Taylor et al v Ginoogaming First Nation, 2019 ONSC 0328

A Trust agreement’s payments are not extended to individuals who became members of the Ginoogaming First Nation after a designated payout day, even if they should have been a member on that date but for the discriminatory provisions of the Indian Act.

Native Law Centre Case Watch

The Trustees of the Ginoogaming First Nation Timber Claim Settlement Trust [“Trust”] brought an application concerning the interpretation of the Timber Claim Trust Agreement [“Trust Agreement”]. The Ginoogaming First Nation [“GFN”] is a Band pursuant to the terms and provisions of the Indian Act. The GFN is the settlor of the Trust. Prior to the Ginoogaming Timber Claim Settlement Agreement [“Settlement Agreement”] being entered into between the GFN and the Government of Canada, the terms and conditions of the Settlement Agreement and the Trust Agreement were put to the members of the GFN and approved in a ratification vote [“Voting Day”]. Article 12.5 of the Trust Agreement, provides for a one-time payment to be made to members of the GFN on the Voting Day. The discriminatory provisions of the Indian Act, RSC, 1985 c I-5 [“Indian Act”] were in effect at that time. At issue in this appeal is that some individuals were able to become members since two amendments to the Indian Act, and are they therefore eligible for the one time payments from this Trust.

The two significant legislative changes to the Indian Act arose from two court decisions, McIvor v Canada (Registrar of Indian and Northern Affairs), [2009] 2 CNLR 236 (BCCA) leave to appeal to the SCC refused, 33201 (2009) [“McIvor”] and Descheneaux c Canada (Procureur Géneral), [2016] 2 CNLR 175 (QCCS) [“Descheneaux”]. The Gender Equity in Indian Registration Act [“Bill C-3”] was in response to McIvor, but it focused exclusively on the specific circumstances outlined in McIvor and inequities persisted. Bill C-3 had not gone far enough to remedy the inequities perpetuated by the Indian Act. The federal government’s response to Descheneaux was Bill S-3, an Act to amend the Indian Act through the elimination of sex-based inequities in registration, which received royal assent on December 12, 2017.

Even though it is recognized by the court that but for the discriminatory provisions of the Indian Act at the time those individuals should have been members on the Voting Day, they were not and therefore are excluded from the benefit of the payment provided for in the Trust. When it comes to Article 12.5, the settlors of the Trust expressed an intention to limit the payment to those individuals who were members of the GFN on the Voting Day. The applicants neither sought to vary the terms of the Trust, nor to have certain provisions declared void. It is not the role of an interpreting court to change the plain meaning of a trust document. Article 16 of the Trust Agreement specifically provides for changes or amendments to the terms of the Trust Agreement if approved by a vote of the Members. It is also open to the Trustees to bring an application for a variation of the terms of the Trust if otherwise permitted by law.

 

 

 

Children’s Aid Society of Algoma v AW, 2019 ONCJ 242

Motion granted. A child in temporary custody with a Children’s Aid Society is determined to be First Nations. Although the father is not eligible for membership, the First Nation believes that the father, and therefore the child, is affiliated with that community.

The Children’s Aid Society of Algoma [“Society”] has brought a motion regarding a less than one year old child identification as a First Nations child and if the child identifies with the Batchewana First Nation [“BFN”]. Relief sought also includes an order that adds the BFN as a party respondent to this proceeding and an order that transfers the conduct of the application to the Nogdawindamin Family and Community Services [“NFCS”] as applicant. Thus, the proceeding shall continue as though commenced by NFCS in replacement of the Society, with an order transferring the interim care of the child from the Society to the NFCS. The band representative of the BFN, with consent of all parties, made submissions that they be heard given the potential ramifications of the outcome of the motion.

The Society brought a protection application before the Court and an interim without prejudice order was made that placed the child in its temporary care and custody. The parents have access to the child that is subject to a mandatory minimum number of hours along with multiple terms and conditions applicable to the parents during the exercise of any access. Initially the parents did not claim to be Indigenous to the Society upon its involvement. The Society, at that time, understood that the child was not eligible for registration or identified with any First Nations, Métis or Inuit band or community. The mother filed an addendum to the plan of care that stated the father found out he has some family with Indigenous connections, including an association with the BFN. The mother indicated that she herself practices various traditional Indigenous teachings and self-identifies with the BFN on that basis. The BFN Representative for Child Welfare [“Band Rep.”], however, did not find a community connection for the father and he is not eligible for membership with the BFN. However, that does not exclude the possibility of affiliation as the BFN believes that the father is affiliated with that First Nation.

The preamble of the Child and Youth Family Services Act [“CYFSA”] is intended to be inclusive and to facilitate broad interpretations in order to recognize cultural, hereditary and traditional connections. The intent of the legislation, as read by this Court, is to avoid creating rigid barriers that would discourage persons from self-identifying. It is to promote self-identification and pride in being a First Nations person, even if this did not occur for one or more generations in the past. Under the CYFSA, it is possible for a child to identify as First Nations and not be a member of an Indigenous band or community (Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa v NP). A child’s identification as First Nations, regardless of membership, is important as there are many considerations under the CYFSA for Indigenous children.

