R c Awashish, 2020 QCCQ 3614

The Court rejected a joint submission on sentence of 34.7 months of imprisonment for aggravated assault, theft, and various administration of justice offences. The sentence was found to be excessive and likely to bring the administration of justice into disrepute as it failed to comply with the Gladue principles and perpetuated Indigenous over-incarceration, both individually and as a precedent. 

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An Indigenous accused, a member of the Cree First Nation and the Mistissini community, pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated assault against his sister, theft, a breach of probation related to failing to perform community work, and two breaches of recognizance, that is, consuming alcohol and failing to observe a curfew.

The Court ordered a presentence report and a Gladue report, but it was not prepared due circumstances surrounding the pandemic. The presentence report in this case states that the accused has very bad memories of his childhood. His parents consumed alcohol repeatedly and there was violence almost every day, which was experienced by the accused. As he grew older, he used drugs and alcohol heavily. He attempted suicide and has been heavily medicated to treat his depressive episodes and panic attacks.

The accused remains fragile psychologically. If he returns to the community without first working on his vulnerabilities, the risk of relapse is significant. Several traumas related to his childhood remain unresolved to this day. However, he is able to work well when he is in a safe environment. The accused acknowledges that he needs help and that he is not able to resolve his problems on his own. He is willing to go to therapy at the Waseskun Center, a healing center.

During submissions on sentencing, counsels proposed a sentence totaling 34.7 months of imprisonment, less presentence custody, leaving a residual sentence of two years, as well as 24 months’ supervised probation. Counsels took steps to verify whether the accused could take part in therapy at the Waseskun Center. The Court, however, informed the parties that it questioned compliance with the public interest test established in R v Anthony-Cook, [2016] 2 SCR 204 [“Anthony-Cook”] and asked them to make additional submissions on the reasons and circumstances underlying the joint submission.

A trial judge should not depart from a joint submission on sentence unless the proposed sentence would bring the administration of justice into disrepute or is otherwise contrary to the public interest (Anthony-Cook). This Court is of the view that the rejection of the joint submission in this case meets this high threshold. This joint submission for an Aboriginal offender viewed by reasonable and informed persons would be seen as representing a breakdown in the proper functioning of the justice system (R v LaForge, 2020 BCSC 1269).

The sentence proposed in this case is not only excessive, but also likely to bring the administration of justice into disrepute and contrary to the public interest because it does not comply with the obligations set out in s. 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code and Gladue factors (R v Gladue, [1999] 1 SCR 688; R v Ipeelee, 2012 SCC 13; R c Diabo, 2018 QCCA 1631; and Denis-Damée c R, 2018 QCCA 1251). Specifically, it does not take into account the accused’s actual moral blameworthiness and fails to consider the other reasonable sanctions available. Because both counsel are experienced and that ratifying their submission would carry weight, it would set a precedent from which the Court finds it important to depart.

Recently, the Court of Appeal for Ontario emphasized the importance of conditional sentences as other available sanctions under s. 718.2(e) with respect to Aboriginal offenders (R v Sharma, 2020 ONCA 478).  The Court determined a more appropriate sentence, and along with a conditional sentence order and probation order, there is included the condition that the accused complete six months of therapy at the Waseskun Center to heal his inner wounds, his violence issues, and his alcohol and drug abuse problems.

R v McCargar, 2020 ONSC 5464

The Court sentenced an Indigenous woman to a conditional sentence of 24 months followed by a 12 month period of probation for robbery, with conditions including culturally based programmes described in her Gladue report. While her co-accused was sentenced to 10.5 months in prison, the offender’s rehabilitation path, less concerning criminal record, and Gladue factors distinguished her circumstances. 

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The offender, Ms. McCargar, was found guilty after a trial on one count of robbery. She participated in a robbery of fentanyl patches from a 67-year old victim that had been prescribed this medication for pain. The victim was living alone in a rural area when Ms. McCargar and another offender came to the house in order to rob him.

Ms. McCargar is the mother of 4 children and a grandmother. She currently works full-time hours at a funeral home and volunteers 15 hours per week at a senior’s centre. The offender comes from a disadvantaged background. Her father was alcoholic and abusive who subjected his family to significant trauma. Ms. McCargar also suffered significant abuse and has endured a number of additional traumas as an adult. She has managed to rehabilitate herself from drug addiction and no longer uses alcohol. Currently Ms. McCargar is not in a relationship and lives with two of her children, including one that requires a great deal of assistance.

