdiction pursuant to s 18 of the Federal Courts Act to hear and determine that application. 

Indigenous Law Centre – CaseWatch BlogThe Appellants are members of the Cega-Kin Nakoda Oyate Tribunal [“Tribunal”], an election tribunal established by the Cega-Kin Nakoda Oyate Custom Election Act [“Code”]. They, like the Respondents, [“opposing members”], were appointed as Tribunal members by the Chief and Council of the respondent, Carry the Kettle First Nation [“CKFN”]. The Code provides that the Tribunal shall have five members.

In 2019, the Appellants purported to make orders of the Tribunal [“Orders”] at certain meetings. The only attendees at those meetings were the Appellants, as the opposing members refused to attend, and never approved the Orders. Subsequently a resolution was passed at a joint meeting of the Appellants and a group of Elders [“Elders’ resolution”]. The Elders’ resolution established rules for the removal of Tribunal members and removed the opposing members from the Tribunal. The CKFN applied to the Court of Queen’s Bench for judicial review, challenging the validity of the Orders and the Elders’ resolution [“Application”]. The Chambers judge who heard that judicial review quashed the Orders and the Elder’s resolution. In this matter the Appellants appeal that decision to this Court. It has been determined that this appeal must be allowed, as the Federal Court of Canada had exclusive jurisdiction to hear the judicial review application.

After s 74 of the Indian Act order was rescinded in 2018 for the CKFN, their Code came into effect. The definition of “council of the band” in s 2(1) of the Indian Act provides that when a band is not subject to a s 74 order, and is not named or formerly named in the schedule to the First Nations Elections Act, “council of the band” means “the council chosen according to the custom of the band, or, if there is no council, the chief of the band chosen according to the custom of the band”.

None of the parties takes issue with the proposition that the Code constitutes “custom of the band” within the meaning of s 2, although they differ as to what constitutes custom. It is clear that a recently adopted election code may be custom for this purpose, despite that the authority to enact such a custom election code is not granted by the Indian Act or other federal legislation (Pastion v Dene Tha’ First Nation, [2019] 1 CNLR 343 [“Pastion”]). The custom of the band is not limited, and indeed may bear little resemblance, to historic customs, practices or traditions that existed prior to the Crown’s assertion of sovereignty. What the Indian Act describes as ‘custom’ is often the written product of public deliberation within a First Nation and it may rely on the mechanisms of Western democracy, or provide for a mechanism that blends Western democracy and Indigenous tradition (Pastion). The Code is such a document regardless of whether, as Pastion suggests, it might be more apt to describe it as “Indigenous legislation” or “Indigenous law”. The Code is effective for purposes of the Indian Act regardless of whether that is so.

The Code does not contain provisions which deal expressly with the issues of removal or replacement of Tribunal members. The Appellants resolved to hold a joint meeting with the Nation Elders to deal with those issues. That meeting [“Elders’ Meeting”], attended by the Appellants, and 26 Elders, unanimously supported the Elders’ resolution, which established criteria and a process for removing and replacing Tribunal members. This Elders’ resolution also provided that the three opposing members were “removed as Tribunal members effective immediately”.

In this matter, the Appellants submitted that both the Tribunal and the Elders’ Meeting were federal boards, commissions or tribunals [“Federal entity”] within the meaning of s 18 of the Federal Courts Act [“FCA”]. The Chambers judge did not deal with the question of whether the Tribunal and the Elders’ Meeting were Federal entities. On an appeal from a judicial review, the task of an appeal court is normally to determine whether the Chambers judge selected the correct standard of review and correctly applied that standard (Kawula v Institute of Chartered Accountants of Saskatchewan, 2017 SKCA 70; Dr Q v College of Physicians & Surgeons of British Columbia, 2003 SCC 19). It is concluded that this appeal should be disposed of on the basis of the jurisdictional question, which raises two issues: 1) did the learned Chambers judge err by deciding that the Court of Queen’s Bench had jurisdiction to hear the Application pursuant to s 22 of the Code; and 2) did the Chambers judge err by failing to decide that the Federal Court had exclusive original jurisdiction to hear the Application pursuant to s 18 of the FCA?