As well, s 21 of the Ontario Regulations 156/18 [“O Reg 156/18”] directs the Court to accept hearsay evidence on this issue (Children’s Aid Society of Algoma v CA; CP and the Batchewana First Nation). This does not mean that all rules of evidence and some standard of proof does not apply. There must be evidence in relation to the child as to whether access is beneficial and meaningful to the child (Children’s Aid Society of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo v CT). Subsection 2(3) Article 1 of the CYFSA indicates that the person who has an ethnic, cultural or creedal ties in common with the child or the parent or relative of the child, is a member of the child’s community. Article 2 speaks of a person who has a beneficial and meaningful relationship with the child. The words “beneficial and meaningful” are used nine times in the CYFSA, however, those words are not defined by the CYFSA. While this proceeding is regarding the quality of the care being provided by the parents for the child, the interim without prejudice order provides the parents and the child with access to each other. In its protection application, the Society sought an order that each parent have access with the child. There has been no motion to terminate that access for either parent or that this access has been detrimental to the child. This indicates that there is some beneficial and meaningful relationship between each parent and the child. Accordingly, while it may seem intuitive, this supports a finding that each parent is a member of the child’s community.

Each parent has provided evidence of self-identification as an Indigenous person. The mother has provided evidence that she practices traditional Indigenous teachings and has an “association” with the BFN. There is no evidence, however, that the mother has any link beyond her personal choice and the evidence does not assist in creating an identification link between the child and the BFN (Children’s Aid Society of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo v CT). There is evidence that the father identifies as a First Nations person.

The O Reg 156/18 promotes the acceptance of hearsay evidence. The Court accepts the father’s evidence regarding his maternal grandfather and his own identification as an Indigenous person. Other evidence before this Court does not contradict that evidence and it is proof that meets the standard of being on a balance of probabilities. This is a recent awakening by the father, but it is not contradicted by any other evidence. The BFN intends to be inviting of the father and, in turn, the child. The BFN seeks to be involved in this proceeding and the level of involvement will be determined by the First Nation. It is appropriate that the BFN be added as a responding party in this proceeding and that the NFCS be substituted, in place of the Society, as the applicant. The Court finds the child is a First Nation’s child and the Society’s motion is granted. An order is made that the BFN is made a party to and respondent in this proceeding.

Toney v Toney Estate, 2018 NSSC 179

Application allowed. The surviving spouse, who is non-Status and a non-band member, has been allowed to continue to occupy a family home on reserve.

Wiyasiwewin Mikhiwahp Native Law Centre
Case Watch

Marlene Toney, a widow, sought an order for indefinite exclusive occupation of her family home on reserve pursuant to s 21 of the Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act [“FHR”]. The order also included half the value of her late husband, Lawrence Toney’s interest in the home and outbuildings pursuant to s 34 of FHR. Central to this application was the fact that Marlene is non-Status and a non-band member of the Annapolis Valley First Nation [“AVFN”]. For over 30 years, she and her spouse lived in their family home, investing over $140,000.00 of their own money in permanent improvements after Lawrence obtained a Certificate of Possession for the house in 1998. Marlene was an active part of the community for many years, and even served as the band manager for two years until she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The only substantial asset in Lawrence’s estate is his right and interest in the Certificate of Possession for the land upon which the family home sits and the house itself.

The FHR also includes detailed “Provisional Federal Rules” [“Rules”] intended to govern First Nation communities that have not enacted matrimonial property laws of their own. These Rules, however, apply only to First Nations that have not yet enacted matrimonial property rules under the FHR. Any validly enacted First Nation laws oust the Rules in respect of that First Nation. If a First Nation has signed a self-government agreement with the federal government, under which it has power to manage its reserve lands, the Rules do not apply, even if the First Nation has not enacted matrimonial property laws of its own, unless the federal minister declares that the Rules apply to that First Nation. A First Nation enrolled under the First Nations Land Management Act [“FNLMA”] can oust the application of the Rules by bringing into effect a land code, separate matrimonial property laws under the FNLMA, or matrimonial property laws under the FHR. The FHR identifies how these Rules apply to First Nations who have adopted a land code pursuant to the FNLMA, and to First Nations under self-government agreements with the federal government. It is agreed that AVFN has not entered a self-government agreement with the federal government, nor enrolled under the FNLMA. These Rules apply to the AVFN.

The case at hand is the first decision to provide a comprehensive analysis of the FHR, in particular ss 21 and 34. These sections authorize courts to grant exclusive occupation of the family home and compensation to a surviving spouse for interests in matrimonial assets. The FHR respects the principle of non-alienation of reserve lands and its rules do not lead to non-Status or non-band members acquiring permanent or tangible interests in reserve lands pursuant to s 21 or receiving compensation for the value of reserve lands pursuant to s 34. The FHR, however, balances the equality rights of spouses under ss 15 and 28 of the Charter along with recognition of Aboriginal and Treaty rights under s 35 of the Constitution Act (1982).

Women appeared to have played an important and equal role in all aspects of tribal life and governance in most First Nations during pre-colonial times, and some were even matrilineal societies. The interpretation of the FHR recognizes the role and status of spouses of either gender, not if they are both members of the band. This is consistent with this appearance of Aboriginal values in pre-colonial times as shown in the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples [RCAP]. Gender equality is a universal value that transcends nationality or race and it is in this context that the FHR promotes and protects a compelling and substantial legislative objective. The Court awarded Marlene indefinite exclusive occupation of the family home pursuant to s 21 of FHR, with the condition that she does not cohabitate with anyone during her occupation, except for one of her children or grandchildren. She must maintain the home and not commit waste.

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.