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.

 

The Children’s Aid Society of Algoma v CA, 2018 ONCJ 592

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

Relief granted for an amendment to the identification findings of a First Nation child and his band.

The Children’s Aid Society of Algoma (“the Society”) brought a motion seeking a determination under s.90(2)(b) and s.2(4) of the recent Child, Youth and Family Services Act (“CYFSA”) of whether L.A., who is one years old, is a First Nation child, and if so, that the Batchewana First Nation be added as a party Respondent in this child protection proceeding. Also sought in the relief was a determination that the Batchewana band is the child’s band. Although unusual to make such determinations through a formal motion claim, there is merit to this becoming common practice. The original identification motion did not identify L.A. as a First Nation, Inuit or Métis child based on the evidence in the file at the time. In this re-opened motion, there was additional evidence filed by the Society that included an affidavit of a band representative of Batchewana First Nation that was sworn almost 25 years ago. It was for a protection proceeding in which C.P., the biological father of L.A. in this present case, was the subject child. She stated that “[t]he child C.P. is eligible for registration with [the] Batchewana First Nation”. The Society served the band representative with its motion seeking identification findings. No evidence was filed by the band representative, nor were any submissions made by her on the issue of the identification of the child.

Identification findings under the previous Child and Family Services Act (“CFSA”) were rarely, if ever, done by way of a motion. Often, the findings, especially on Status were done summarily, with no sworn, or very thin, evidence. If no band representative was named as a party in the application, the band representative would have no standing to make any comment. Such a finding, if done by motion, would at least have some standards of evidence and might afford any band an opportunity to be heard prior to a finding being made. While there are now many possible ways by which a child protection court can determine whether a child is a First Nation child, under s.1 of O. Reg. 155/18 this is not the end of the Court’s duty. If the Court determines the child to be a First Nation child, it must then move on to determine the child’s “bands”. The plural is used because it is possible that the child may have more than one band with different membership criterion. To end the determination process once only one band has been identified may be a mistake as there might be benefits from having several bands, including more options in the child protection proceeding with several band representatives.

The first determination is whether a court can ascertain the views of the child on which band(s) the child identifies itself. If the child’s views cannot be ascertained, it is still a matter of whatever band(s) a parent of the child indicates the child identifies with. This information from a parent would likely be ‘hearsay’ that the court is directed by s.21 of O. Reg. 156/18 to accept without question. However, in any child protection case, a child may have multiple ‘statutory’ parents, including some not related by blood, and each of them is entitled to indicate one or more bands with which the child identifies. This rule of interpreting the child’s band does not seem to require a parent to justify his or her indication with any evidence or information. All that is required is that person’s indication of the band(s) with which the child identifies. On the other hand, a parent may fail to make any indication at all, which is not uncommon, as in the present case. Courts normally act on evidence but none seems to be required on this issue.

Another significant provision that is relevant to this motion is s.79(1) of the CYFSA which deals with who are statutory parties in a proceeding. This is important because it adds the child’s bands as formal respondent parties in the child protection, or Status review, application before the court, where an identification finding is made that a child is a First Nation child. From a band point of view, it provides all of the rights that any party has in the application and it permits the child’s band(s) to make an important contribution. It also enables the band representative to advocate its own interests in the proceeding which may or may not coincide with those of the child or another party. The band representative, however, is a party from the outset only if named as a party by the applicant in the application, which is usually a society. This requires a society to anticipate which band(s) should be named as parties. The recent CYFSA has introduced a much more complex process for identifying a First Nation child and its band(s). In this case, the Society has brought a motion seeking judicial identification of the child not only as a First Nation child, but also a determination of the child’s band if so identified. No band representative is named as a party in this child protection case. If this is going to become the status quo procedurally, then a band will have no say in whether a child is a First Nation child, or which is the child’s band. In the Court’s view, it would be better by far to have a band or bands involved in the identification determination under s.90(2) CYFSA. This is easily done by a motion.

As for the determination of whether L.A. is a First Nation child, the Court has to look for any information that a relative of L.A. identifies as a First Nation person. There is such information. The Society affidavit provides the information that the father’s father, that is the child L.A.’s paternal grandfather, was not only a Status Indian and had an Indian Status card, but was also a member of the Batchewana band. Indian Status and Batchewana band membership of the child’s relative is sufficient to find under O. Reg 155/18 s.1(c)(i) that L.A. is a First Nation child and his band is the Batchewana First Nation band. A band representative shall be added as a party Respondent in the child protection application. In the event that this finding is incorrect, the Court has recourse to subclause (ii) of O. Reg 155/18 s.1. which directs the Court to look for any information that demonstrates a “connection” between a child and a band. The characteristics of the connection are not described, therefore the Court has chosen a broader approach that seems to be more in accordance with the spirit of the recent CYFSA. The band or the First Nation still has the option of not participating actively in the case or with the child.