In this case, the conditions necessary to engage the right to apply pursuant to s 22 have not been met because the Application was filed by the CKFN. That, in itself, is enough to determine the issue. The Tribunal has not yet made a final decision as to the results of the election, therefore the CKFN could not bring the Application in the Court of Queen’s Bench pursuant to s 22 of the Code, and the Chambers judge did not have jurisdiction to hear the Application pursuant to that section.

The same reasoning applies to the Elders’ Meeting. The question is not whether those recognized as Elders by the Nation are a Federal entity whenever they play a role in the CKFN’s affairs. The question is whether the Elders’ Meeting had the authority to pass the Elders’ resolution. If the Elders’ Meeting had the authority it exercised or purported to exercise, it was because that authority was the custom of the band, and like the authority of the Tribunal, was made effective in this context. The Tribunal and the Elders’ Meeting were both Federal entities within the meaning of s 18 of the FCA. The Chambers judge erred by failing to decide that the Federal Court had exclusive original jurisdiction to hear the Application pursuant to s 18 of the FCA.

Ziprick v Simpson Estate, 2020 BCSC 401

The Plaintiff’s action is allowed. Companies and investors that had invested in a mobile home park are trespassing on a First Nation’s land. They did not comply with the rules set out in the Indian Act, specifically regarding non-band members seeking to engage in business activities on Indigenous lands.

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This trial was the culmination of numerous legal and other battles spanning over 30 years involving a 40-acre parcel of land [“Lands”] and a mobile home park known as “Creek Run Park” located on a portion of the Lands. The Lands are part of the Okanagan Indian Band [“OKIB”]. Various construction companies and other investors involved with the development of Creek Run Park have changed names, but the relevant parties will be referred to together as the “Companies”.

Over the past 26 years, the Companies have never obtained a registered head lease from the Minister of Indigenous Services on behalf of the federal Crown [“Crown”] authorizing the Creek Run Park to operate on the Lands. The Indian Act requires such a head lease for Creek Run Park to be constructed and operated. The Companies proceeded with development, construction and significant expansion of Creek Run Park on the expectation that a head lease would eventually be granted to them by the Crown. It never was.

The Plaintiffs are supported by the OKIB, and also hold the right to possession of the Lands under certificates of possession issued by the Crown under s 20(1) of the Indian Act. The Plaintiffs state the Companies have no legal right or other authority to be on the Lands and are therefore trespassing and seek various forms of damages.

While acknowledging that they have no legal right of possession of the Lands and Creek Run Park, the Companies assert that they relied on repeated assurances and agreements that a head lease would be formally agreed to and registered. Alternatively, they counterclaim against the plaintiffs seeking damages and other forms of relief on the basis of the equitable principles of promissory estoppel, unjust enrichment and quantum meruit.

The background and history of this dispute is complex and lengthy. Much of it is not in dispute and include hundreds of documents admitted into evidence by agreement that helpfully explain the chronology of events. The key issue from which all other claims and counterclaims flow is whether or not the Companies are trespassing on the Lands. The combination of the relevant legislation, well-established common law and agreed facts leads to the inescapable conclusion that the Companies are trespassing on the Lands.

Section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1982, places reserve lands under federal jurisdiction to be held by the Crown for the use and benefit of Indian bands. The use and management of these lands is governed by the Indian Act. There are clear provisions and a long line of authorities that establish that only the Crown may grant interests in reserve lands. Any non-band member occupying reserve land without being granted an interest by the Crown is in trespass (Indian Act, ss 20–29, 37–41, 58(3); The Queen v Devereux, [1965] SCR 567).