Ms. McCargar is Metis and did not have the benefit of growing up in her culture, but because of the colour of her skin, she has faced racism. For some time, the offender has been seeking the knowledge, insight and support her culture can bring. She has maintained contact with the Mohawk community in Tyendinaga. Her father taught her to hunt, trap and fish, and she has maintained these practices. Ms. McCargar has a criminal record which involves a number of property offences and includes convictions for assault. The Gladue report and PSR suggest, however, that some of these convictions occurred in the context of domestic relationships where the offender was physically abused by her partner.

According to this Court, the protection of the public is achieved with a conditional sentence, which is best suited to permit the offender to maintain the significant progress she has made towards her rehabilitation and strengthen her supports within her cultural community. Since the offences, Ms. McCargar has led a productive life. Most critically, there is a duty to give meaningful effect to the Gladue principles in this case, and the considerable evidence of the impacts of those factors on the offender. It is appropriate in this case to apply restraint in sentencing to reflect the circumstances that led to this offence and which reduce her moral blameworthiness.

Despite that her co-accused received a sentence of 10.5 months, there are important differences between the offenders in this case. Since Ms. McCargar’s sentence will be served as a conditional sentence with terms of house arrest, the range of sentence is appropriately higher than if a jail sentence were imposed (R v Sharma, 2020 ONCA 478). This means that if the offender is not compliant with the terms of the conditional sentence, she might serve an even longer period of time in jail should she breach the terms of the conditional sentence order. This serves to reinforce the principles of denunciation and deterrence.

Ultimately, in order to give effect to all of the principles of sentencing in this case, the term of the conditional sentence is fixed at 24 months. The first 12 months will be under house arrest, with exceptions for employment and certain other circumstances. During the conditional sentence, Ms. McCargar shall attend for all treatment and counselling that might be deemed appropriate for her by her supervisor, including those programmes described in the Gladue report. This will be followed by a period of probation for 12 months during which time Ms. McCargar is to continue with the culturally based programmes outlined in the Gladue report.

R v Penunsi, 2020 NLSC 101

Appeal dismissed. Newfoundland’s failure to enact the option of curative discharges does not result in a breach of the Constitution.

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The Appellant, an Innu woman who resides in the community of Sheshatsiu, Newfoundland and Labrador, was convicted of driving while her blood alcohol was in excess of the legal limit. The conviction was her third for such an offence. Notwithstanding that she faced mandatory imprisonment, she advised the sentencing court that she wished to seek a curative discharge. The option was not available in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Appellant challenged the constitutionality of legislation affording the Provinces the discretion whether to enact the curative discharge provision in the Criminal Code. She asserted that the failure to be able to take advantage of a curative discharge disadvantaged her as an Aboriginal offender. The sentencing judge dismissed her application and the Appellant was sentenced to the mandatory minimum of 120 days imprisonment.

The Appellant has now appealed arguing that the sentencing judge erred in dismissing the application. Her application seeks to have the Court find that the legislation that affords the provinces the discretion whether to enact the curative provision, s 209(2)1 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act [“CLA”] violates her rights to equal treatment under s 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [“Charter”], in that it permits the Province to decline enacting the curative sentencing section. As an Aboriginal offender, she submits she is entitled to a restorative approach to sentencing, relying on s. 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code and the interpretation that section has received (R v Gladue, [1999] 2 CNLR 252; R v Ipeelee, [2012] 2 CNLR 218).

At the hearing of the appeal in this Court, the Appellant was afforded the opportunity to present her argument not solely as to how the sentencing judge erred in the manner in which the application was heard, but also as to why section 209(2) was unconstitutional.

The Applicant relied on the reasoning in R v Daybutch, 2015 ONCJ 302 for support that her rights under s 15 were violated. The Court, however, does not find the reasoning in R v Daybutch persuasive as it fails to consider the legitimate differences in treatment of persons under the criminal law as part of the administration of criminal law in a federal system. In contrast, a recent and thorough examination of the same issue was conducted in R v Sabbatis, 2020 ONCJ 242. Like the Applicant in this matter, and the accused in R v Daybutch, the accused in R v Sabbatis is Aboriginal. In assessing whether the accused’s rights under s 15 were violated, the court declined to follow the reasoning in R v Daybutch, but instead came to the opposite conclusion. There is no basis to find that the discretion of the Province, as permitted by s 209(2) of the CLA, namely whether to enact the curative provision under the Criminal Code, violates the Appellant’s right to not be discriminated against under s 15, on the basis of her being an Aboriginal person.