 

 

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.

Brown v. Canada (AG), 2017 ONSC 251 [Sixties Scoop Class Action]

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

Motion granted for summary judgment of the certified common issue of the Sixties Scoop class action. Liability of the federal government was found in favour of the class members.

(This is the first of three consecutive Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch Blog posts regarding the Sixties Scoop Class Action judgements.)

The Court, and both parties, agree that the common issue should be summarily decided. Brown v. Canada (AG), 2010 ONSC 3095 was certified as a class proceeding. The certified common issue, which focused on the liability of Canada, was answered in favour of the class members. The class action has proceeded to the damages stage.

The Sixties Scoop happened and great harm was done. There is no dispute about the fact that thousands of Aboriginal children living on reserves in Ontario were apprehended and removed from their families by provincial child welfare authorities over the course of the class period and were placed in non-Aboriginal foster homes or adopted by non-Aboriginal parents. It was Patrick Johnson, the author of a 1983 research study on “Native Children and the Child Welfare System” that coined the name “Sixties Scoop.” He took this phrase from the words of a British Columbia child-protection worker who noted that provincial social workers “would literally scoop children from reserves on the slightest pretext.” There is uncontroverted evidence of the impact on the removed Aboriginal children. The loss of their Aboriginal identity left the children fundamentally disoriented, with a reduced ability to lead healthy and fulfilling lives. The issue before the Court was whether Canada can be found liable in law for the class members’ loss of Aboriginal identity after they were placed in non-Aboriginal foster and adoptive homes.

Canada entered into the Canada-Ontario Welfare Services Agreement (“the 1965 Agreement”) in December 1, 1965 to December 31, 1984 (19 years), and is at the core of the common issue. The focus of the common issue is the action or inaction of Canada (not Ontario) and only on the time-period after the Aboriginal children had been placed in non-Aboriginal foster or adoptive homes. Therefore, the common issue asks whether Canada had and breached any fiduciary or common law duties to take reasonable steps in the post-placement period to prevent the class members’ loss of Aboriginal identity.

The class definition includes the estimated 16,000 Aboriginal children who were removed from reserves in Ontario and placed in non-Aboriginal foster homes or adoptive homes. The stated goal of the 1965 Agreement was to “make available to the Indians in the province the full range of provincial welfare programs” and also reflected Canada’s concern that the extension of the provincial laws would respect and accommodate the special culture and traditions of the First Nations peoples living on the reserves, including their children. Ontario’s undertaking to extend the provincial welfare programs as set out in section 2(1) was made “subject to (2).” Sub-section 2(2) of the Agreement said “[n]o provincial welfare program shall be extended to any Indian Band in the Province unless that Band has been consulted by Canada or jointly by Canada and by Ontario and has signified its concurrence.” This section was intended to include explanations, discussions and accommodations. It was meant to be a genuinely meaningful provision.

No Indian Bands were ever consulted before provincial child welfare services were extended to the reserves. The Court found that by failing to consult the Indian Bands, Canada breached s 2(2) of the 1965 Agreement. Nothing in s 2(2) explicitly obliged Canada to actually undertake the consultations referred, however, the undertaking to do so can be implied from the language and context of the provision. A contractual term can be implied if it is a contractual term that must have been intended by the parties and is necessary or obvious in light of the particular circumstances of the agreement. If Canada had honoured its obligation to consult the Indian Bands under s 2(2) of the 1965 Agreement, the information about the child’s Aboriginal identity and culture and the available federal benefits would have been provided years sooner. Canada failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the loss of Aboriginal identity in the post-placement period by failing, at a minimum, to provide to both foster and adoptive parents the kind of information that was finally provided in 1980 and thereafter.

The Court found on the applicable law that Canada’s liability cannot be established under fiduciary law but can be established under the common law. In the Court’s view, s 2(2) and the obligation to consult created a common law duty of care and provided a basis in tort for the class members’ claims. The common law duty of care arose out of the fact that the 1965 Agreement is analogous to a third-party beneficiary agreement. Canada undertook the obligation to consult in order to benefit Indian Bands (and by extension, Indians living on the reserves, including children). The Indian Bands are not parties to the Agreement, but a tort duty can be imposed on Canada as a contracting party in these circumstances.

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 June 2016

 FROM OUR PUBLICATIONS DESK

Case Watch

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

R v TJD, 2016 MBCA 67: Leave to appeal was granted by the Manitoba Court of Appeal in the sentencing of a young person under Manitoba’s Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA), the appeal was allowed and the sentence was varied. The Crown candidly conceded that various aspects of the sentence were illegal, or that the sentencing judge otherwise erred in principle, including with respect to the judge’s failure to consider relevant Gladue factors in imposing a sentence on this young person, who was of either Métis or Cree ancestry.

