R v Lemieux, 2020 ONCJ 54

The Court did not believe the offender’s late, uncorroborated and inconsistent claim that he is a person of First Nations heritage. He is sentenced to 26 months for the possession of child pornography contrary to s 163(4) of the Criminal Code.

Indigenous Law Centre
Indigenous CaseWatch Blog

Just over a year prior, the offender entered a guilty plea to a single count that he did, without lawful excuse, possess child pornography in the form of videos and images contrary to section 163(4) of the Criminal Code. The Crown elected to proceed by way of indictment. Leading up to sentencing, there was preparation of a pre-sentence report, a Sexual Behaviours Assessment and a Gladue report.

The Ottawa Police Service initiated an investigation into the possession and sharing of suspected child pornography by following the information of an IP address that identified and led them to locate the offender’s home address. A search warrant was executed on the residence and the offender was placed under arrest. A desktop computer was seized as well as an external hard drive. There were 6617 images of child pornography and 611 videos of child pornography.

Although Gladue factors could be relevant to a sentencing for possession of child pornography, the offender brought this claim forward especially late in the proceedings after he was expressly provided opportunity to claim First Nations heritage. He was adopted at six months into a Franco-Ontarian family and therefore the source of ethnicity would be his birth parents. He could only recall his mother’s first name. The Court did not ultimately believe the offender’s late, uncorroborated and inconsistent claim that he is a person of First Nations heritage.

Overall, in the circumstances in this case, the record did not reflect a situation where credit should be given due to the restrictive nature of the bail conditions. Further, the court was not convinced on a balance of probabilities that the offender had been making serious and consistent efforts towards rehabilitation and thus not able to receive any credit.

An important case in Ontario involving sentencing for the possession of child pornography is R v Inksetter, 2018 ONCA 474 [“Inksetter“], and in the present matter the offender’s collection was nowhere near as large and while vile, did not seem to have been of the same level of depravity as that in Inksetter. He was cooperative with police while arrested, he plead guilty, complied with the conditions of his bail and had been a model resident at the John Howard Bail Bed Program. However, there was no clear indication the offender was truly remorseful. His cavalier attitude towards treatment lead the court to believe he had no true insight into his pedophilia. The age of children, size of collection and nature of acts depicted were aggravating. The most aggravating was his prior criminal record which consisted entirely of sexual assaults against children. This single factor alone would make a reformatory sentence inappropriate. Based on the foregoing, a sentence of twenty-six months was appropriate with the ancillary orders put forward by the Crown granted.

R v HO, 2020 ONCJ

Gladue factors were asserted, but due to very little information beyond the assertion of Aboriginal status, it had limited weight in this case. The offender was sentenced to a global jail sentence of 8 months, following a period of probation for 18 months.

Indigenous Law Centre – CaseWatch Blog

The offender was found guilty after trial of five sexual offences contrary to the Criminal Code. The sexual assault conviction was stayed when the parties made submissions on sentencing pursuant to the rule in R v Kienapple, [1975] 1 SCR 729. Defence counsel challenged the constitutionality of the remaining four conviction’s mandatory minimum sentences arguing a sentence involving a mandatory minimum would be grossly disproportionate and sought an order declaring their unconstitutionality under s12 of the Charter based on the offender’s learning disability.

The aggravating factors in this case included the fact the victim was 13 years of age. There were numerous offences including kissing, touching of her breast, request for sexual acts, sharing graphic sexual videos and the ultimate request for intercourse. The offender had a related youth record for engaging in similar conduct with a child victim. He knew right from the outset the victim was 13 years old. His acts could not be considered “grooming”, as they escalated in severity. A potential aggravating factor that was missing from the proceedings, was the impact on the victim as she chose not to provide a victim impact statement. His moral blameworthiness remained high based on his conscious decision to engage with a 13-year-old for two weeks and engaging in conduct after completing a program where he would have known about the moral boundaries of intimacy with partners.