The Court determined there was no error committed by the sentencing judge reasoning in dismissing the application and holding that s 209(2) of the CLA does not discriminate against the Applicant under s 15 of theCharter. This appeal from sentence is dismissed. The stay of the Appellant’s sentence is set aside, and the Appellant is to surrender herself into custody at the police detachment nearest to her current place of residence.

Alberta (CYFEA, Director) v NL, 2020 ABPC 118

This is a decision with respect to ordering costs against the Director of child and family services in Alberta, which is relatively unusual and difficult to obtain. While it is not per se an “Aboriginal law” case, the Court considered the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in protection as a factor in favour of issuing an order for costs under s. 24(1) of the Charter

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A Permanent Guardianship Order was determined as not warranted for a child apprehended by the Director of child and family services in Alberta. The Court orders the child to be returned to the mother [“NL”] over a period of three months pursuant to a Supervision Order. This was necessary because the child had been in the custody of the Director for a period of almost 2 years, and not because of any concern about the mother’s ability to care for the child. Counsel for the mother asks the Court for costs against the Director.

As background, concerns were enough for the Director to properly apply for an apprehension order in 2017 due to numerous medical difficulties that caused concern for health and medical professionals. As well, NL at the time did not seem to be taking the appropriate measures that were suggested. Although there had been previous concerns with respect to NL’s care of her other children in the past, none of the children had been apprehended and issues with respect to drinking, partnership issues and so on, always seem to be resolved and did not appear to be an insurmountable situation. Another issue regarding NL’s care for the child was that medical appointments were located in Red Deer, approximately one hour away from her residence by car. NL does not have a car or driver’s license.

There does not appear to have been any investigation into whether NL was suffering from postpartum depression or at least the anxiety brought on by having the child’s medical problems added on to the fact that she was caring for another child, age three, who had her own medical difficulties. It appears that the medical and psychological experts assumed that what they termed as NL’s passivity or lack of affect, was a personality defect rather than a situational reaction to the stressful situation she found herself in.

The foster mother gave evidence to the child’s present circumstances. She has been the foster parent for the child since he was apprehended at approximately four months of age. The child is a typical energetic, curious, active two-year-old and does not appear to have any difficulty eating, sleeping or anything else out of the ordinary. She is regularly in contact with NL and they share information on the child’s progress and any changes that are necessary with respect to his sleeping eating or activity patterns. This evidence exposes the Director’s evidence as being out of date, yet still having been used to pursue a permanent guardianship order. There was also no evidence before the Court of the child having FASD, nor did the Director provide any evidence that this concern was pursued at all since apprehension.

Effectively nothing was done with respect to re-uniting this family during the whole time the chlid was in care. This is in direct conflict with the Director’s mandated obligations under the CYFEA. Medical information should have been updated to show the child was still in need or the child should have been returned to the mother.

The difficulty in dealing with the question of costs in child protection matters is that there are a number of cases both in Provincial Court and The Court of Queen’s Bench which take differing views with respect to the Provincial Court’s jurisdiction to award costs against the Director in a child protection matter. One may assume that costs is not an issue for child protection litigants because through Legal Aid they get “free” lawyers. This is not actually the case in Alberta as new clients are required to sign documentation acknowledging that they will repay any amounts billed by counsel, prior to counsel taking on their matter. This Court can see no reason why child protection litigants, a significantly large proportion of whom are Indigenous women and men, should be denied court costs in instances of the Director’s failure to carry out its mandate under the CYFEA.

Having found that there is conflicting case law; and having found that the CYFEA remains silent with respect to this issue and thereby creating an apparent conflict; the Court finds that the Respondent’s rights ensured by the Charter pursuant to section 7 and 15 have been infringed or denied. This in turn leads to the Court to considering an appropriate remedy. Section 24 of the Charter states “(1) Anyone whose rights or freedom’s, as guaranteed by this Charter, have been infringed or denied, may apply to a court of competent jurisdiction to obtain such remedy as the court considers appropriate and just in the circumstances”. The Court finds that the appropriate remedy for the respondent in this case is an award of damages against the Director in an amount equal to the legal fees the Respondent is required to repay to Legal Aid Alberta.

RF v Kina Gbezhgomi Child and Family Services, 2020 ONCJ 366

Counsel for a foster parent in a child protection matter was removed from the record based on his prior representation of the child protection agency respondent. The Court took into account the overall negative relationship between Indigenous peoples and the justice system in relation to the need to respect an Indigenous person’s choice of counsel, but held that intervention is necessary in clear cases of conflict in order to mitigate this crisis of confidence. 

