UN Rules That Canada’s Indian Act Discriminates Against First Nations Women

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Human Rights Committee, Views adopted by the Committee under article 5(4) of the Optional Protocol, concerning communication No. 2020 / 2010. (View decision here)

This case involved a claim by Ms. Sharon McIvor, and her son Mr. Jacob Grismer (the authors) against the State of Canada for violation of their rights under articles 3 and 26, read in conjunction with article 27. On September 1985, Ms. McIvor applied for registration status for herself and her children under the Indian Act (“Act”), as Indian status under the Act confers significant tangible and intangible benefits. The Registrar for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada determined that she was entitled to registration under s.6(2) of the Act and not s.6(1). Although they are descendants of Mary Tom, a First Nations woman born in 1888, at birth Ms. McIvor was initially not eligible for Indian status, as the claim would be based on matrilineal descent. She filed a statutory appeal against the decision.

The British Columbia Supreme Court indicated that s.6 of the Indian Act discriminated on the grounds of sex and marital status between matrilineal and patrilineal descendants born prior to April, 1985 and against Indian women who had married non-Indian men. On appeal, The British Columbia Court of Appeal narrowed the declaration of the British Columbia Supreme Court, finding that s.6 of the 1985 Indian Act was discriminatory, but only to the extent that it grants individuals to who the double-mother rule applied greater rights than they would have had under the pre-1985 legislation. They only found discrimination to a small subset of descendants of male Indians. Leave to appeal was refused without reasons.

Following the passage of the Indian Act, and with the intention to eliminate sex discrimination, it was alleged by Canada that Ms. McIvor could now achieve full Indian status. She contended, however, that being ineligible for Indian status under s.6(1)(a), she still does not receive the full protection of Indian status. Under her s.6(1)(c) registration, she is only able to transmit partial status to her son Jacob and is unable to transmit Indian status to her grandchildren. In contrast, her brother is eligible for full s.6(1)(a) registration status and can transmit his full status to his children. As well, Mr. Grismer, having married a woman with no First Nations ancestry, does not have standing to pass status to his children.

The authors alleged that s.6 of the 1985 Indian Act violates article 26 and article 27 in conjunction with articles 2(1) and 3 of the Covenant (reproduced below for reference) in that it discriminates on grounds of sex against matrilineal descendants and Indian women born prior to April 17, 1985. As a result of the sex-based hierarchy of this status regime, McIvor expressed a sense of stigmatization amongst Indigenous communities from women who do not have s.6(1)(a) status. Mr. Grismer also expressed a sense of isolation from not being s.6(1)(a) eligible, as he is unable to participate fully in hunting and fishing activities.

In respect of article 27, as read in conjunction with articles 2(1) and 3, the authors argued that the capacity to transmit cultural identity is a key component of cultural identity itself. S.6 has the effect of denying female ancestors and their descendants the right to full enjoyment of their cultural identity on an equal basis between men and women, in violation of article 27, read along with articles 2(1) and 3 of the Covenant.  Finally, in respect of article 2(3)(a), the authors also argued that the State had failed to provide the authors with an effective remedy for the violation of their rights under articles 26 and 27 in conjunction with articles 2(1) and 3. The only effective remedy will be one which has eliminated the preference for male Indians and their patrilineal descent and confirms the entitlement of matrilineal descendants.

In response, Canada argued that in respect of articles 26, 2(1) and 3, that the Indian Act does not create classes of Indians. On the contrary, the paragraphs in section 6(1) of the 1985 Indian Act are essentially transitional provisions, indicating for persons born before 1985, and how eligibility moves from the 1951 Indian Act registration regime to the 1985 Act, and now the 2011 criteria. Therefore, Ms. McIvor is eligible for status under the criteria of s.6(1)(c), her son is eligible based on the criteria under s.6(1)(c.1) and his children are eligible under the criteria set out in s.6(2). All individuals with status are treated the same in respect of legal rights. According to Canada, what the authors seek would potentially involve descendants of many generations removed from the female ancestor who initially suffered discrimination based on sex. The State party is not obligated to rectify discriminatory Acts that pre-dated the coming into force of the Covenant. Moreover, as of November 29, 2017, a new Bill S-3 extends eligibility for status to all descendants who have lost status because of their marriage to a non-Indian man. These provisions are subject to a delayed coming into force clause allowing for consultation with First Nations and other Indigenous groups.

Ms. McIvor and Mr. Grismer contend that although the 1985 Act was amended in 2011, it still excludes from eligibility for registration status Indigenous women and their descendants, who otherwise would be entitled to register if sex discrimination were completely eradicated from the scheme. They also contend that there is more than one Indian status, as s.6(1)(a) status is superior and comes with greater intangible benefits than s.6(1)(c) or s.6(2).

In respect of article 27, Canada argued that the authors have not adequately claimed or substantiated a violation of their right to enjoy their culture. Specifically, they have failed to substantiate any violation of their right to enjoy the particular culture of their Indigenous group. Indian status is but one facet of the identity for those that are eligible. The legislated scheme does not and cannot confer personal dignity. The authors, however, argued that they have sufficiently demonstrated a right to equal exercise and enjoyment of their culture, in particular their right to the full enjoyment of their Indigenous cultural identity and that the effect of the law is to exclude the authors from their right to transmit their culture along matrilineal lines.

The Committee found this issue admissible, as the essence of the authors’ claim rests in the alleged discrimination inherent to the eligibility criteria in s.6 of the Indian Act, despite the fact that the loss of status occurred before the entry into force of the Covenant. Additionally, while the alleged harm is argued not to flow from the State laws, the Committee accepted the authors’ contention that the discriminatory effects arose out of the State’s regulation of Indian registration. Other allegations of the State are dismissed with reference to the Committee’s prior jurisprudence.

