Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions v Michel Tremblay, 2018 Court of Québec

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

For a Métis claim of Aboriginal rights to succeed under s.35, there must be evidence, on a balance of probabilities, that a Métis community had existed that asserted sufficient control over the territory in question, prior to the imposition of European control.

Mr. Tremblay, asserted that he is Métis but faced multiple criminal charges relating to wildlife preservation, sustainable development, wildlife habitat and forests. The issue at hand is whether the provisions of the statues and regulations are not applicable to Mr. Tremblay as a result of his rights protected by s.35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The Court held that Mr. Tremblay was guilty of the offences to which he is charged, as there was insufficient evidence to establish that a Metis community existed with sufficient control of the territory in the period in which Mr. Tremblay alleges.

Counsel for Mr. Tremblay argued that s.35 protected his rights as they pertain to hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering rights, as well as his right to take part in activities traditionally and reasonably incidental to the exercise of his rights under ss.35 (1) and (2). In their view, this constituted the exercise of Aboriginal rights to partake in activities for food, social purposes and in traditional Métis celebrations such as clearing impassable paths, modifying banks of watercourses so that they are reasonably accessible for young or elderly people, stocking fish in lakes as well as taking measures to keep them in certain watercourses by protecting and preserving peaceful and safe hunting practices by erecting temporary barriers.

Counsel for the Attorney General Quebec (AGQ) recognized that if criteria 2 and 6 set out in R v Powley were met, the evidence submitted would be sufficient to establish on the balance of probabilities that hunting, fishing and trapping for subsistence purposes, constituted the contemporary expression of traditional Métis practices. They further asserted that on the facts, Mr. Tremblay’s activities do not pertain to the traditional culture of a Métis community and cannot be considered incidental to contemporary practices of primary Aboriginal hunting, fishing and trapping rights. For clarity, criteria 2 from R v Powley is whether the claimant is a member of a contemporary Métis community, while criteria 6 is whether the practice is integral to the culture of the community.

R v Powley stated that rights enshrined and protected in ss.35 (1) and (2) are Aboriginal rights of Métis and Aboriginal communities. A Métis community consists of a group of Métis with distinctive collective identities. The Court of Québec made reference to the historical observations set out by counsel and accepted in R v Powley. This was reinforced at the Court of Appeal, which affirmed that prior to the assertion of sovereignty, there was a recognized separate Métis community in the area of Sault St. Marie. The Court also pointed to R v Willison, which set out that evidence of a settlement is not required for a Métis community to exist. Finally, reference was made to R v Van der Peet to elucidate the approach to be taken in hearing applications regarding the recognition of Métis rights. For Métis communities, the rights established cannot be rights that existed prior to contact but rather rights existing prior to the imposition of European Canadian control.

The expert evidence provided allowed the Court to make conclusions in respect of Métis ethnogenesis in the study region. This included the establishment and maintenance of a historic Métis community in the study region, the genealogy of Mr. Michael Tremblay, and Crown sovereignty and effective control. The ethnogenesis in the study region suggested that a distinct Métis community developed at the dawn of the nineteenth century amongst a group of mixed-race people with close and unique ties. It was noted that a historic Métis community had been established and existed. The Métis were largely represented in farming activities, the lumber industry and the fur trade, but they also worked as guides and day labourers. They participated in the traditional economy by way of hunting, fishing and trapping, music, gathering and the manufacture of maple syrup and sugar. The Métis also engaged in canoe building and guide activities along with attachment to Catholic rites and practices.

The Court found, however, that the evidence did not truly reveal that a group of mixed ancestry was geographically isolated in that study region. The evidence submitted regarding the marriages between mixed race people also failed to establish that there was a historical Métis community. Further evidence submitted suggested that there was uncertainty regarding the number of ancestors for the period of ethnogenesis proposed. It was further suggested that of these ancestors, five out of six did not share the ethnic criteria identified by an expert. The Court also found that there was insufficient evidence that this community had its own control. The evidence presented that, although the province of Ontario obtained control by way of the Public Lands Act,1853 and the Free Grant and Homestead Act, 1868, these Acts only had significant impact on the Métis lifestyle near the end of this period. Nonetheless, the Court found that the passing of the statutes and the opening of the regional prison in 1886 radically altered the way of life of Aboriginal and Métis people. After considering all evidence presented, the Court concluded that the evidence submitted for Mr. Tremblay was insufficient on the balance of probabilities to meet the criteria outlined in R v Powley and therefore is guilty of the offences to which he was charged under the Criminal Code.