Neither the band nor any band members may enter into legally binding lease agreements and to the extent that they purport to do so, the agreements are void. Such informal arrangements (commonly referred to as “buckshee leases”), are illegal and unenforceable. Before granting a lease of lands held under a certificate of possession, the Crown is required to consult with the band, and consider and give weight to concerns and views of the band. This is done to protect the collective interest of the band in reserve lands that continues despite possession being allocated to individual members (Tsartlip Indian Band v Canada (Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development), [2000] 3 CNLR 386). What occurred in this case is precisely why it is important that the process set out in the Indian Act needs to be followed. Failure to do so can lead to the kinds of disputes the parties in this case have been engaged in for 26 years.

The Plaintiffs have proven that the Companies have always been trespassers on the Lands and are entitled to the orders they seek including a tracing order. Considering the whole of the evidence, damages ought to be awarded in favor of the in the sum of $250,000. While on first blush, the evidence suggests that the Plaintiffs have been enriched by the existence of Creek Run Park and its infrastructure, a closer look clouds the point. Instead of properly maintaining the operation to acceptable standards, the Companies essentially ran the operation into the ground and syphoned off as much money as they could pending the predictable outcome of this case. Even if the Plaintiffs have received a benefit, there was no corresponding deprivation to the Companies because they had to build the infrastructure in order to move forward with the development of Creek Run Park, the cost of which they have likely recovered over the years many times over.

This case is a prime example of what can happen when parties hopeful of developing reserve lands, short-circuit or attempt to bypass the process and protections of the Indian Act. Creek Run Park should never have begun, or any continuation of its construction, without securing a properly registered head lease. The Plaintiffs’ action is allowed and the Companies’ counterclaim is dismissed in its entirety.

Neshkiwe v Hare, 2020 ONCJ 42

Motion granted for the M’Chigeeng First Nation to be added as a party to the proceedings in keeping with the best interests of the child. This matter will eventually involve constitutional questions surrounding the children’s custody.

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Following the parent’s separation, an Indigenous mother left Toronto with her two children. Shortly after the father, who is also Indigenous but from a different community than the mother, launched an ex parte motion for temporary custody, that was granted. The ex parte motion ordered the children’s return to Toronto and for police assistance from various police forces to enforce this Court’s order. The mother and M’Chigeeng First Nation [“MFN”] advised the Court they intended to challenge the Court’s jurisdiction to make any orders for custody or access, asserting exclusive jurisdiction of the children.

In the meantime, the Court’s ex parte Order had not been followed. The father initially only served the Order for enforcement on UCCM Anishnaabe Police Service [“UCCM”] and did not serve it on OPP until the term for police enforcement was about to expire. The mother nor the MFN had prepared Notices of Constitutional Questions, while still raising a challenge and taking steps outside the Court consistent with that position. On December 5, the Court directed all Constitutional Question were to be served and filed before December 19 and granted leave to MFN to bring a motion to be added as a party to this proceeding. The enforcement term was stayed on a without prejudice basis.

MFN is asserting exclusive jurisdiction of the children. Both the mother and the MFN have advised the Court that they intend to challenge the Court’s jurisdiction to make any orders for custody or access. They anticipated advancing this claim based on an existing Aboriginal and Treaty right under s 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. However, neither has been pleaded, nor any Notices of Constitutional Question been served or filed. The mother also took the position that the Court lacked jurisdiction based on the application of an existing By-Law and a Band Council Resolution, both of which had been passed by the MFN, as an alternative legal basis from the anticipated section claims.

Until such arguments could be sorted out, a practical problem unfolded that still exists. The mother indicated to the Court that she would not comply with the Court’s Order. The MFN prohibited the father from coming onto its territory. UCCM refused to enforce the Order, as it had been instructed by the MFN to act in that fashion. The OPP, however, would enforce the Order, but brought the Court’s attention to certain potential negative consequences for the Court to consider. It was suggested to suspend the operation of the police enforcement term until the legal questions are resolved.