Calaheson v Gift Lake Metis Settlement, 2016 ABCA 185: The Alberta Court of Appeal allowed an appeal from part of an order of the Court of Queen’s Bench declaring the Gift Lake Metis Settlement General Election held in October 2013 invalid and vacating the election of three councillors. The appellant challenged the Order’s failure to declare a further position vacant, that of the respondent Dave Lamouche. The Court of Appeal held that this position should have also been vacated in the complex and unique circumstances of the contentious election at issue.

Re Gray, 2016 CanLII 38311 (ON OCCO): The Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario released a verdict explanation for the inquest into the death of Brian Gray. Mr. Gray died in the custody of police during an armed stand off on Lac Seul First Nation in 2010, making an inquest mandatory. The jury’s recommendations from the inquest included: more funding and training for mental health and addictions services for Lac Seul, a review of the resourcing for the Lac Seul Police Service with a view to increasing police services for Lac Seul, funding for a certified mental health counsellor, additional mental health workers and training for existing workers in Lac Seul, among others.

R v Halkett, 2016 SKPC 65: The Saskatchewan Provincial Court applied Gladue factors in sentencing an Aboriginal man who was found guilty of sexual assault against a cellmate in an RCMP station “drunk tank” to an 18-month conditional sentence followed by a two-year term of probation. The Court noted that in Saskatchewan, where Aboriginal people represent roughly 16% of the population, they account for roughly 77% of the province’s 2014-2015 admissions into adult correctional centres. After reviewing the individual’s Gladue factors, the Court held that the accused would be “apt to find more success in his home community than he would in jail”.

Rice c Agence du revenu du Québec, 2016 QCCA 1077: The Quebec Court of Appeal dismissed a petition for an order to stay the execution of its April 2016 judgment in this matter while the petitioners seek leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. The petitioners are Mohawks of Kahnawake with status under the Indian Act that reside and carry on business on reserve operating gas stations and retail outlets. They are challenging tax assessments for having failed to charge taxes against their customers, regardless of whether these customers had “Indian” status or not. They have so far been unsuccessful. The Court of Appeal accepted that their arguments for challenging their tax collection and remittance obligations, which are now largely based on the Royal Proclamation of 1763, are serious questions to be tried. However, the petitioners failed to establish serious or irreparable harm in the absence of a stay.

Malcolm v Fort McMurray First Nation, 2016 FC 672: The Federal Court dismissed an application for judicial review of three decisions on applications for membership in the Fort McMurray First Nation. At issue was whether the applicants needed to register for status under the Indian Act before their membership applications could proceed. The Court interpreted Fort McMurray’s Membership Code as requiring confirmation of registration under the Indian Act before the applications could be processed and upheld the Membership Clerk’s decision.

R v Rich, NLTD(G) 87: The Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court allowed an application from the Crown for review of an order granting judicial interim release to Mr. Rich. Among other things, the Supreme Court held that the Provincial Court judge erred in his application of the Supreme Court of Canada’s Gladue and Ipeelee decisions. The Supreme Court found no reference to either decision or the fact that Mr. Rich was Aboriginal in the interim release decision. The Supreme Court found that the court below had incorrectly held that being an Aboriginal person was a factor in favour of judicial interim release without any evidence of the particular Aboriginal background of Mr. Rich. The Court stated that “case-specific information regarding the particular Aboriginal offender” is essential in order to apply Gladue and Ipeelee; they cannot be applied “in a vacuum”.

R v Menicoche, 2016 YKCA 7: The Yukon Court of Appeal allowed an appeal from a sentence of 23 months’ imprisonment for sexual assault. The Court of Appeal held that the sentencing judge failed to give genuine effect to the Aboriginal status of the appellant. It found that the sentencing judge failed to consider any alternative to a lengthy territorial jail term despite being familiar with the appellant’s compelling Gladue factors that were set out in the pre-sentence report. The sentence was reduced by six months.

2403177 Ontario Inc v Bending Lake Iron Group Ltd, 2016 ONCA 485: The Ontario Court of Appeal rejected an application for leave to appeal from an Approval and Vesting Order in relation to the moving party’s receivership. Among other things, the moving party argued that the Court of Appeal judge who made that order failed to consider whether the receiver discharged its obligation to consult with “affected Aboriginal communities” in approving a sale agreement arising from the receivership. This duty to consult argument was rejected on the basis that it should have been fully canvassed earlier in the proceedings.