In considering the merits of the decisions, the Committee made several notes from the arguments above. Of importance are the notes of (1) the authors’ argument that as a consequence of discrimination based on sex in the Indian Act, they have been stigmatized within their community and denied full opportunity to enjoy their culture with the other members of their Indigenous group and that (2) the authors’ argument that the State’s century-old unilateral defining of who is an Indian has led Indigenous people to view legal entitlement to registration status as confirmation or validation of their “Indian-ness”. The Committee further recalled the General comment No. 23, that article 27 establishes and recognizes a right which is conferred on individuals belonging to Indigenous groups, which is distinct from the other rights all persons are entitled to under the Covenant.

In light of these arguments, and from weighing them against the principles articulated above, the Committee found that under article 5(4) of the Optional Protocol, that the facts disclose a violation by the State party of the authors’ rights under articles 3 and 26. Canada is therefore under an obligation to provide the authors with an effective remedy.

See here for a copy of the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

Article 26All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Article 27: In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, or to use their own language.

Article 2: 1. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Article 3: The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights set forth in the present Covenant.

 

Canada (Canadian Human Rights Commission) v Canada (AG), 2018 SCC 31

Appeal dismissed. Tribunal decisions stand that the complaints were a direct attack on legislation. Legislation not a service under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

This appeal concerns several complaints alleging that Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (“INAC”) engaged in a discriminatory practice in the provision of services contrary to Section 5 of the Canadian Human Rights Act (“CHRA”). This section prohibits, among other things, the making of discriminatory distinctions in the provision of services customarily available to the general public. The Indian Act, since its enactment in 1876, has governed the recognition of an individual’s status as an “Indian”. The Indian Act has a registration system under which individuals qualify for this status on the basis of an exhaustive list of eligibility criteria. It is incontrovertible that status confers both tangible and intangible benefits. INAC denied a form of registration under the Indian Act that the complainants would have been entitled to if past discriminatory policies, now repealed, had not been enacted.

In two separate decisions, Matson v Canada (Indian and Northern Affairs), 2013 CHRT 13 and Andrews v Canada (Indian and Northern Affairs), 2013 CHRT 21 (“Andrews”), the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (“Tribunal”) determined that the complaints were a direct attack on the Indian Act. On the basis that legislation is not a service under the CHRA, it dismissed the complaints. On judicial review, both the Federal Court ([2015] 3 CNLR 1) and the Federal Court of Appeal ([2016] 4 CNLR 1), found that the Tribunal decisions were reasonable and should be upheld. Two issues were before this Court: (1) whether deference is owed to a human rights tribunal interpreting its home statute and (2) whether the Tribunal’s decisions dismissing the complaints as direct attacks on legislation were reasonable.

On the first issue, where an administrative body interprets its home statute, there is a well-established presumption that the reasonableness standard applies. In applying the standard of review analysis, there is no principled difference between a human rights tribunal and any other decision maker interpreting its home statute. Where an administrative body interprets its home statute, the reasonableness standard applies Dunsmuir v New Brunswick, 2008 SCC 9 (“Dunsmuir”). In both of its decisions, the Tribunal was called upon to characterize the complaints before it and ascertain whether a discriminatory practice had been made out under the CHRA. This falls squarely within the presumption of deference. The Tribunal clearly had the authority to hear a complaint about a discriminatory practice, and the question of what falls within the meaning of “services” is no more exceptional than questions previously found by the Court not to be true questions of jurisdiction.

A contextual analysis would not rebut the presumption in this case. Where the presumption of reasonableness applies, the contextual approach should be applied sparingly in order to avoid uncertainty and endless litigation concerning the standard of review analysis. The presumption of reasonableness was intended to prevent litigants from undertaking a full standard of review analysis in every case. This Court may eventually find it necessary to revisit the standard of review framework. However, dissatisfaction with the current state of the law is no reason to ignore the precedents following Dunsmuir. Where a contextual analysis may be justified to rebut the presumption, it need not be a long and detailed one. Changes to “foundational legal tests” are not clear indicators of legislative intent, and do not warrant the application of the contextual approach or, by extension, correctness review. Nor does the absence of a privative clause, the fact that other administrative tribunals may consider the CHRA, the potential for conflicting lines of authority, or the nature of the question at issue and the purpose of the Tribunal.

On the second issue, the adjudicators reasonably concluded that the complaints before them were properly characterized as direct attacks on legislation, and that legislation in general did not fall within the meaning of “services”. Although human rights tribunals have taken various approaches to making a distinction between administrative services and legislation, this is a question of mixed fact and law squarely within their expertise, and they are best situated to develop an approach to making such distinctions.

The adjudicator in Andrews noted that the sui generis nature of Parliament’s power to legislate is inconsistent with the characterization of law-making as a public service and that law-making does not have the transitive connotation necessary to identify a service customarily offered to the public. Parliament is not a service provider and was not providing a service when it enacted the registration provisions of the Indian Act. Law-making is unlike any of the other terms listed in s 5 as it does not resemble a good, facility or accommodation. It is sui generis in its nature. This is confirmed by the powers, privileges and immunities that Parliament and the Legislatures possess to ensure their proper functioning, which are rooted in the Constitution. The dignity, integrity and efficient functioning of the Legislature is preserved through parliamentary privilege which, once established, is afforded constitutional status and is immune from review. The disposition of this appeal, however, says nothing as to whether the Indian Act infringes the rights of the complainants under s 15 of the Charter. In this regard, there have been two successful challenges to the Indian Act registration provisions, both of which have prompted legislative reform (Descheneaux v Canada (Attorney General) [2016] 2 CNLR 175 (QCCS); McIvor v Canada (Indian and Northern Affairs, Registrar), [2009] 2 CNLR 236 (BCCA).