The Court has issued another Endorsement containing further directions for the conduct of this case and has asked that a litigation plan be presented. Regarding the police enforcement term, the Court stayed enforcement, which was about to expire anyway, on a without prejudice basis.

The overarching consideration in deciding to add the MFN as a party to the proceedings was in keeping with the best interests of the children. It was not seriously disputed that the First Nation should be added as a party. The s 35 claims have both individual and collective aspects to them. Adding the First Nation to the proceedings was also in the best interests of the children as they have a position to take and to offer evidence surrounding these particular children. Lastly, they have a legal interest. Once that position has been clarified after a full hearing, then they may call into question the Court’s jurisdiction.

Yahey v British Columbia, 2020 BCSC 278

Application granted. Blueberry River First Nations is not subject to paying the hearing fees regime in this trial. The Court grants a declaration that Item 10 of Schedule 1 in Appendix C of the Supreme Court Civil Rules is of no force and effect insofar as it requires Indigenous peoples who are seeking to uphold or protect their s 35(1) Aboriginal and/or treaty rights from alleged infringements, and who are required to do so through a trial, to pay daily hearing fees to the Crown as the defendant in any such action. If this Court is wrong in reading down the hearing fee provision in the way set out above, then it would exercise its discretion contained in Item 10 of Schedule 1 in Appendix C to order the Crown to pay the hearing fees in this action.

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This application arises in the context of an action brought by the Blueberry River First Nations [“Blueberry”] against Her Majesty the Queen in Right of the Province of British Columbia [“Crown”] alleging infringements of their rights under Treaty 8. It addresses the cumulative impacts of a variety of Crown authorized activities occurring in their traditional territory. In this application, Blueberry seeks to be relieved from paying the daily hearing fees prescribed by the Supreme Court Civil Rules [“Rules”] and set out in Appendix C, Schedule 1, at Item 10 for the duration of the trial of the underlying action.

The underlying trial is currently set for 160 days. For Blueberry, that means paying over $120,000 in hearing fees to the Crown. Rule 20-5(1) provides for a waiver of fees in certain circumstances. Blueberry seeks an order under Appendix C, Schedule 1, Item 10 of the Rules that the Crown defendant pay the daily hearing fees; or, in the alternative, a constitutional exemption from paying the hearing fees based on s 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982; or, if necessary, a declaration that the hearing fees are constitutionally inapplicable under s 52(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982 to the extent they are inconsistent with s 35(1). They do not seek a waiver of fees based on undue hardship under Rule 20-5(1).

The Crown, as the defendant in this s 35(1) treaty rights claim, cannot charge the plaintiff First Nations substantial fees for access to the court to seek to enforce the Crown’s own treaty obligations. This, Blueberry argues, is inconsistent with the honour of the Crown and the Crown’s duties under s 35(1) to promote reconciliation.

Reconciliation takes place both inside and outside the courtroom. While consultation and negotiation are the primary methods of reconciliation, courts also have a role to play. The parties will not always be able to resolve the issues, and courts will be called on to determine rights and the attaching obligations. In the Aboriginal context, when considering statutes or rules that may bar, prevent or impede Indigenous peoples’ ability to pursue their claims, reconciliation must weigh heavily in the balance (Manitoba Métis Federation Inc v Canada (AG), [2013] 2 CNLR 281).

None of the cases relied on by the Crown dealt with s 35(1) in the context of hearing fees, or considered the impacts on Crown-Indigenous relations, the honour of the Crown, or reconciliation more broadly from charging such fees. This is the first case to consider the constitutionality of hearing fees from that perspective.

This Court does not agree with the Crown’s argument that recognizing the uniqueness of s 35(1) rights, and relieving litigants who seek to advance these rights of the obligation to pay hearing fees, would somehow be establishing a preferential system of access to justice. The charge of a substantial fee, which ultimately is for the Crown’s own benefit, to access the court to seek to uphold a constitutionally protected treaty right is antithetical to the purpose of s 35(1), the principle of honour of the Crown, and the objective of reconciliation. The fee creates an additional obstacle for Indigenous litigants whose claims often require long trials. It is apparent that requiring litigants who are pursuing cases dealing with s 35(1) to pay a hearing fee is in effect an advance that is paid by Indigenous peoples.