The offender is an adult, but is still young and inexperienced. These are his first adult convictions. The offender had the full support of his family and community as evidenced by many letters of support. He had taken positive steps towards rehabilitation by addressing his learning disability, but the learning disability itself was not a mitigating factor. There are many collateral consequences for the offender. Gladue factors were asserted, but due to very little information beyond the assertion of Aboriginal status, it had limited weight in this case.

Balancing the aggravating and mitigating factors, and having regard to an undue sentence having a disproportionate impact on the offender’s learning disability, a sentence of imprisonment of 8 months was warranted for the child luring offence. Having arrived at this conclusion, the Court did not have to consider a s12 Charter analysis of the 6-month mandatory minimum, as the sentence imposed was not grossly disproportionate in the circumstances of the offender and this case. Accordingly, the s12 Charter challenge as framed on this record was dismissed.

 

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

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

Indigenous Law Centre – CaseWatch Blog

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

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

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

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

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

MCW v BC (Director of Child, Family and Community Service), 2019 BCPC 289

An Indigenous mother’s application to restrict access visits organized by the Director with community members that are not the foster family is dismissed.

Indigenous Law Centre – CaseWatch Blog

The Director in this matter has applied for a continuing custody order [“CCO”] with respect to four children of Indigenous heritage, that were placed in the Director’s temporary care. The biological mother seeks to prohibit the Director from permitting persons that are related to the children and are connected to an Indigenous community, from having access to the children, for fear that the children may be traumatized now that they are used to their non-Indigenous foster family.

MCW is the biological mother of five children. All of her children’s lives have been subjected to temporary placement and interim orders, including orders of supervision while in the care of their mother intermittently. The foster parents of the four youngest children have remained supportive of the mother and have provided the children a loving environment. While the mother is supportive of transferring custody of her children to the foster parents, there has been resistance from the Lake Babine Nation, as they are opposed to Indigenous children being placed in non-Indigenous homes. The Ministry, along with assistance from the Lake Babine Nation, attempted to cultivate a relationship between one of the children and her half-sister. The mother described the removal of one of her children to spend time with the half-sister as traumatic, and feared the Ministry was attempting to break up the four youngest children. The Director submitted that facilitating visits between the two siblings did not constitute abuse or harm. Cultivating this connection is part of the Director’s obligation to maintain or facilitate contact with the extended family of a child in care.

Due to the contentions MCW had surrounding these proceedings, she filed an application for an order restricting access to the children. The mother relied on ss 2(a) and 98(1)(c) of the Child, Family and Community Service Act [“CFCSA”]. The Director referenced Bill C-92 to justify the CCO. Bill C-92 establishes that, when determining the best interests of an Indigenous child, primary consideration is given to the child’s physical, emotional and psychological safety, security and well-being and emphasizes Indigenous children’s right to stay with their families and communities and grow up immersed in their cultures.

Facilitating visits between the one child and her half-sister fell squarely within the Director’s legislated rights, duties and responsibilities as her custodian and guardian. While the visits got off to a rocky start, the submissions that the transitions were then trouble-free were accepted. The visits did not constitute the type of explosive, abusive, or intimidating conduct that s 98 of the CFCSA was intended to target. Accordingly, the mother’s application for an order restricting the access to her children was dismissed.

R v Vandal, 2020 BCPC 11

The sentence imposed on the accused, who is of Indigenous heritage, must denounce and deter his and others conduct, as the many offences committed were serious.

Indigenous Law Centre
Indigenous CaseWatch Blog

The accused is a 46-year-old Indigenous male with a long-standing drug addiction and has in excess of forty convictions for break and enter and a total of sixty criminal convictions. The court has had the benefit of a Pre-Sentence Report (PSR), a Gladue Report, and to the offender’s credit, he has made repeated efforts to conquer his long standing drug addiction. In addition to accessing Indigenous programming in custody, the accused has established connections with Elders, regularly attends sweats, healing circles and weekly smudges. The Gladue Report summarized his childhood abuse, parental instability, early introduction to drug use and his alienation from his Indigenous background. In mitigation, it is significant that the offender pleaded guilty, which represents some expression of remorse.