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An Anishinaabe child [“NLJ”], a registered band member of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory [“Wiikwemkoong”], was removed at birth from the care of her parents by the Children’s Aid Society of Oxford County [“CAS”] and a protection application commenced. The child has significant physical needs that require specialized care both at home and at school. NLJ was placed with the applicant [“RF”] on this protection application proceeding, and who was, at that time, a recognized foster home and the placement was monitored by the CAS. The file was ultimately transferred to Kina Gbezhgomi Child and Family Services [“KGCFS”] and the applicant continued to provide a foster placement for NLJ.

NLJ was made a crown ward under the Child and Family Services Act and remained in RF’s care. Wiikwemkoong passed a Band Council Resolution which provided that NLJ remain in the home of RF pursuant to a Customary Care Agreement. Wiikwemkoong and KGCFS have a “Joint Protocol” [“Protocol”] with respect to the provision of child protection services, which includes Customary Care. The Protocol outlines the relationship between Wiikwemkoong and KGCFS and their inherent right to be involved in decision making on child protection issues.

Mr. Parisé was the primary lawyer retained by the respondent society, KGCFS, for child protection matters when the Customary Care Agreement was finalized. Because of the Protocol, KGCFS is necessarily a party to that agreement. In 2016, the Crown Wardship Order was terminated following a status review application commenced by KGCFS. The existence of the Customary Care Agreement was the basis for the application. Of note, Mr. Parisé was counsel for KGCFS at the time and counsel of record in that proceeding.

The child remained in the home of RF under this Agreement until 2019 when NLJ was removed by KGCFS and placed in another customary care home. The Customary Care Agreement between KF, Wiikwemkoong, KGCFS, and the biological parents of NLJ was terminated sometime thereafter. It was at this time that Mr. Parisé started acting as counsel of record for RF. Mr. Parisé represented RF who filed a status review which was ultimately dismissed without prejudice to the applicant bringing an application under s 81(4) of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act [“CYFSA”]. RF then filed a protection application. KGCFS brought a motion to remove Mr. Parisé as counsel of record a month later, which was the first time the issue of potential conflict was raised with the Court.

On March 16, 2020, the Office of the Chief Justice released a Notice to the Public ordering the suspension of normal court operations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, RF’s application was adjourned, and with it, KGCFS’s motion. Subsequently, the Customary Care placement was revoked when the respondent mother withdrew her consent but did not seek custody at that time. NLJ no longer had a customary care placement and KGCFS commenced their own protection application without naming RF as a party. After dealing with the initial removal to a place of safety, the court remanded both matters to the same date to be spoken to in order to deal with jurisdictional issues arising out of the fact that there are now two separate child protection applications dealing with the same child, and which do not have all the same parties. The parties on both applications agreed that this motion would need to be heard first before other substantive issues could be addressed.

The jurisdiction to remove counsel is found in the inherent right of the court to determine “to whom it will give an audience” and that the threshold for court intervention should be high (Windsor-Essex Children’s Aid Society v BD, 2013 ONCJ 43). The test that the courts have developed for determining if counsel should be removed is whether the public, represented by the reasonably informed person, would be satisfied that no use of confidential information would occur (MacDonald Estate v Martin, [1990] 3 SCR 1235 [“MacDonald”]).

Counsel of choice is a foundational principle in the Canadian justice system. It is well established that a litigant should not be deprived of their counsel of choice without good cause. However, this principle is not absolute. The issue in this motion is whether a lawyer who acted on behalf of a society on a child protection file can now represent one of the other parties in a subsequent protection application. The Court determines in this case, that the conflict is one which should disqualify the lawyer from continuing to act on the matter and the lawyer be removed from the record. The courts owe a duty to the Indigenous people they serve to intervene in the clear cases of conflict, in order to mitigate this crisis of confidence.

R v Neasloss, 2020 BCPC 161

The Court accepted a joint proposal for a 10-month conditional sentence served in the community for possession of child pornography. The Court did express misgivings with the absence of any independent or expert evidence in the record to justify the proposal as no Gladue report, pre-sentence report, or psychiatric assessment was obtained. The proposal was accepted, however, due to the high standard for any judicial departure from a joint submission on sentence.