The requirement to pay daily hearing fees creates inequality in litigation in these circumstances and is inconsistent with the shared responsibility for reconciliation which is the overarching objective of s 35(1). The fees create unfairness, imposes financial obstacles to litigation (which can become significant in long trials), and reinforces the idea that the promise in s 35 still comes with strings attached. The Court can draw a legitimate distinction for Indigenous peoples in these circumstances based on the Crown’s unique obligation to Aboriginal people, and the unique status of Aboriginal and treaty rights in the Constitution Act, 1982.

Dilico Anishinabek Family Care v Her Majesty the Queen (Ontario), 2020 ONSC 892

Motion for stay dismissed. The applicants have not discharged their burden to show that they, or Indigenous children, will suffer irreparable harm if a stay of the Minister’s Directive and Designations is not granted.

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This motion is for a stay. These proceedings involve a long-standing jurisdictional dispute between two representative Indigenous groups in northwestern Ontario over who should be permitted to provide child and family services in the City and District of Thunder Bay. The Minister of Children, Community and Social Services [“Minister”] issued designations authorizing three children’s aid societies to provide the full range of child and family services in Thunder Bay. At the same time, the Minister issued a directive providing that: a) Dilico Anishinabek Family Care [“Dilico”] will provide services to all Indigenous children and families other than Indigenous children from First Nations affiliated with Tikinagan Child and Family Services; b) Tikinagan will provide services to children and families from Tikinagan-affiliated First Nations; and c) the Children’s Aid Society [“CAS”] of Thunder Bay will provide services to non-Indigenous children and families [“Directive and Designations”].

Dilico was incorporated in 1986 by the Robinson Superior Treaty First Nations and granted authority in 1994 by a group of 12 First Nations to provide child protection services to Indigenous children and families in Thunder Bay. Dilico has operated as a designated CAS since 1995 under what is now the Child, Youth and Family Services Act [“CYFSA”]. Initially, Dilico’s designation restricted it to exercising powers as a CAS only over those members of the Dilico-affiliated First Nations residing in the City and District of Thunder Bay, together with powers over all children residing on specified reserve lands. In 2012, Dilico entered into a memorandum of understanding [“MOU”] with the Thunder Bay CAS. Under the MOU, Dilico assumed child protection jurisdiction over not only Dilico-affiliated First Nation children, but all Indigenous children in Thunder Bay.

Tikinagan Child and Family Services [“Tikinagan”] was incorporated in 1984 through the efforts of the 49 Chiefs of Nishnawbe Aski Nation which represents many First Nations across northwestern Ontario. In 1986, Tikinagan was given approved agency status by the Ministry and, in 1987, received its designation as a CAS. Tikinagan’s geographical area includes most of northwestern Ontario including parts of the District of Kenora and the northwest portion of the District of Thunder Bay. Tikinagan has the authority to offer the full range of child and family services within its territorial jurisdiction.

Dilico and the Fort William First Nation brought applications for judicial review seeking to set aside the Directive and Designations of the Minister on various constitutional and administrative law grounds, which will be heard at a later date. The applicants’ also motioned for a stay of the Directive and Designations; below are the reasons for the dismissal.

The court must consider three cumulative factors in determining whether to grant a stay: 1) whether there is a serious issue to be tried; 2) whether the moving party would suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a stay; and 3) whether the balance of convenience as between the parties favours granting the stay, in the sense that the harm that will be suffered by the moving party if the stay is not granted outweighs the harm that will be suffered by the responding party if it is (RJR-MacDonald Inc v Canada (AG), [1994] 1 SCR 311 [“RJR-MacDonald”]).