Furthermore, Parliament can be distinguished from the administrative decision makers that operate under legislative authority. These individuals and statutory bodies, which include the Registrar, may be “service providers”, or entities that provide services customarily available to the general public. If they use their statutory discretion in a manner that effectively denies access to a service or makes an adverse differentiation on the basis of a prohibited ground, s 5 will be engaged. But, when their job is simply to apply legislated criteria, the challenge is not to the provision of services, but to the legislation itself (Public Service Alliance of Canada v Canada Revenue Agency, 2012 FCA 7). The complaints did not impugn the means by which the Registrar had processed their applications, but substantively targeted the eligibility criteria that the Registrar was required to apply. Both Tribunal decisions stand on their own merits.

MRC de Roussillon v MRN, 2017 QCCS 3744

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

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

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

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

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

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

Lac Seul First Nation v Canada, 2017 FC 906

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rosemary Lamb v Her Majesty the Queen 2018 NBQB 213

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

A woman who acquired Indian status within the meaning of the Indian Act through marriage does not lose registered status as a result of divorce. Powley does not require courts to apply the Powley factors each time a person purporting to be Indian within the meaning of the Indian Act comes before the court.

In Rosemary Lamb, the Queen’s Bench of New Brunswick considered whether Ms. Lamb, a Caucasian woman who had acquired Indian status within the meaning of the Indian Act through marriage to Mr. Augustine, an Aboriginal man, continued to retain such status following her divorce. Prior to their marriage Ms. Lamb had two children with Mr. Augustine. The two were subsequently married in 1984 and divorced shortly thereafter. In 2017, Ms. Lamb was convicted for hunting moose out of season. Ms. Lamb contended that she continues to have hunting rights that flow from her Indian status with the Burnt Church First Nation. Overturning the trial decision, the Court held that her Indian status had been obtained in 1979 when she married Mr. Augustine, and continues even after divorce.

The trial court held that the Powley criteria must be applied to the evidence to determine the Aboriginal identity at law. The criteria includes Aboriginal ancestry, cultural awareness and community acceptance. Ms. Lamb, a self-represented litigant, did not provide any meaningful evidence of Aboriginal ancestry nor was she meaningfully connected to the Burnt Church First Nation community. Since she could not prove Aboriginal ancestry or cultural awareness, the trial court determined that Ms. Lamb was not an “Indian” within the meaning of the Indian Act.

In this appeal, however, the Court held that the trial court had made an error of law resulting from an incomplete legislative history. After reviewing the history of statutes governing Aboriginal identity at law (omitted here), the Court observed that as the wife of a person entitled to be registered, pursuant to s.11(1)(f) of the Indian Act, Ms. Lamb continues to be registered as an “Indian” within the meaning of the Indian Act even after her divorce. The general principle in Bernard asserts that Aboriginal rights are to be governed by the existence of a historic and present community and may only be governed by virtue of an individual’s ancestrally-based membership in the present community. It was also noted that the Bernard case allows for Aboriginal rights to be provided where an ancestral connection can be made out based on “other means”. In the Court’s opinion, marriage falls into this category. Failing to see any removal of membership provision of the Indian Act that provides for the removal of people from their Aboriginal rights, the Court concluded that Ms. Lamb must continue to retain her Indian status and the guilty conviction was set aside.

Gift Lake Métis Settlement v Alberta, 2018 ABQB 58

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

The Applicants’ claim that the membership provisions in ss 75, 90 and 91 of the Métis Settlements Act of Alberta are invalid due to the principle interjurisdictional immunity, is dismissed.

The Métis Settlements Act of Alberta, Chapter M-14 (MSA) provides for limitations on settlement membership, including an automatic termination provision under which membership automatically terminates if a person voluntarily registers as an Indian under the Indian Act. The Applicants are three former members of the Gift Lake Métis Settlement, whose memberships were terminated after each voluntarily registered as an Indian under the Indian Act to access health benefits. They asked for a declaration that certain membership sections of the MSA, are, in pith and substance, laws in relation to “Indians or Lands reserved for the Indians” and therefore outside provincial legislative competence, under section 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867.

The doctrine of interjurisdictional immunity does not apply to the impugned membership provisions of the MSA as their pith and substance can be related to a matter that falls within the jurisdiction of the Alberta legislature. Further, the impact of these provisions does not impair the core power of the federal government under s. 91(24). Also, there is no principled basis on which the doctrine of interjurisdictional immunity would have applied only to the impugned sections. Because the membership provisions are integral to the operation and purpose of the legislation, had the doctrine applied, it would have applied to the whole MSA, rendering the MSA entirely inapplicable to Alberta’s Métis population. Consequently, this group would have lost the benefits and protections the MSA affords them. Additionally, it would have would have created a legislative vacuum, as there is no corresponding federal legislation that would fill the void.

Unlike Indians, with whom the Federal Crown made treaties and granted reservations and other benefits, the Métis communities were not given a collective reservation or land base. They also did not enjoy the protection of the Indian Act, or any equivalent. Under the Accord, the Alberta government granted the Métis Settlements General Council fee simple title to the lands now occupied by eight Métis communities and passed legislation, including the MSA to protect Métis rights.

The MSA contains membership eligibility and termination provisions. An Indian registered under the Indian Act is not eligible to apply for membership in the Métis community except in limited circumstances, none of which apply in this case. Further, s. 90(1)(a) provides that if a person voluntarily becomes registered as an Indian under the Indian Act, that person’s Métis settlement membership terminates. There has been an amendment to the MSA in 2004, making the automatic termination provisions of s. 90 subject to a Métis Settlements General Council Policy that “provides otherwise”. However, there has been no alternative provision policy made so far that would alter the automatic termination provisions. As well, at this time, there is no way for the Applicants to withdraw their registration under the Indian Act.