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Tyler Eugene Neasloss was charged with distributing and possessing child pornography contrary to the Criminal Code. At the sentencing hearing the Crown and defence jointly proposed a sentence comprising of a ten-month conditional sentence [“CSO”], three years’ probation and four ancillary orders. The Court questioned whether a non-custodial sentence was appropriate in the circumstances of the offence and offender. Although, not convinced a CSO gives proper effect to the sentencing principles of parity and proportionality, the Court is bound by the Supreme Court of Canada’s directive that trial judges are to follow joint submissions in all but the rarest of cases. The Court can only depart from a joint submission if it is so unhinged from the circumstances of the offence and the offender that its acceptance would lead reasonable and informed persons to believe that the proper functioning of the justice system had broken down (R v Anthony-Cook, 2016 SCC 43).

In 2018, Facebook, a United States social media corporation, reported the transmission of suspected child pornography to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children [“NCMEC”]. The following day, NCMEC reported the transmission to the BC Integrated Child Exploitation [“ICE”] Unit of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police [“RCMP”]. The BC-ICE Unit determined that two images sent by a Facebook user met the definition of child pornography and forwarded a report to the New Hazelton RCMP detachment. The Facebook user had used an identifying IP address. The RCMP obtained and executed a search warrant at a residence, at which time they arrested Mr. Neasloss. The RCMP seized several items from Mr. Neasloss’ bedroom. Mr. Neasloss confessed to possessing child pornography and viewing images of pre-pubescent boys and girls performing various sexual acts. He denied ever touching a child sexually, expressed shame and wrote a written apology to his family for what he has done.

Mr. Neasloss was 30 years old at the time of the offence and has no criminal record. Mr. Neasloss is a member of the Gitxsan Nation. In Grade 8, while attending Skeena Junior Secondary School, Mr. Neasloss left school, never to return. He lives a narrow, lonely and solitary life with his father, where he stays home, watches television and is not otherwise socially engaged. Mr. Neasloss does not drink or smoke or use drugs. He has no friends or intimate partners, past or present, no children, does not work and has a negligible work history. Mr. Neasloss lives on social assistance and although he might qualify for a disability pension, he is unable to navigate the application process.

Typically, before imposing sentence on an offender convicted of possessing child pornography, the trial judge has the benefit of a pre-sentence report and a psychiatric and psychological risk assessment. When the offender is Indigenous, the court often receives a Gladue report, In this case, the Court has no such reports. There is no Gladue report and only a faint thumbnail sketch of Mr. Neasloss’ personal history. The Court, however, is acutely aware of the challenges facing Indigenous people in this region. The systemic and background factors affecting Indigenous people in Canadian society have likely impacted Mr. Neasloss’ life in such a way as to diminish his moral culpability.

The Court does not know the nature or severity of Mr. Neasloss’s asserted psychological, cognitive and social impairments. Apparently, he has the intellectual skills to navigate the dark web to access child pornography, and the psychological dysfunction to do so. Both counsel, however, argue that sentencing ought to proceed in the absence of presentence reports or psychological assessments in order to minimize delay and expedite Mr. Neasloss’s access to treatment. Both counsel are experienced and clearly considered the systemic benefits of Mr. Neasloss’s guilty plea to justify a non-custodial sentence. The crafting of the sentence endeavours to protect the community from the risk of Mr. Neasloss reoffending through a combination of rehabilitative and restrictive conditions contained in various court orders. The Court endorses the joint submission as advocated by counsel.

R v Hoshal, 2020 ONCJ 345

The Indigenous defendant breached a Long Term Supervision Order on two separate accounts by consuming prohibited substances. This resulted in just one additional day in custody based on credit for pre-sentence custody and the collateral consequences of COVID-19 in the Toronto South Detention Centre, including the suspension of culturally appropriate programming and activities. Gladue factors contextualized his youth criminal record and indicated a need for restraint.

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Mr. Hoshal has pled guilty to two separate counts of breaching the conditions of his Long Term Supervision Order [“LTSO”]. Both breaches involved the consumption of substances prohibited by this order. His risk of violent future re-offence is directly linked to whether he can abstain from the consumption of alcohol and drugs. Breaching an LTSO is not like breaching probation or bail. It is met with significant jail terms. The public loses confidence in the judicial system when offenders breach court-ordered terms. He has been detained at the Toronto South Detention Centre.

Mr. Hoshal’s childhood was mired in trauma, abandonment, and abuse. Mr. Hoshal is forty years old and has a serious criminal record that includes approximately 25 convictions for domestic violence, all rooted in substance misuse and abuse. Mr. Hoshal is a non-status Blackfoot on his father’s side. Upon discovering this Indigenous heritage, he attempted to learn more about it on his own. He twice moved onto a reserve, only to feel isolated and singled out, sometimes violently, because he appeared “white”. The information he has managed to obtain about his Indigenous heritage has largely come from programs in jail. Otherwise, he has been disconnected from his Indigenous culture.