However, there are many aggravating factors. His lengthy criminal convictions demonstrates that previous efforts to deter him have been unsuccessful, and his history does not support a finding that he is truly dedicated to his rehabilitation. As well, two of his offences were committed while bound by a recognizance. In the circumstances, the offences combined with his personal circumstances demands a sentence that denounces and deters. A sentence of six years less the time served will adequately denounce and deter while still being proportionate. The sentence imposed will provide an opportunity for the offender to continue with his culinary training while permitting him to engage with Indigenous programs.

 

Nogdawindamin and AW, BS and BFN, 2020 ONSC 40

Appeal granted. Findings of Indigenous heritage requires more than a simple statement of self-identification from an applicant. The need for an evidentiary foundation of connection is a prerequisite for any finding under s 90 of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act.

Indigenous Law Centre – CaseWatch Blog

This is an appeal by the Batchewana First Nation [“Batchewana”] on an order of a motions judge that determined on an interim basis, whether a child in need of protection had an Indigenous background as per s 90 of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act [“Act”].

This Court agrees with Batchewana’s position that the motions judge erred when he decided that, based upon the evidence before him, the child in question had sufficient connection to Batchewana so as to be affiliated with the First Nation for purposes of the Act. Batchewana has not found a community connection of the child to the First Nation. The concern is that the motion judge’s decision could open the floodgates for any claimant to effectively acquire band status or other benefits.

There is considerable precedent to suggest that findings of Indigenous heritage require more than a simple statement from an applicant (Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto v ST, [2019] OJ No 1783; Bruce Grey Child and Family Services v ABC, 2018 ONCJ 516; Children’s Aid Society of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo v CT, [2017] OJ No 6324 (ONCA); Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa v KF, 2015 ONSC 7580). Indigenous membership has expanded to include self-identification, however, there still must be evidence in relation to the child so a determination can be made as to whether access is beneficial and meaningful to them.

In this instance, the evidence relied upon by the motions judge does not meet the necessary threshold. The only evidence is the self-identification of the father, that is found to be insufficient evidence as per the case law. The need for an evidentiary foundation is a prerequisite for any finding under s 90 of the Act. Were this not the case, it is conceivable that numerous people coming before the courts could self-identify as a member of Batchewana, leaving the band with insufficient resources to assist those in need, which constitutes an error in law (Housen v Nikolaisen, 2002 SCC 33). Appeal granted. The matter is remitted to the Ontario Court of Justice for a new hearing.

Beaucage v Métis Nation of Ontario, 2020 ONSC 483

Motions dismissed. Canada has entered into a recent agreement with the Métis Nation of Ontario that brings closer the recognition of it as a government entity. However, this agreement does not retroactively apply to a past decision on membership, nor does the agreement subject it to public law remedies while it was still considered a private law entity.

Indigenous Law Centre
Indigenous CaseWatch Blog

The applicant asks for a review of a decision that quashed his application for judicial review. In 2017, he was denied membership in the Métis Nation of Ontario [“MNO”]. He sought judicial review of that decision. The motion judge determined that MNO is a private voluntary organization incorporated without share capital under the Corporations Act. While MNO aspires to be recognized as a government with public law responsibilities to its citizens in Ontario, “that objective has not yet been achieved.”

The motion for fresh evidence concerns the Métis Government Recognition and Self-Government Agreement between MNO and Canada [“2019 Agreement”] that did not exist at the time of the hearing that quashed his application for judicial review. Parties are in agreement that admitting fresh evidence on appeals applies to this motion (Palmer v R, [1980] 1 SCR 759). But because this agreement did not exist at the time of the 2017 hearing, the only question is whether the 2019 Agreement would have likely affected that result.

For the 2019 Agreement to have affected the result, either: 1) it must be seen as confirming that in 2017 MNO was already a government; or 2) the entry into the 2019 Agreement must be seen to have made a change to the status of MNO that retroactively applies to the impugned decision. Neither argument can succeed. The fact that MNO was closer to being a government, but had still not yet arrived at formal recognition could not have affected that outcome. If, on the other hand, the 2019 Agreement made a substantial change in 2019 such that MNO is now a government, there is still not basis that the 2019 Agreement has a retroactive effect on the 2017 decision concerning the applicant.