The MSA recognizes and promotes the preservation of the distinct Métis culture and identity apart from other Aboriginal groups. The impugned provisions are necessary to achieve this objective. These sections only act to exclude specific individuals from membership in settlements and its benefits that are established under the MSA. The settlements under the MSA are creatures of provincial statute and were created and operate independently of Parliament’s jurisdiction over Indians under s 91(24). The fact that Métis are now recognized as Indians under s 91(24) does not change this. Membership in these settlements is not determinative of whether or not an individual is Métis and one can still be legally considered Métis under the test developed in R v Powley.

Corporation de développement économique Montagnaise c Robertson, 2017 QCCS 2736

A clear and unequivocal express waiver is necessary in order to waive the protection against seizure of property on reserve under section 89 of the Indian Act.

The issue in this case was whether the property of Mr. Édouard Robertson, who lives on the Mashteuiatsh territory reserve and has status under the Indian Act, could be seized by an Indigenous economic development corporation (Corporation de développement économique Montagnaise or “CDEM”) in spite of section 89 of the Indian Act. In three separate judgments, Mr. Robertson was found to owe CDEM more than $265,000 with interest and costs. He argued that because he has status under the Indian Act, his property cannot be seized by any person other than an Indian or band under the Indian Act. CDEM’s position was that by consenting to a universal movable hypothec on his business property (a form of security similar to a mortgage), Mr. Robertson waived the benefit of his rights under section 89 of the Indian Act.

Justice Bouchard found that the hypothec did not constitute a waiver of Mr. Robertson’s right to protection against seizure under section 89 of the Indian Act. As a result, the property located on the reserve could not be subject to seizure. In reviewing the case law to date, Justice Bouchard, cited a 1995 Sioui decision for the proposition that “tacit” waivers will not suffice in terms of section 89’s protection against seizure. Justice Bouchard did point out that express waivers were possible and section 89 should not be read more broadly than is necessary, particular in cases involving credit matters, as set out by the Supreme Court of Canada in McDiarmid Lumber Ltd v God’s Lake First Nation. Ultimately, however, Justice Bouchard concluded that in the absence of a clear and unequivocal waiver by Mr. Robertson, there could be no seizure. The language in the universal hypothec was not sufficiently clear to constitute a clear waiver and Mr. Robertson’s property could therefore not be seized.

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 August 2016

 FROM OUR PUBLICATIONS DESK

Case Watch

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

Crown’s duty to consult in multi-stage permitting process

Listuguj Mi’gmaq First Nation v New Brunswick, 2016 NBQB 138: The New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench dismissed an application for judicial review to quash three provincial approvals granted to Chaleur Terminals Inc for the construction of a rail terminal and transfer system in Belledune, New Brunswick. The applicants argued that these approvals were issued without any meaningful consultation or accommodation of the Aboriginal and treaty rights and title of three Mi’gmaq communities along the Gaspé peninsula of Quebec. The Court rejected this application on the basis that the Crown had met the low level of consultation that it had pre-determined to be adequate for this project in 2014. The Crown first conducted its own assessment of the appropriate level of consultation in July 2014 and issued a certificate for the project to proceed at that time. The applicants never challenged those 2014 decisions and were now out of time to do so. The application was allowed to proceed with respect to three approvals from 2015 that involved excavation, the clearing of the site, and the installation of oil tanks. However, there was no new information brought to the province’s attention that would justify deeper consultation on the 2015 approvals and the province met the low level of consultation mandated by its 2014 determination.

Use of actuarial risk assessment tools for Aboriginal offenders

Canada v Ewert, 2016 FCA 203: The Federal Court of Appeal allowed the Crown’s appeal from a Federal Court decision that concluded that the use of certain actuarial tools for assessing recidivism and psychopathy was unreliable with respect to Aboriginal inmates, and thereby unjustifiably infringed upon their section 7 rights and breached the statutory obligations of the Correctional Service of Canada. The Federal Court had held that Mr. Ewert was not required “to establish definitively” that the assessment tools were biased, but the Court of Appeal disagreed. It allowed the appeal on the basis that Mr. Ewert was required to prove on a balance of probabilities that the actuarial tools generate or were likely to generate false results for Aboriginal inmates, and failed to do so.

Gladue factors in sentencing –

R v Okimaw, 2016 ABCA 246: The Alberta Court of Appeal allowed the sentence appeal of an Aboriginal offender on the grounds that, among other things, the sentencing judge failed to give weight to specific Gladue factors. The Court of Appeal used this decision as an opportunity to provide a “practical framework” for the consideration of Gladue factors. It was not enough for the sentencing judge to merely acknowledge “the existence of systemic factors”; the judge had a duty to consider how unique systemic and background factors played a role in bringing the particular Aboriginal offender before the courts. The Court of Appeal found that this necessary context was effectively absent from, or at least given insufficient weight in the decision under review. The Court of Appeal also clarified that it is not incumbent on a Gladue report writer to explain the impact of Gladue factors on moral blameworthiness. It is the sentencing judge that has the duty to carry out an “individualized assessment” of Gladue factors and this duty cannot be delegated. In this case, the Court of Appeal found that the impact of Mr. Okimaw’s Gladue factors were “largely self-explanatory”.

R v Alec, 2016 BCCA 347: The British Columbia Court of Appeal dismissed the sentence appeal of an Aboriginal offender who was sentenced without the aid of a Gladue report. A report was allowed as fresh evidence on appeal. However, the Court of Appeal held that a “formal” Gladue report was not necessary for sentencing Aboriginal offenders. The Court held that the sentencing judge was clearly aware of Mr. Alec’s Aboriginal circumstances and his “disconnection” from his First Nation, and it was open to the sentencing judge to assume that Mr. Alec would not participate in the preparation of a report given his previous reluctance to do so.