Mr. Hoshal’s punishment must be tempered as much as possible without displacing the fitness of the sentence, by the exercise of restraint. In order to rehabilitate oneself, hope is necessary. The conditions of Mr. Hoshal’s presentence custody, including the COVID-19 consequences, have amplified anxiety and stress, isolated him from supports, and caused him to lose hope. The harsh presentence custody conditions at the TSDC upon Mr. Hoshal personally, and the impact of COVID-19 adds to the already deplorable conditions. Mr. Hoshal’s global sentence of 14 months less presentence custody remains fit and within the range.

Southeast Collegiate Inc v Laroque, 2020 FC 820

Application allowed. A Canada Labour Adjudicator committed an error of law by failing to apply the correct legal test to determine if he had jurisdiction to hear an employee’s wrongful dismissal complaint. He erroneously concluded the presumption of provincial regulation of labour relations had been rebutted based on a provision of the Indian Act, the identity of the students, and the program’s emphasis on cultural sensitive education.

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The Court allowed an application for judicial review from a Canada Labour Adjudicator’s decision that the Southeast Collegiate Inc. is a federal undertaking to which the Canada Labour Code [“CLC”] applies. This corporate entity was created by the Southeast Tribal Council to deliver culturally sensitive high school education to Indigenous students from across Manitoba.

The Respondent complained under the CLC that she was wrongfully dismissed. She therefore bore the onus to adduce evidence to rebut the presumption of provincial authority. The Adjudicator addressed the two issues put forward regarding jurisdiction and the dismissal of the Respondent. Ultimately the Adjudicator found that the facts set out in the termination letter were proven and that the dismissal of the Respondent was justified. He also determined that the Applicant was a federal undertaking to which the CLC applies [“Decision”]. The Applicant does not challenge any of the fact-finding in the Decision. The Applicant seeks judicial review because it maintains that, in light of the relevant jurisprudence, it is not a federal undertaking for the purpose of employment.

It has been acknowledged that strictly speaking, this issue is not a genuine constitutional one as it is not concerned with whether a particular statute is intra or ultra vires the constitutional authority of the enabling government. However, there is a rebuttable presumption that labour relations are a matter of provincial jurisdiction (NIL/TU,O Child and Family Services Society v BC Government and Service Employees’ Union, 2010 SCC 45 [“NIL/TU,O”]; Treaty 8 Tribal Association v Barley, 2016 FC 1090).

The Applicant established and operates a high school for Indigenous students with classes for grades 10, 11 and 12. The school draws students from sixteen Indigenous communities across Manitoba. It serves all of Manitoba but is targeted to those communities that do not have their own local high school. The school is located in the City of Winnipeg. Students are required to live in campus dormitories during the school year except during holiday periods.

The Southeast Tribal Council and the Federal Government of Canada are parties to an annual contribution agreement to fund the operation of the school. It provides funding for the operation of the Applicant and pays the tuition and boarding fees for each Indigenous student. While the Federal Government funding is the primary source of money received by the Applicant, non-Indigenous students are allowed to attend the school if they pay the annual tuition.

Although the school is not governed by The Public Schools Act of Manitoba, the Applicant’s teachers are required to hold a Provincial Teaching Certificate. The compulsory provincial high school courses are offered by the Applicant. The annual contribution agreement requires that the Applicant follow the Manitoba Ministry of Education Curriculum in order to receive the funding. Course curricula are accredited and provided by the province of Manitoba. As a result, graduating students receive a high school diploma that is recognized by the Manitoba Board of Education and by post-secondary institutions.

In NIL/TU,O, the Supreme Court indicated that the functional test “calls for an inquiry into the nature, habitual activities and daily operations of the entity in question to determine whether it constitutes a federal undertaking” (NIL/TU,O). The Adjudicator was required to consider the functional test established by the Supreme Court of Canada in NIL/TU,O and, in doing so, he had to correctly apply it. The Adjudicator did neither. Because the Adjudicator found that it did not arise, there is no indication in the Decision that the presumption of provincial authority over this Applicant’s labour relations with the Respondent was rebutted. Unless the presumption is rebutted, the Province of Manitoba had jurisdiction over the relationship between the Applicant and the Respondent. Instead of applying the functional test, the Adjudicator substituted his own view that the presumption did not arise. In that respect, the Decision is based on an error of law.