Cases involving child welfare or child custody require a modification to this approach to the three-part RJR-MacDonald test. The overriding consideration in such cases is the best interests of the child. In this matter, the Minister, the Thunder Bay CAS and the two Indigenous CASs operate within a statutory framework which makes the best interests of the child paramount. Section 1(1) of the CYFSA provides that the “paramount purpose of this Act is to promote the best interests, protection and well-being of children.” The applicants have, asserted grounds for judicial review of the Directive and Designations which are not frivolous. There are serious issues which can only be resolved in a full hearing. The applicants have, therefore, satisfied the first aspect of the RJR MacDonald test.

The Court concluded that the applicants have not discharged their burden to show that they, or Indigenous children, will suffer irreparable harm if a stay of the Directive and Designations is not granted. This conclusion is sufficient to dispose of the motion. However, there are other factors which tip the balance against a stay in any event. The public interest also includes a public interest in the legitimacy of public institutions. The public interest therefore includes a high level of respect for the decisions of the legislative and executive branches of government. The courts have limited institutional competence to interfere with those decisions. The courts have a supervisory role to play, but should be wary of usurping legislative and executive roles, particularly where they lie at the policy end of the decision-making spectrum (Hupacasath First Nation v British Columbia (Minister of Forests), 2005 BCSC 345; RJR-MacDonald).

At the end of the day, the balance of convenience weighs in favour of refusing the stay and, pending the disposition of the applications for judicial review, advancing the goal of providing child welfare services to Tikinagan-affiliated children and their families in a culturally appropriate manner. The applicants’ onus of showing that the balance of convenience favours granting the stay has also not been discharged.

 

Solomon v Garden River First Nation, 2019 FC 1505

Judicial review granted. There was a breach of procedural fairness in the process followed by the Chief and Council that led to the Applicants being banished from Garden River First Nation. The matter is remitted for reconsideration.

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The Chief and Council of Garden River First Nation [“GRFN”] issued a series of Band Council Resolutions [“BCRs”] banning Kody John William Solomon and Ralph Justin Romano [“the Applicants”] from GRFN territory. On this application, the Applicants seek judicial review of these BCRs and the process undertaken by the Chief and Council.

GRFN is governed by an elected Chief and Council who are responsible for the governance of the Nation and its approximately 3,000 members. One of the applicants have resided there his whole life, another non-member has lived on GRFN for 19 years with his member spouse and teenage daughter. The Applicants were banished as they had been charged with offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and that “illegal drugs have caused great harm to Garden River and its members,” and “allowing [the Applicants] to remain in Garden River may cause harm to Garden River and its members or endanger public safety.”

There is no dispute that the initial 2018 BCRs were issued by GRFN’s Chief and Council without the opportunity for any input from the Applicants, nor did they have notice. The right to a fair hearing requires that the Applicants have adequate notice of the case against them and sufficient opportunity to respond before a decision adverse to their interests was made (Charkaoui v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2007 SCC 9). Given the serious consequences of the banishment decisions, the degree of procedural fairness owned to the Applicants is heightened.

It appears GRFN’s Council itself recognized flaws in the process undertaken. By-Law 20 was adopted subsequently after the BCRs in 2018. The major differences from By-Law 13 are that it allows the Band Council to banish members of GRFN and persons deemed to be threats to the peace and safety of the Band or other people lawfully on the reserve. By-Law 20 provides a process that is clearly tailored to address the particular circumstances of the Applicants, a member and a non-member of GRFN who were charged with a criminal offence. However, there was still no reconsideration of the original decision to banish the Applicants in the BCRs issued in 2019. Rather it appears the GRFN Council simply passed the new By-Law and considered it to have rectified any issues with the previous BCRs from 2018.