R v Sateana, 2016 NUCJ 20: The Nunavut Court of Justice considered Gladue factors in sentencing an Aboriginal man for manslaughter. The Court stated that the systemic factors that influence criminality in Nunavut are well known and well documented, including the inter-generational impact of residential schools, over-crowded and sub-standard housing, poverty, high rates of domestic violence and sexual abuse, and high rates of alcohol and substance abuse. However, the Court held that a Gladue analysis is something “which this court is called upon to give effect to on a regular basis, but which it is unable to implement in any meaningful way”. While Mr. Sateana had appeared before the Court many times before the events leading to his manslaughter conviction, the Court “would have been unable to craft sentences which addressed his deep seated issues and alcohol addiction because the territory has no treatment or rehabilitation facilities and few counselling and mental health services.” Mr. Sateana was sentenced to 13 years incarceration.

Gladue factors in relation to solitary confinement –

Hamm v Canada (Attorney General), 2016 ABQB 440: The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench allowed an application for habeas corpus from three self-represented inmates placed in solitary confinement, two of whom were Aboriginal. The Court ordered the release of these three inmates from segregation as the institution had failed to provide them with the high level of procedural fairness they were owed before being placed into solitary confinement. Among other concerns, the Court held that “given the potential rehabilitation benefits and other benefits of access to [A]boriginal spiritual and cultural programs, each [A]boriginal inmate should have had a Gladue type assessment of what placements would be appropriate.” The Court also concluded that it was “unreasonable for a correctional institution to deny transparency in relation to its decisions concerning whether, and how, and where, [A]boriginal offenders should be further deprived of liberty”.

Gladue factors & pledges of on-reserve property in bail hearing –

R v Hope, 2016 ONCA 648: The Ontario Court of Appeal granted an Aboriginal man release from custody pending a new trial on charges that include second degree murder. The Court of Appeal took note of the various contexts in which it has previously applied Gladue principles, including bail hearings, and stated that Gladue principles informed certain aspects of its analysis in this case. Ultimately, the Court concluded that detention pending appeal was not necessary in the public interest in this case. The Court also dismissed the Crown’s concerns with the fact that the individuals offering sureties and pledges against the equity in their homes on Mr. Hope’s behalf were of Aboriginal descent and lived on reserve. Section 89 of the Indian Act protects property on reserve from being subject to a charge by anyone other than an “Indian” or a band. The Court of Appeal held that this should not interfere with an Aboriginal person’s ability to secure release from detention, and what mattered was that these individuals expressed a willingness to pledge the “not insignificant” equity in their properties, not whether the Crown could execute against those properties.

Extinguishment of Aboriginal rights –

Québec (Procureure générale) c Lachapelle, 2016 QCCS 3961 (in French only): The Quebec Superior Court granted an application to evict two individuals from a hunting camp in the Eastmain River basin in northern Quebec. One of the respondents was a member of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake and asserted that the hunting camp was incidental to an Aboriginal right to hunt. However, the respondent failed to provide any evidence in support of a site-specific hunting right in the area in question. The Court noted that the camp was located approximately 1200km away from the respondent’s reserve and fell within Cree territory recognized under the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA). The Court also held that even if the respondent had proven a site-specific right in the area where the camp is located, the Court could not recognize it in light of the extinguishment clause in the JBNQA. The respondent declined the opportunity to challenge the JBQNA’s constitutionality. The Court did note, however, that the JBQNA’s constitutionality is at issue in another proceeding before the Superior Court.

Exceptions to the tax exemption under section 87 of the Indian Act –

Bell v Canada, 2016 TCC 175: The Tax Court of Canada dismissed an appeal from tax assessments based on the tax exemption for personal property situated on reserve (section 87 of the Indian Act). The appeal concerned whether the exemption could be applied to annual bonuses received by a status “Indian”, Ms. Bell, from a company she owned and operated with her non-status spouse. Ms. Bell worked out of an office located on reserve. Ms. Bell received regular bi-weekly pay from the company as well as the balance of the company’s annual income as year end bonuses. The Minister allowed her to rely on the tax exemption for her regular pay but not for her year end bonuses. The Tax Court upheld the Minister’s decision on the basis that there was no substantive connection between the bonuses and the reserve land where Ms. Bell was working. The Tax Court also found that the bonuses exceeded reasonable remuneration and were therefore abusive of the tax exemption.

Crowns added as parties in private law action involving Aboriginal rights –

Saik’uz First Nation v Rio Tinto Alcan Inc, 2016 BCSC 1474: The BC Supreme Court allowed an application to add both the federal and provincial Crowns as defendants to a tort action against Rio Tinto Alcan in relation to impacts on the Nechako River and its fishery resources. The action is premised in part on asserted Aboriginal rights and title. The Court noted that the plaintiffs acknowledged that the consequences of this “major and complex case”, which would define the intersection between Aboriginal rights and tort law, may be huge. This may warrant inclusion of the Crown on its own. Further, the plaintiffs had already formally invited the Crown to participate through the Notice of Constitutional Challenge they issued in order to challenge the applicability of certain statutes. Under British Columbia’s Water Act, the province also asserts ownership over the water under dispute in this action, thereby warranting its involvement. Finally, the Court held that even where a formal declaration of Aboriginal title is not sought in the pleadings, the federal and provincial Crowns are still necessary parties to the determination of issues relating to Aboriginal title.

Injunction against First Nation’s interference with use of road –

Revolution Infrastructure Inc v Lytton First Nation, 2016 BCSC 1562: The BC Supreme Court allowed an application from Revolution Infrastructure for an interlocutory injunction restraining the Lytton First Nation from prohibiting or interfering with its use of an access road and ranch on which it operates a composting facility. Lytton First Nation asserts Aboriginal rights and title to the valley in which the facility and road are located and asserts a right to control access on this basis, as well as the basis that the road crosses its reserve lands. Lytton has enacted a band bylaw requiring Revolution to obtain a permit to use the road. The Court held that there are several serious questions to be tried in this case, including the nature of Aboriginal title and whether the band bylaw was validly enacted. The Court also held that interference with Revolution’s access to the road would result in irreparable harm. Finally, the Court held that the balance of convenience favoured Revolution as Lytton’s actions had disrupted the status quo of its use of the road without interference since 2009, the road had been used by the public for a significant period before then, and a facilitation process was in place that could potentially address the issues between the parties.