It is inconsistent for the court to find that MNO is subject to the burden of judicial review under the public law as it if were already a government, while MNO is denied the benefits of governmental recognition under Canadian law. It would be invasive and disrespectful for the public law to subject the MNO to judicial review as if it were a government while at the same time denying recognition of such status.

 

Peepeetch v R, 2019 SKQB 132

Application granted for a publicly-funded Gladue report. A Gladue report, however, is not required on every occasion on which an Indigenous offender is being sentenced and a full Gladue report is not the only possible or appropriate source of such information.

Indigenous Law Centre – CaseWatch Blog

The applicant was convicted after a trial on charges of impaired driving and refusing to provide a breath sample. During the trial, he also pled guilty to a charge of possession of brass knuckles, a prohibited weapon. Following the trial, sentencing was adjourned so that a Pre-Sentence Report [PSR] could be prepared. Since the applicant is of Aboriginal heritage, the court directed that the report should contain information, such as Gladue factors (R v Gladue, [1999] 2 CNLR 252; R v Ipeelee, [2012] 2 CNLR 218), particular to Mr. Peepeetch’s circumstances as the Gladue analysis is mandated by the Criminal Code. The applicant’s counsel submitted an application for a publicly-funded Gladue report as the applicant did not have the resources to cover the costs himself.

It was determined that when evaluating whether a publicly-funded Gladue report should be ordered, the following parameters must be met: i) the assistance of the Gladue report must be essential to the judge discharging their judicial function in the case at hand; and (ii) the authority to order for the preparation of Gladue reports should be used sparingly and with caution, in response to specific and exceptional circumstances (Ontario v Criminal Lawyers’ Association of Ontario, 2013 SCC 43; R v Sand, 2019 SKQB 18). Such circumstances exist where a PSR prepared by a probation officer is not capable of providing the information necessary to conduct the proper analysis under ss. 718.2(e), and there is no other effective method of obtaining the necessary information and bringing it before the court in a timely fashion.

When deciding if a publicly-funded Gladue report was appropriate in this case, the court considered a number of factors including the nature of the analysis called for by ss 718.2(e), the sufficiency of the information provided in the current PSR, and if that report is lacking the availability and likely effectiveness of other measures that may be taken to address the deficiencies. Further, the court decided that a Gladue report is not required on every occasion on which an Indigenous offender is being sentenced and a full Gladue report is not the only possible, nor the only appropriate source of such information. Whether or not such a report is required is based on the context of the situation. It is the duty of the sentencing judge to ensure that the information they receive is relevant and necessary for such analysis. Overall, it was determined that the information contained in the PSR report was not sufficient for the court to carry out its judicial function in sentencing the applicant and thus, a publicly-funded Gladue report was ordered.

R v McGinn, 2019 ONSC 4499

Joint submission for sentencing granted. After considering the Gladue report and at the offender’s request, part of the sentence will be spent in the penitentiary to take advantage of programming specific to Aboriginal offenders.

Indigenous Law Centre
Indigenous CaseWatch Blog

After a search of his vehicle, the offender was arrested for drugs and weapons offences. The nature of the drugs involved in this case, are highly addictive substances and this was an aggravating factor. The offender also had a lengthy criminal record, which is reflective of an individual with a substance abuse problem.

The mitigating factors included a guilty plea, as well he expressed insight into his problems. Drug and alcohol abuse, as well as suicide and mistreatment within his family were present in his experiences as a child. His childhood and adolescence were traumatic for reasons that were not of his making. The drug abuse that he fell into has contributed to his involvement within the criminal justice system. The offender recognized that drug addiction had led him down a bad path. His paternal grandparents remain supportive of him and are willing to have him live with them on his release from jail.

The offender’s Aboriginal background no doubt had an impact on him but he appears to have benefitted from involvement in programs for Aboriginal offenders while in custody. The joint submission was accepted, modified slightly to accord with the offender’s request to be housed in the penitentiary to take advantage of programming. The offender was sentenced to three years and nine months in jail, less days spent in presentence custody.

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

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

Indigenous Law Centre
Indigenous CaseWatch Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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