The case law is clear that issues of procedural fairness are considered on a correctness standard (Canadian Pacific Railway Company v Canada (AG), 2018 FCA 69). The test for assessing if the process was fair, is to ask whether a right-minded person, applying themselves to the question and obtaining the required information, would think it is more likely than not that the decision-maker did not decide fairly (Baker v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 1999 SCC 699 [“Baker”]). The factors outlined in Baker for assessing procedural fairness include: 1) the nature of the decision and the process followed in making it; the nature of the statutory scheme; 2) the importance of the decision to the individuals affected; 3) the legitimate expectations of the person challenging the decision; and 4) the choice of procedure made by the agency itself.

Considering that By-Law 20 appears to have been crafted to address the specific circumstances of the Applicants, they had a legitimate expectation that the process laid out in By-Law 20 would be followed. When the Baker factors are considered in conjunction with the reasonable apprehension of bias, it is clear that there was a breach of the Applicants’ right to procedural fairness. The evidence demonstrates a continuing course of conduct on the part of GRFN’s Council who never undertook the promised reconsideration of the original banishment decision. The 2019 BCRs were simply a reissue of the original 2018 banishments under the new By-Law. The decision-making process that led to the Council’s 2019 decision was procedurally unfair because the Council made up its mind in 2018. From that point, GRFN Council defended its original decision rather than engage in a true reconsideration.

Engstrom and Ragan v Peters First Nation Band Council, 2020 FC 286

Application allowed. Peters First Nation Band Council is ordered to take all steps necessary to grant full Band memberships to the Applicants.

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The Peters First Nation Band Council [“Council”] rejected the Applicants’ respective applications for band membership. This matter is the second application for judicial review seeking relief in connection with the denial of their memberships.

The first application was granted, but the Court declined to express an opinion about the merits of the Council’s decision in denying membership to the Applicants. However, it was found that the Council had acted unfairly by failing to inform them in advance of the factors that would be taken into account in deciding their applications. There was also concern regarding the Council’s failure to provide substantive reasons for its decision. The matter was accordingly remitted to Council for reconsideration, but once again, the applications were refused.

The Court was not able to ascertain the exact motives of the Council for denying Band memberships to the Applicants. It can assess, however, the Council’s stated reasons for denying those memberships to determine whether those reasons had the mark of rationality, intelligibility and justification. The focus of judicial review is on the reasons provided by the decision-maker in support of its decision. According to the Supreme Court of Canada, reasonableness review “must be on the decision actually made”, not the reasons that could have been made (Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v Vavilov, 2019 SCC 65 [“Vavilov”]). Robust judicial review is about outcomes and a decision-maker’s reasoning process in getting to an outcome. Both must be reasonable in light of the legal and factual constraints that bear on the decision. A primary legal constraint is the governing statutory scheme. It is not open to a decision-maker to disregard the applicable rules. There is no such thing as absolute or untrammelled discretion (Roncarelli v Duplessis, [1959] SCR 121).

A decision-maker may have some room to interpret the rules that apply to a matter before it but that exercise must be consistent with the text, context and purpose of the provision (Vavilov). Where the words employed are precise and unequivocal, their ordinary meaning will usually be determinative. It is not open to the decision-maker to adopt an “inferior” interpretation merely because it is plausibly available and expedient; or to “reverse-engineer” to get to a desired outcome (Vavilov). The express governing rules that apply to the Council’s membership decisions are contained in the Peters Indian Band Membership Code [“Code”]. The Code was adopted by the Band in 1990 and replaced the band membership provisions that had been previously contained in the Indian Act.

In rejecting the applications of the Applicants, it is clear that the Council did not consider itself bound by the membership criteria set out in the Code. It was not open to the Council to make up its own membership rules to supplement the explicit criteria that were adopted in 1990 when the Band took control of its memberships. The Council has acted unlawfully, unfairly and in bad faith in rejecting the membership applications of the Applicants. The Council has repeatedly shown itself to be unfit to decide these matters and there is no reasonable expectation that fairness and reason will prevail if this matter is remitted to the Council again. The Council is directed to take all the steps necessary to grant full Band memberships to the Applicants.

R v TLC, 2019 BCPC 314

After weighing the sentencing principles with information provided by a Gladue report, a conditional discharge with 18 months of probation was imposed for the guilty plea of three offenses.