No jurisdiction for provincial tribunal with respect to on-reserve clinic –

Cahoose v Ulkatcho Indian Band, 2016 BCHRT 114: The BC Human Rights Tribunal dismissed a complaint against the Ulkatcho Indian Band and others on the basis that it lacked jurisdiction over the matter. The complainant had been employed in the band’s healthcare clinic on reserve. The tribunal held that there was no dispute over the proper approach for determining the limits of its jurisdiction. Instead, the key issue was which entity the so-called “functional test” needed to be applied to. The complainant argued that the First Nations Health Authority administered the clinic. However, the tribunal found no evidence of the Authority acting as a service provider. Instead, it concluded that the band was the employer of the clinic’s staff and the entity providing medical services on the reserve. Finally, the tribunal concluded that the band’s operations were seen to be federal when the functional test was applied.

Jurisdiction of self-governing First Nation tribunal –

Kwanlin Dün First Nation v Kwanlin Dün First Nation Judicial Council, 2016 YKSC 35: The Yukon Supreme Court dismissed an appeal from the Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) against two decisions of its Judicial Council that set aside its termination of two tenancy agreements. KDFN argued that the Judicial Council had no jurisdiction to decide matters relating to landlord and tenancy issues since KDFN has not enacted any laws on this subject matter and provincial legislation therefore applies. The Court found this dispute raised a question of true jurisdiction that must be reviewed on a standard of correctness. It held that the Judicial Council, by virtue of KDFN’s Constitution and its Judicial Council Act, had the power to review administrative decisions by the KDFN, including those it makes in a landlord and tenant context, to ensure its Constitution and laws are complied with. The Court went on to conclude that the Judicial Council had not exceeded its jurisdiction by ruling on matters of procedural fairness and KDFN’s constitutional values in context to the tenancy disputes at issue. The Judicial Council did not rule on specific landlord-tenant issues.

Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement –

Fontaine v Canada (Attorney General), 2016 MBQB 159: The Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench allowed a Request for Directions with respect to a claim that an individual was wrongfully denied compensation under the IRSSA for sexual abuse at a residential school. The adjudicator accepted that a nun grabbed the claimant’s genitals while he was at residential school, but was not satisfied that the act had a “sexual purpose”. This decision was upheld on review and re-review. The Court found that it had the jurisdiction to review the re-review adjudicator’s decision on a standard of reasonableness. It went on to conclude that the first adjudicator’s interpretation of the IRSSA as requiring a “sexual purpose” for sexual touching to be compensable was fundamentally inconsistent with the plain language of the IRSSA and with the criminal law jurisprudence that the adjudicator purported to apply. It was therefore unreasonable for the re-review adjudicator to uphold this decision. The Court sent the claim back to be reconsidered in accordance with its reasons.

Fontaine v Canada (Attorney General), 2016 ONSC 5359: The Ontario Superior Court of Justice addressed the results of an investigation into the legal services provided by Douglas J. Keshen and his former law firm with respect to claims under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA). The report resulting from the investigation was “largely a vindication for Mr. Keshen”. However, there were two exceptions to this: 1) Mr. Keshen was found to have facilitated third party loans on the basis of a promise to repay the loans from IRSSA awards, which is prohibited under the IRSSA; and 2) Mr. Keshen’s practice of reporting to clients orally rather than in writing did not fully meet the Law Society of Upper Canada’s guidelines for lawyers acting on IRSSA files. No costs were ordered for either party and Mr. Keshen was not ordered to pay the costs of the investigation.

Case Watch for July 2016

 FROM OUR PUBLICATIONS DESK

Case Watch

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

Crown’s duty to consult

Gitxaala Nation v Canada, 2016 FCA 187: The Federal Court of Appeal quashed the Order in Council and Certificates of Public Convenience and Necessity for the Northern Gateway pipeline project that was proposed to be constructed between Bruderheim, Alberta and Kitimat, British Columbia. The Court found that the federal Crown’s consultation on the project fell “well short of the minimum standards prescribed by the Supreme Court in its jurisprudence”. Among other issues, the Crown failed to engage in a respectful and meaningful dialogue on the First Nations applicants’ asserted Aboriginal title and governance rights, instead choosing to restrict itself to the discussion of mitigation of environmental impacts as a form of accommodation. The Crown also failed to provide any reasons for its conclusion that its duty to consult and accommodate had been met prior to issuing the Order in Council.

Pimicikamak Cree Nation v Manitoba, 2016 MBQB 128: The Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba dismissed Pimicikamak Cree Nation’s application for judicial review of the provincial Crown’s decision to enter into a settlement agreement with Manitoba Hydro and the Incorporated Community Council of Cross Lake. One issue in the litigation was the concern raised by Pimicikamak, representing the traditional government of the Cross Lake Cree, that the Cross Lake community (a municipality made up primarily of Aboriginal people) was not a collective entity capable of representing Aboriginal people or settling their claims, and was fragmenting the Aboriginal people in the area. The Court rejected Pimicikamak’s arguments that Crown consultation on the settlement agreement started too late, was not meaningful or sufficient, and foreclosed accommodation. The Court also upheld the Crown’s decision not to entertain changes to the agreement that Pimicikamak proposed, finding that Pimicikamak was attempting to negotiate in a way that would cause the Crown to abandon the settlement agreement it had negotiated in principle with other parties.