 

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.

 

 

The Children’s Aid Society of Brant v SG

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

Applicant’s motion for summary judgement denied. A Children’s Aid Society did not meet its onus for evidence in the pursuit of an order to place a child in extended care with no access.

The Applicant, the Children’s Aid Society of Brant (“The Society”), was seeking preliminary findings, protection findings and an order of disposition placing the child, M. G-D. (“M.”) born in 2017 and aged one year a the time of this application, in extended care with no access. The motion for summary judgment has been denied. There is ample evidence that M. is a medically fragile child. He has been diagnosed with a serious congenital heart condition known as ventricular septal defect as well as double outlet right ventricular transposition of the arteries, pulmonary stenosis and pulmonary atresia. He required the administration of oxygen at birth, has had heart surgery in June 2018 and will require further surgery in the future. M. must attend Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto on a regular basis for cardiac follow-up, checks of his oxygen and saturation levels as well as close monitoring of his weight. There was additional evidence that demonstrated that when M. becomes ill he can become very ill very quickly and thereby requires timely medical attention.

The respondent father indicated that he identifies as Ojibway but does not have a “status card” and that the child does not have status as First Nations. The Society did not, despite court instruction to do so, clearly assess whether the child was First Nation, and if so whether there was an Indigenous community that was a party. It was apparent during numerous discussions and stand-downs that occurred, that no one understood precisely what questions needed to be asked or what the test was, let alone how to apply the information obtained to the legal test. In a child protection proceeding it is a vital question and a determination that the Court is statutorily obligated to make. M. is a young child who has been the subject of an application seeking extended care without access and has been in the Society’s care his entire life. His right to an orderly and expeditious hearing of the pertinent issues should never have been compromised by the lack of follow through on legislatively prescribed requirements. Section 90(2) of the Child Youth and Family Services Act reads as follows: “As soon as practicable, and in any event before determining whether a child is in need of protection, the court shall determine, (a) the child’s name and age; (b) whether the child is a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child and, if so, the child’s bands and First Nations, Inuit or Métis communities; and (c) where the child was brought to a place of safety before the hearing, the location of the place from which the child was removed.”

The early determination of whether a child is First Nation and the appropriate Indigenous community is a particular priority for a number of reasons. First, it triggers an obligation by the Society to meet the child’s cultural needs. Second, if there is an identifiable Indigenous community, that community is a party to the proceeding and service is required. Child protection proceedings are conducted in the adversarial, not the inquisitorial style. The Court thus must rely on the parties to provide the requisite evidence in order to determine the issues. In the Court’s view, the Society’s assertion that its worker was only “informed” of the father’s status through service of his affidavit on November 1, 2018, does not assist it. Parents caught up in child protection proceedings are often stressed and vulnerable. It is not reasonable to assume that the parents will understand the need to self-identify at an early stage. Even where the parents have counsel, counsel’s primary obligation is to his or her client.  When a child is in Society care, the Society is that child’s guardian. The Society, therefore, has an obligation to that child to ensure these inquiries are made early and proactively.

These events have also been a “wake-up call” to this Court. Although the Court is dependent on parties providing evidence, the Court should be extremely mindful of its supervisory role to ensure that findings are, indeed, addressed “as soon as practicable”. In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a Call to Action under the heading Child Protection. It called upon the federal, provincial, territorial and Aboriginal government to commit to reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care. To that end, it asks the governments inter alia to “[e]nsure that social workers and others who conduct child welfare investigations are properly educated and trained about the potential for Aboriginal communities and families to provide more appropriate solutions to family healing.” It also implored governments to establish as an important priority a requirement that placements of Aboriginal children in temporary and permanent care be culturally appropriate. Neither of these steps can be effected if the Society is not diligent in ensuring early identification of First Nation children and their bands or Indigenous communities.

CCAS v GH and TV, 2017 ONSC 742

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

A mere claim that someone is “Native” is not enough for a court to consider that an Aboriginal child will be at a “disadvantage” when weighing legislative factors in child protection matters. There needs to be more evidence of what is important to the family, the child, and the Aboriginal community the child is said to be a member of.

The Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton (the Society) sought an order for Crown wardship with no access regarding the child EDV, born […], 2015, who was apprehended at birth. The mother, GH, and the father, TV, were known to the Society since 2012 regarding protection issues with the couple’s older children. After the Society commenced a protection application regarding EDV on May 5, 2015, it decided to pursue a summary judgment motion in relation to that application in February 2016. It is then that the Respondent father, TV, argued that EDV is a Métis child, and that as such, he should be treated in the same manner as children who fall within the definitions of “Indian”, “Native person” and “Native child” under Ontario’s former Child and Family Services Act (CFSA) [the CFSA has since been replaced by the Child, Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA) as of April 30, 2018]. All parties conceded that Métis children did not fall within the scope of those definitions as they stood at the time of the hearing, and that EDV therefore did not have “Indian” or “Native” status within the meaning of the CFSA.

TV alleged that the definitions of Indigenous identity in the CFSA violated s 15(1) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the basis that they did not extend to Métis children. He sought an order pursuant to section 52(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982 declaring these invalid and a remedy pursuant to section 24(1) of the Charter directing that EDV be treated as if he were an “Indian”, “Native person” or “Native child” for the purposes of these child protection proceedings. The Society did not take a formal position on the CFSA’s identity definitions, and it stated that it had in all material respects treated EDV as if he were “Indian” or “Native”. As well, the CFSA identified the cultural background and ethnicity of all children as an important factor in child protection proceedings, which was apparent from numerous provisions in the Act.

After considering many factors, including Gladue principles, the Court concluded it should not deal with abstract questions, especially in the context of a constitutional question. Absent a more complete record, the s 15 claim could not succeed. This may not have been the result if there were a fuller evidentiary record, but the issue in this case was too theoretical. When considering Gladue principles in sentencing matters, they do not on their own justify a different sentence for Aboriginal offenders, but provide the necessary context for understanding and evaluating the case-specific information presented by counsel. It is difficult to apply the context referred to in R v Gladue and R v Ipeelee to the disposition stage of a child protection hearing. The child protection court is directed to order in the best interests of a child. Taking judicial notice of the historical reasons that may have contributed to an Aboriginal parent’s current circumstances is less likely to be helpful to the child protection judge faced with the decision of whether to return a young child to the parent than it may be to a sentencing judge grappling with whether to order a custodial sentence and, if so, its duration.

As for the issue of EDV’s “Native” status, it was noted that the Métis Ontario coordinator of their Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program contacted the Catholic Children’s Aid Society in 2012. The representative told them that TV had self-reported that he was a member of the Métis Eastern Woodlands of Nova Scotia, and as a result of that self-report, she was working with this family. However, no one pursued the issue until 2016 when the matter came up for summary judgment before Justice Chappel, where the parties consented to a finding that the child was Métis. There were extensive efforts to serve and seek out the involvement of the Eastern Woodlands Métis of Nova Scotia. However, the response was that they were not going to participate, they did not have any placement options, and that they were supporting the plan of the Catholic Children’s Aid Society to have the child EDV adopted. Justice Chappel ordered that the child EDV be considered “Native” for the purposes of this and any other child protection application.

The Society made every effort to see if other Métis communities would participate in the litigation or provide the family with a placement option. No one came forward. TV never followed up on any suggestions given for obtaining assistance for his many issues. He did not describe his family background at all, or give any testimony about his Aboriginal background or any connections that he had or has in a Métis community other than his relatively brief contact with the Métis Ontario Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program. The Court stated that it had compassion toward and recognition of the importance of “Native” heritage and families but this special status does not equate to a blanket exemption from legislation carefully crafted to protect vulnerable and often damaged children. The paramount purpose of the CFSA is to promote the best interests, protection, and well-being of children. Where a person is directed in the Act to make an order or determination in the best interest of a child and the child is an “Indian” or “Native person”, the person shall take into consideration the importance, in recognition of the uniqueness of “Indian” and “Native” culture, heritage and traditions, presevering the child’s cultural identity.

In SB and BRM v Children’s Aid Society of Algoma and Mississauga First Nation, the Court addressed an appeal from an order for Crown wardship without access to the parents. The position of the Band was that access should continue so as to maintain the child’s connection to her Aboriginal community and to avoid the long-term consequences of cultural dislocation and estrangement from her roots, including from her siblings who resided on the reserve. However, there must be evidence of the nature of the involvement of the child’s family in the “Native” community which is lacking in this case. The mere claim that someone is “Native” does not allow the Court to consider the relevant factors within the legislative scheme, without some evidence of what is important to the family, the child, and the Aboriginal community the child is said to be a member of.