Sarrazin c Canada (AG), 2016 QCCS 2458: The Quebec Superior Court certified a class action on behalf of a group of approximately 45,000 people who were deprived of status under the Indian Act based on discriminatory provisions. In its 2009 McIvor decision the BC Court of Appeal held that section 6 of the Indian Act infringed upon certain individuals’ right to equality under section 15 of the Charter. As a result of this decision, section 6 of the Indian Act was amended through Bill C-3 in 2010. This class action seeks compensation for the individuals who gained status under Bill C-3 on the basis that they were deprived of various forms of financial support under the Indian Act between 1985 and 2011 that they would have otherwise been entitled to were it not for the discriminatory provisions struck down in McIvor and removed through Bill C-3.

R v Laboucane, 2016 ABCA 176: The Alberta Court of Appeal dismissed a sentencing appeal brought on various grounds, including the ground that the sentencing judge disregarded the 30-page Gladue report provided on Mr. Laboucane, which the sentencing judge found had failed to disclose any meaningful Gladue factors to consider. The Court of Appeal rejected this argument and found that Mr. Laboucane had a “predominately stable and supportive upbringing and background” that did not mitigate his culpability. The Alberta Court of Appeal also went out of its way to criticize the Ontario Court of Appeal’s recent decision in R v Kreko, addressing an Aboriginal offender who was adopted by a non-Aboriginal family, suggesting that it expanded the level of generality in the application of Gladue factors “almost to a level of pure ethnicity”.

R v Chocolate, 2015 NWTSC 28: The Northwest Territories Supreme Court granted judicial interim release to Mr. Chocolate. The Crown in this case argued that Gladue factors are only relevant to the tertiary ground for detention under section 515(10) of the Criminal Code on the basis that Gladue factors are only relevant to questions of sentencing, and do not extend to questions of whether detention is required to ensure the accused attends at trial or whether the public is protected. The Court rejected this argument and found that Gladue factors were relevant to all three grounds for detention.

Robertson v The Queen, 2015 TCC 219: An official English translation of this 2015 decision of the Tax Court of Canada was released this month in which the Tax Court dismissed an appeal from a reassessment. The appellant is a member of the Mashteuiatsh Montagnais Band (Pointe-Bleu) with status under the Indian Act who operates a fur manufacturing and sales business. In disputing an assessment for GST, penalties and interest against his business, Mr. Robertson asserted an Aboriginal right to the fur trade as well as an Aboriginal self-government right in his defence, among other arguments. The Tax Court found that there was no right to engage in the fur trade in the manner that the appellant was engaged in this industry. It recognized the right of the Montagnais to engage in the fur trade but held that this must be limited to the sale of raw furs of trapped animals, noting that raw fur sales were non-taxable. The Tax Court also recognized the Montagnais du Lac Saint-Jean have an Aboriginal right to management of hunting, fishing and trapping territories within their jurisdiction, but held that this right could not give them exclusive authority over taxation of business transactions in their territory “since this would violate Crown sovereignty”. While the Tax Court recognized these Aboriginal rights it held that they were not prima facie violated by the Excise Tax Act.

First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun v Yukon (SCC file 36779): The First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun was granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada from the Yukon Court of Appeal decision in relation to a dispute over land use planning for the Peel watershed under the terms of modern treaty agreements for the region.

Hughboy v Oujé-Bougoumou Cree Nation, 2016 QCCQ 4544: The Court of Quebec dismissed an application for advance costs in relation to a challenge to the results of a 2015 election for the Oujé-Bougoumou Cree Nation. The Court held that there was prima facie merit to Mr. Hughboy’s case. However, it found there were no special circumstances of public importance in support of making such an exceptional order and that Mr. Hughboy failed to prove that his financial circumstances were such that he could not proceed with his case without such an order being made.

R v McDonald, 2016 NUCA 4: The Nunavut Court of Appeal allowed an appeal from a sentence for Ms. McDonald’s breach of a Conditional Sentence Order (CSO) that resulted in her being sent back to prison. Among other issues, the Court of Appeal held that the sentencing judge had failed to give meaningful consideration to Ms. McDonald’s Gladue factors. The Court held that Gladue factors must be considered in every case involving an Aboriginal offender unless the offender waives this right. The sentencing judge erred in assuming that Gladue factors were adequately addressed into the original CSO and they ought to have been considered afresh at the CSO breach hearing.

Children’s Aid Society of Halton Region v MM, 2016 ONCJ 323: The Ontario Court of Justice released a decision addressing whether three children are “Indian” or “native persons” for the purposes of the Child and Family Services Act. This determination dictates whether the children have access to unique benefits, special treatment and special considerations not otherwise available under the Act. The Court noted that no previous decision in Ontario directly discussed the facts necessary to support a finding that children meet these definitions and therefore set out to provide such an analytical framework, including guiding principles.