Sipekne’katik v Nova Scotia (Environment), 2016 NSSC 178: In the underlying matter, Sipekne’katik has appealed the Crown’s approval of a natural gas storage facility at Fort Ellis, Nova Scotia, alleging that the provincial Crown breached its duty to consult and failed to provide the First Nation with procedural fairness with respect to the project’s approval. In this case, Sipekne’katik applied for a stay of the approval pending its appeal. The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia rejected Sipekne’katik’s application on the basis that Sipekne’katik failed to provide sufficient evidence of irreparable harm. Among other things, the Court held that the project had mitigation measures in place designed to reduce or avoid any adverse impacts, and there was insufficient evidence of irreparable harm to the Crown’s ability to engage in meaningful consultation if the stay was not granted.

Limitation on human rights jurisdiction

Canadian Human Rights Commission v Canada, 2016 FCA 200: The Federal Court of Appeal upheld the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s dismissal of two complaints regarding section 6 of the Indian Act, which prevents the complainants from registering their children under the Act. The complaints were dismissed on the basis that the Federal Court of Appeal had already previously concluded that federal human rights legislation does not authorize complaints directed at legislation per se, and the complaints were characterized as just that. While the Court took note of the “sorry state of the case law and its lack of guidance on when decisions of human rights tribunals interpreting provisions in human rights legislation will be afforded deference”, it concluded that the tribunal’s decisions ought to be reviewed on a standard of reasonableness. It then determined that the dismissals were reasonable.

Federal Court jurisdiction

Dickson v Canada, 2016 FC 836: The Federal Court allowed an appeal from an order striking certain defendants from the statement of claim in an action for damages over the Minister of National Revenue’s refusal to renew a federal tobacco manufacturing licence. The claim was originally struck as against all defendants except the federal Crown on the basis that the liability of the other defendants was grounded in provincial law. On appeal, however, the Court held that the plaintiffs’ claim against several of these defendants was “in pith and substance” based on federal law and governed by a detailed federal statutory framework essential to the outcome of the case – namely, the Indian Act.

Proper factual basis for Charter litigation

Re Constitutionality of Abegweit First Nation Custom Election Rules, 2016 FC 750: The Federal Court addressed an application for a reference under s 18.3 of the Federal Courts Act regarding the constitutionality of Abegweit First Nation’s custom election rules in terms of its treatment of off reserve members. More specifically, Chief and Council were seeking a declaration that restrictions against off reserve members voting or running in the First Nation’s custom elections were contrary to the right to equality under s 15 of the Charter. In 2009, council attempted to amend the custom rules restricting off reserve members from participating in elections to bring them in line with new jurisprudence on this issue, but the amendments were rejected in a plebiscite vote. The Court held that it did not have jurisdiction to hear and determine this matter because it did not originate from any ongoing proceeding and there was no proper factual basis to determine the Charter issue.

Kikino Metis Settlement v Husky Oil Operations Ltd, 2016 ABCA 228: The Alberta Court of Appeal determined an application for permission to appeal an order of the Metis Settlements Appeal Tribunal Land Access Panel in relation to annual compensation rates for surface lease sites. The Court granted leave to appeal from the Panel on three grounds in relation to statutory interpretation of the Metis Settlements Act. However, the Court denied Kikino the opportunity to appeal from the Panel on the ground that s 125 of the Act infringes s 15 of the Charter. Kikino sought to compare the timeline for compensation reviews under the Metis Settlements Act with the comparable provisions of the Surface Rights Act for the purposes of its Charter argument. The Court found that there was no proper factual foundation to address the Charter argument on appeal.

Gladue factors

R v Fehr, 2016 SKPC 87: The Saskatchewan Provincial Court addressed Gladue factors in context to the sentencing of an Aboriginal offender for robbery. Among other factors, the Court noted that Ms. Fehr had been apprehended at the age of 3, and lived in 13 different foster homes between the ages of 3 and 5 before being adopted at age 5 by a Caucasian family, along with her two sisters. In taking note of Ms. Fehr’s Gladue factors, the Court noted that she was “raised by a loving family not of her own culture” and “separated from her [A]boriginal community”. In the Court’s view, “Native children raised by non-[N]ative families face unique challenges of identity, community, and social development”.

R v Robinson, 2016 BCSC 1269: The British Columbia Supreme Court addressed Gladue factors in context to the sentencing of an Aboriginal offender for breaking and entering and mischief. The Court found that Mr. Robinson was adopted when he was seven months old, raised in a “non-[A]boriginal” setting, and had only limited interaction with his biological mother and First Nations community of origin. The Court held that the Supreme Court of Canada’s concerns in the cases of R v Gladue and R v Ipeelee were relevant but “attenuated in Mr. Robinson’s circumstances”.

R v Joe, 2016 YKTC 31: The Yukon Territorial Court addressed Gladue factors in context to an Aboriginal offender’s refusal to comply with a breathalyzer demand, among other charges. The Court noted that it “had the benefit of a thorough, detailed and reliable [Gladue] Report” and the “background of this particular offender [was] rife with Gladue factors”. Among other things, Mr. Joe had endured sexual and physical abuse during ten years that he spent in “one of the more repressive and brutal residential schools in Canada”. Nevertheless, the Court held that Mr. Joe “should have almost no particular consideration afforded to him as an [A]boriginal offender” and that the relevance of Gladue in this case was “infinitesimal in and of itself”. The Court also stated it had no evidence before it that Aboriginal offenders are over-represented in jail on account of drinking and driving offences.