The Court decided that it was in the best interest of EDV to be made a Crown ward with no access, the Society was directed to make every effort to ensure that any foster parent and/or adoptive placement was willing to educate the child on his Aboriginal heritage and culture, to expose the child to this culture on an age-appropriate basis and provide the child with knowledge of any governmental benefits available to the child as a result of his “Native” status.

Children’s Aid Society of the Regional Municipality of Waterloo v CT, 2017 ONCA 931

Self-identification of Indigenous ancestry submitted at the appeal level of court, does not alone constitute as fresh evidence to overturn a trial decision when there has been no error of law. Trial decision of no access for a Crown ward restored.

This is the second appeal from a trial decision involving a 10-year-old girl that was made a Crown ward with no access for the purpose of adoption. The biological parents appealed the no access order. The first appeal judge concluded that, although the trial judge did not err, the parents should have access. He outlined what he considered to be: a miscarriage of justice; the trial judge’s interference, bias and abuse of the trial process; procedural delay; and the incompetence of trial counsel. He invited costs submissions personally against trial counsel for the parents. This appeal restores the trial judge’s order of no access; dismisses the parents’ cross-appeal; and allows the cross-appeal of counsel on ineffective assistance and the consequent costs order.

After the initial trial, the parents filed affidavits that declared for the first time that the father was Cree and the mother was Mi’kmaq. The reasons from the first appeal judge are a scathing review of Ontario’s child welfare system and an apology to the parents for the manner in which they were “treated, ignored, demeaned and disbelieved.” He considered fresh evidence, including an affidavit which indicated that the child loves her parents, wanted to see her parents, but also wanted to be adopted by the proposed adoptive parent. By this time, the child had been with the proposed adoptive parent for almost two years and was flourishing.

The test for fresh evidence in a child protection matter is more flexible than in other types of cases. Statutory requirements for access to a Crown ward according to the Child and Family Services Act (the Act), however, puts the onus on the parents who seek access to present evidence that satisfies the test in CAS Hamilton v CG. First, the relationship between the person and the child must be beneficial and meaningful to the child, as opposed to the person seeking access. Second, the access must not impair the child’s opportunities for adoption. There was uncontroverted evidence that the adoptive mother would not adopt if there was contact with the parents, which would then make the access order statutorily impossible. The first appeal judge nonetheless ordered access and erred in doing so. Simply put, when a Crown wardship order is granted with access, the parental relationship with the child is preserved. When a Crown ward is sought to be placed for adoption, the goal is permanency and the success of the adoption.

The parents submitted on the first appeal, and before this court, that a child’s Indigenous heritage introduces different considerations into the access analysis. There is potential harm to Indigenous children if adopted by non-Indigenous families, as they often experience challenges, risks, and vulnerabilities that other children adopted across cultural and racial boundaries do not have. The parents argued that if they do not have access to the child, she is likely to suffer from a lack of connection to her Indigenous culture, heritage and community. Courts recognize the pervasive effects of the historical and continuing harms to First Nations families. This does not, however, automatically exempt Indigenous children from the access provisions for Crown wards under the Act.

A parallel can be drawn with the court’s approach to the sentencing of Indigenous offenders. In R v Ipeelee, the Supreme Court describes the proper approach where courts must take judicial notice of such matters as the history of colonialism, displacement, residential schools and how that history continues to translate into lower educational attainment, lower incomes, higher unemployment, higher rates of substance abuse and suicide, and higher levels of incarceration for Aboriginal peoples. These matters, on their own, do not necessarily justify a different sentence for Aboriginal offenders but provide the necessary context for understanding and evaluating the case-specific information presented by counsel. While Gladue principles do not directly apply to access to a Crown ward, the Supreme Court’s comments about context and the need for case-specific evidence are instructive.

The first appeal judge made no mention that the parents or the child were in any way involved in an Indigenous community or its culture. There is no evidence that the parents had any connection to their culture, that the child was ever exposed to the Indigenous culture, or that anyone from the Indigenous community had ever been involved with the parents or the child. Because of this, the second appeal judge found that there was no evidentiary record in this case to balance the importance of the uniqueness or preservation of the Aboriginal heritage of the child when considering the other factors set out in the CFSA.

Although the second appeal judge recognized that Indigenous membership has expanded to include self- identification, 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 her. The first appeal judge erred by ordering access based on nothing but the parents’ self-identification with Indigenous heritage in the absence of any evidence on this issue specific to this child.