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TLC pled guilty to two assaults on her boyfriend and a breach of bail by having contact with him contrary to ss 266 and 145(3) of the Criminal Code. The Crown and Defence counsel agreed on what the appropriate sentencing for the offence should have been and collaborated to recommend a joint submission for a suspended sentence with an 18-month period of probation. An alternative method of placing the accused on probation would have been a conditional discharge which, would have prevented them from having a criminal record. When deciding whether the joint submission was appropriate, it was determined that the Court should only depart from a joint submission where “the proposed sentence would be viewed by reasonable and informed persons as a breakdown in the proper functioning of the justice system” (R v Anthony-Cook, [2016] 2 SCR 204). However, as this case involved an Indigenous offender, the Court found it necessary to evaluate whether there was “enough information to impose a fit sentence that properly considers the Indigenous circumstances of that particular Indigenous accused.”

There was a Gladue report written for TLC. It outlined that the offender was a First Nations woman who was not directly raised with her culture. Her mother was abused when she attended residential school. TLC was abused as a child and grew up with violence in her home. TLC was a victim of domestic assault and had been receiving trauma counselling and therapy. She also was two subjects away from completing grade 12 and had completed the Indigenous Tourism Ambassadors program through the Indigenous Community for Leadership and Development. The Court recognized numerous aggravating factors, including the violence perpetrated against TLC from a male and the repeated victimization that she faced throughout her life. Deterrence, denunciation and rehabilitation were also considered as the offender was charged with spousal assault. It was decided that TLC had truly turned her life around and giving her a criminal record would not serve the public interest; therefore, a conditional discharge with 18 months of probation was imposed.

R v Robinson, 2019 BCPC 273

Defendant found guilty. The Wabalisla Street on the Bella Bella Indian Reserve is a road within the definition of a “highway” as set out in the Motor Vehicle Act.

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The defendant was charged with driving while prohibited, contrary to s 95(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act [“MVA”]. The issue was whether the Crown proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Wabalisla Street located on Bella Bella Indian Reserve is a road within the definition of a “highway” as set out in the legislation. The analysis fell into two areas of consideration: 1) was the road designated or intended for or used by the general public for the passage of vehicles, and 2) are Aboriginal persons living on a reserve members of the general public.

The defence argued the reserve is in essence a closed community and any others who might use the street do so only to the extent which is incidental to the ownership of reserve property. Further, as the community is only accessible by water or air, any of the roads are thus precluded from the characteristics of a public highways within the meaning of the MVA. Bella Bella is a final destination, not a point of passage from one destination to another.

Albeit, there was investment in the network of transportation infrastructure that the community has either expressed or implied invitation to the general public to drive on their roads. The pursuit of tourism gave additional weight to this conclusion. There are numerous community-based resources along this roadway. It has traffic signs, is paved and is passable by two conventional cars. All persons are welcome on the reserve without restrictions or regulations. The defence also submitted that as the community had enacted their own by-law for the regulation and use of vehicles on their reserve pursuant to s 81(1)(f) of the Indian Act, this was evidence of their intent not to be subject to the MVA.

The fact that the community has a parallel regulatory by-law is not demonstrative that they have thus occupied the field through their regulations governing driving nor does it establish an intention not to be bound by the MVA. The defence says that a reserve road used by reserve residents is not a public road and is therefore, not a highway under the MVA. The Crown submits that the definition of a “highway” under the MVA, has use by the general public, which includes those Aboriginal members living on a reserve. The legislative purpose of s 95(1) of the MVA is to provide public protection against those prohibited from driving. The 1800 residents of the Bella Bella Reserve is not a trivial number of people. Collectively, they constitute the “general public”. There is nothing in the MVA that excludes individuals living on a reserve to be considered part of the general public. Therefore, the Crown has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Wabalisla Street in Bella Bella is a highway under the MVA.

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).