Limitation on admissibility of Gladue report –

R v Alec, 2016 BCCA 282: The British Columbia Court of Appeal heard an appeal from an Aboriginal offender’s conviction for second degree murder in which the appellant sought to set aside his guilty plea on the grounds that it was invalid and his conviction was a miscarriage of justice. In arguing his appeal, Mr. Alec sought to adduce fresh evidence in the form of a Gladue report addressing the concept of ‘Aboriginal fatalism’ to explain his failure to make a timely application to set aside his plea. Mr. Alec’s appeal was dismissed and the Court of Appeal raised several concerns with the way in which the Gladue report was relied upon in this appeal: it was not in an admissible form and the portion relied upon was entirely hearsay; the portion relied upon constituted opinion evidence that could only be admitted through a qualified expert, which the author was not; and the report was not found to be relevant to the validity of the guilty plea at issue.

Use of actuarial risk assessment tools for Aboriginal offenders

R v Haley, 2016 BCSC 1144: The British Columbia Supreme Court addressed a Crown application to have an Aboriginal offender designated a dangerous offender and sentenced to an indeterminate period of incarceration in a federal penitentiary. Among other arguments, Mr. Haley raised the Federal Court’s 2015 decision in Ewert v Canada, where it was found that the same actuarial risk assessment tools applied to Mr. Haley “are susceptible to cultural bias and therefore are unreliable” in context to Aboriginal offenders. The Court upheld use of these same tests for the following reasons: the Crown’s expert evidence was not based exclusively on the use of these tools, but rather on a more broad-based and comprehensive reflection on all available information; the Crown’s expert testified that her opinion would not change even if she factored out any reliance on the contested tools; the evidentiary record was different from that in Ewert in terms of the reliability of the tools; and the context was different in this case, as sentencing courts addressing dangerous offender applications  “should be given access to the widest possible range of information in order to determine whether there is a serious risk to public safety”.

R v Awasis, 2016 BCPC 219: The British Columbia Provincial Court addressed the application of actuarial risk assessment tools to Aboriginal offenders in context to a dangerous offender application raised during a sentencing hearing for two counts of sexual assault. The Court distinguished the Federal Court’s findings in Ewert on the basis that in this case the actuarial tools were only used “as a very small part of a wide ranging consideration of Mr. Awasis’ psychological make-up, his antecedents, and his future prospects”, as part of “a contextual and individual review of Mr. Awasis’ risk level”. The Court held that the findings in Ewert were “part of a decision of another trial court respecting quite different issues than those that arise in the case at bar”.

Spousal support security over reserve land

McMurter v McMurter, 2016 ONSC 1225: The Ontario Superior Court of Justice addressed whether a spousal support order could be secured against a support payor whose significant assets are located on land subject to the provisions of the Indian Act. Both the support payor, Mr. McMurter, and payee, Mrs. McMurter, are members of the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte and live on reserve. While s 29 of the Act  prohibits the seizure of reserve land by a “non-Indian”, s 89 provides an exception for seizures in favour of another “Indian” or “band”. The Court granted Mrs. McMurter an order to charge and lien the Certificates of Possession held by Mr. McMurter as security for a spousal support order, subject to approval by the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte and the Minister of Indigenous Affairs, which is required by the Act.

Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement

Fontaine v Canada, 2016 ONSC 4326: The Ontario Superior Court of Justice addressed a request for directions arising from the rejection of the claimant’s application for compensation for his undisputed sexual abuse at the Spanish Boys’ Residential School. The adjudicator had dismissed the application on the basis that the sexual assaults occurred after the school had closed, and this decision was subsequently upheld on review and re-review. In preparation for its response to the request for directions, Canada found documents undermining the adjudicator’s conclusion and those documents were brought to the Court’s attention. The Court held that the adjudicator made a palpable and overriding error of fact that the review adjudicator and re-review adjudicator failed to correct. The Court substituted its own decision on the merits of the claim rather than remitting the matter to be redetermined, finding in favour of the claimant.

Fontaine v Canada, 2016 ONSC 4328: The Ontario Superior Court of Justice revisited “the bedevilling problems of documentary disclosure for the [Independent Assessment Process] claims for the St. Anne’s Indian Residential School and for Bishop Horden Indian Residential School”. The Court found that the request for directions in this case was aimed at having the court order a new hearing for one of the claimants based on a revised record, and re-open many if not all claims for St. Anne’s and other residential schools. The Court also suggested that counsel for the claimant was attempting to use the request “as a public commission of inquiry about the integrity of the IAP process”. The Court granted the claimant confidentiality orders as preliminary relief but adjourned other preliminary matters raised by the claimant as the review process had not yet been exhausted for his claim.

Fontaine v Canada, 2016 BCSC 1306: The British Columbia Supreme Court addressed a request for directions from the Merchant Law Group (MLG), which sought to retain a portion of a client’s award under the Independent Assessment Process to apply to outstanding accounts for other unrelated matters. An agreement between MLG and the client for application of a portion of the award to other accounts was held to violate the settlement agreement, as were the client’s direction that MLG do so. The request was dismissed and MLG was ordered to pay its client the withheld amount forthwith.

Child and Family Services –

Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa v LF, 2016 ONSC 4044: The Ontario Superior Court of Justice allowed a motion to set aside the dismissal of an appeal in this matter for delay. The underlying appeal involves a constitutional challenge to statutory definitions in the Child and Family Services Act that limit special considerations for Aboriginal children to a subset of those children that would qualify as Aboriginal under s 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The appellants were given until July 15 to perfect their appeal.

Saskatchewan v Saskatoon Tribal Council Health & Family Services Inc, 2016 SKQB 236: The Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench addressed an application seeking various interim orders to allow the Saskatchewan government to reassert control over child and family services on reserve for First Nations represented by the Saskatoon Tribal Council. In the underlying action, Saskatchewan seeks a declaration that it lawfully terminated an agreement delegating ministerial authority under the Child and Family Services Act to the Saskatoon Tribal Council agency. The Court granted Saskatchewan the interim relief it sought, including injunctive relief preventing the agency from interfering with Saskatchewan’s provision of child and family services on reserve or providing those services itself.