R v Kuliktana, 2020 NUCA 7

Appeal allowed. The sentence on the Appellant is altered as proposed by the joint submission. In this appeal, emphasis was placed on the role of Gladue factors to help justify a joint submission for a sentence that appeared to be lower than appropriate. Inferences were made in the absence of direct information, as a Gladue Report was not available.

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The Appellant, a 27-year-old Inuk man from the Hamlet of Kugluktuk, in the Kitikmeot Region of Nunavut, entered guilty pleas to one count of assault and one count of unlawful confinement. The Crown elected to proceed by summary conviction on both counts and pleas were entered after resolution discussions. The joint submission for a fit sentence was 120 days in custody, less credit for the 58 days the Appellant had spent in pre-sentence custody to that date, leaving 33 days to serve along with a probation order of 12 months.

The sentencing judge resisted the joint submission and called upon counsel to provide more information and a more elaborate rationale. The Appellant remained in custody in the meantime for almost 3 months. The sentencing judge then rejected the joint submission and imposed a sentence of imprisonment of 180 days on the count of assault which he described as “time served” and 60 days concurrent on the count of unlawful confinement also described as “time served”. In addition, the sentencing judge directed a probation order for a period of 12 months, with conditions, including performance of 50 hours of community service work.

The Appellant on this appeal submits that his sentence has been completed, but that his appeal is not moot because the entry on his criminal record will be higher than it should have been. The Appellant had an unstable childhood due to his family’s inability to settle in one community. He has a significant criminal record, including convictions in 2014 and 2015 for analogous “domestic assault” offences. His counsel attributes the Appellant’s criminal record at least in part to the criminogenic factors of alcohol and a lack of stable housing.

Regrettably, there was no Gladue report prepared to further illuminate what other factors may have contributed to his difficulty in maintaining a prosocial conduct pattern (R v Gladue, [1999] 1 SCR 688). It has been said repeatedly that this type of information is not to provide a special exemption in sentencing but rather is directly related to locating a proportional sentence having regard to the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender under s 718.1 of the Criminal Code. It is an error to proceed on the basis that Gladue factors do or do not justify departure from a proportionate sentence (R v Swampy, 2017 ABCA 134). Rather, they direct the sentencing court’s attention to circumstances that help to identify a proportionate sentence.

In this instance, it is a matter of conjecture as to what influence more Gladue information might have had on counsel or the Court. But it is possible to draw some inferences from what was provided about the Appellant’s circumstances. Often it is a matter of common-sense inference as to how the offender’s life has reached the point where the offender’s reactions to problems tends to breach social norms. In determining whether a proposed joint submission sentence for an offender seems unfit, the sentencing court should consider how Gladue factors might fit in to the situation.

When the Crown chooses to enter into a plea arrangement with an offender (by counsel) that is a solemn business, and it is not just clearing court backlog in some bureaucratic sense. Whether a sentencing court should harbor doubt about the utilitarian benefits of plea agreements and joint submissions, there cannot be similar doubt about the linkage between the Crown taking a consistent, reliable and predictable position and the Rule of Law.

The sentencing judge’s mention of what he felt did not reconcile the joint submission with his unexplained conceptualization of a fit sentence for the Appellant’s crimes came down to rejection of the joint submission on a basis subjectively held by him. It was not a manifestation of the principled override of a joint submission contemplated by, or consistent with, the guidance and policies in R v Anthony-Cook, 2016 SCC 43. Accordingly, the failure of the sentencing judge to explain what was wrong with the joint submission was a flaw with more than one dimension. It is not discernible what, if any, comparators or prior authority or guidance the sentencing judge was relying on, and it would not have been a demonstration of “public interest” error if the only discrepancy of the joint submission were that it did not fit the sentencing judge’s own practice.

Canadian Natural Resources Limited v Elizabeth Métis Settlement, 2020 ABQB 210

Application allowed. A Métis community’s Property Tax Bylaw is quashed as it is unlawfully enacted and unreasonable in substance.

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Indigenous CaseWatch Blog

Elizabeth Métis Settlement [“Elizabeth”] is a small Métis community on the eastern edge of Alberta. In 2019, Elizabeth levied property taxes amounting to 187% of assessed land value on four natural resource companies whose lands comprise virtually its entire taxable base. Elizabeth explained that its unusual procedures in enacting it were justified by a looming financial emergency, and that the context of Alberta’s Métis settlements uniquely informs the question of what constitutes a reasonable rate of taxation in this situation.

In 1984, a movement began towards securing lands to support Métis communities in Alberta attaining self-governance. This consultation ultimately led to the Alberta-Métis Settlements Accord in 1989. This framework agreement and related legislation created eight Métis settlement [“Métis Settlements”] and granted fee simple title to those lands to the Métis Settlements General Council [“MSGC”]. This process also led to the incorporation of the Métis people in the Constitution of Alberta Amendment Act, which recognized that the Métis people were to gain self-governance, and protected their land base with the specific stated aim of preserving and enhancing Métis culture and identity. The Métis Settlements Act [“MSA”], was brought into force to provide a structure of delegated authority by which these communities could govern themselves individually, and collectively through the MSGC.

The top level of Métis governance established by the MSA is the MSGC. This umbrella body creates policies from which each of the Settlements derive sub-delegated authority to run their own communities. The individual Métis Settlements, in practice, operate at a quasi-municipal level. While their existence has a deeper social, cultural and historical underpinning than ordinary municipal corporations, they perform many of the same functions of a local municipal government common to municipalities across the province. Similar to municipalities, the sole source of tax revenue for the Settlements is through property taxation. Due to the structure of land holding on the Settlements, however, Elizabeth appears to have only four taxpayers, including the Applicants in this case.

Métis Settlements first gained independent taxation powers in 1997. Prior to that, any taxation was subject to direct ministerial approval. MSGC policy defines the parameters of Settlement taxation powers and the process for property assessment. Each Settlement in turn is left to pass its own property tax bylaw. In 1997, the MSGC enacted a tax policy to establish a fair, orderly, and equitable system by which those who use land in a Settlement area for business purposes can be required to contribute a fair share, based on valuation or agreement, to the cost of maintaining a viable Métis community in the Settlement area. The 1997 policy permitted Settlements to make annual business property contribution bylaws, and levy property tax based on the deemed value of land holdings, with a cap tax rate.

In 2019, the basis and structure of property taxation within the Métis Settlements changed fundamentally. The MSGC revoked the 1997 policy and replaced it with a new instrument called the Métis Settlements General Council Property Taxation Policy 2018 [“Tax Policy”]. There was no cap identified on Settlement property tax rates and no mention of “fair, orderly, and equitable” contributions being required by businesses operating on Settlement lands. The Tax Policy specified a new formula by which the tax rate was to be calculated. It is based on dividing its total budget by the value of its assessed taxable base. Each Settlement was to determine its tax rate by dividing its budget by the total value of its tax base.

The net result of the Amended Budget, by operation of the formula was to increase the total property tax bill levied against the four Applicants from $624,692.44 to $25,000,733. In short, it increased the Applicants’ property tax bills 40-fold. This additional $24.4 million from the Applicant taxpayers was allocated to repair or replace virtually all infrastructure at the Elizabeth Settlement, including $75,000 in repairs and renovations to each and every residence in the community.

There is no evidence that Elizabeth considered the economic impact or viability of this rate of taxation. This includes a complete absence of discussion on whether taxes in this amount could possibly be paid, and what the economic and legal impact on the subject landowners would be. The Applicants were never given an opportunity to provide an economic analysis of the impact of this level of taxation on their operations and their ability to continue owning their land interests in Elizabeth. The Supreme Court of Canada has repeatedly affirmed the common law right of citizens to seek judicial review of municipal bylaws taxing their property (Catalyst Paper Corp v North Cowichan (District), 2012 SCC 2).

Métis Settlements are not completely analogous to municipal governments. They may well be afforded different and greater range in decision-making that touches upon the core animating values that underlie their existence, namely the preservation and promotion of Métis culture and society. That said, when Settlements levy property tax, they perform a function virtually indistinguishable from municipal governments, and derive their authority to do so through a similar process of sub-delegation. Moreover, the power they exercise in this capacity is no less impactful on the people against whom it is used.

Even if the Property Tax Bylaw was upheld in the face of its procedural defects, it is substantively unreasonable and must be quashed on that basis. Although unreasonable, it did not come about in a vacuum. The evidence in this case also showed that Elizabeth’s infrastructure need is very real, and that the stated aim of creating self-sufficient Métis communities has been thwarted by chronic capital underfunding.

The Court finds the impugned Property Tax Bylaw is the product of Métis frustration with the failure to achieve this objective. Ironically, the lack of adequate capital funding for Métis Settlements, or a viable model for the Settlements to raise capital funds through economic benefits derived on their territory, has driven Elizabeth to enact a measure that would severely, if not fatally, impair its ability to attract the investment it needs to develop a viable tax base in the future.