R v Luke, 2019 ONCJ 514

Conditional discharge granted. In this matter involving an Indigenous first time female offender, the mandatory minimum sentence in s 255(1) is inconsistent with s 12 of the Charter.

Native Law Centre CaseWatch Blog

The accused was arrested for impaired driving after she took her mother’s car without consent. She assumed control of the vehicle in an extremely intoxicated state, out of reaction to her boyfriend’s infidelity with her own cousin. A monetary penalty in response to the creation of a serious risk, such as with impaired driving, will not be a grossly disproportionate punishment. The central issue is whether the criminal record which necessarily flows from the imposition of that mandatory minimum fine results in a s 12 Charter violation for an offender, such as with accused in this matter. The result of the mandatory minimum sentence demanded by s 255(1) of the Criminal Code [“CC”], the discretion afforded by s 730 of the CC was unavailable. As well, when Parliament enacted s 255(5), Ontario never opted into the application of a discharge provision.

A discharge should only be granted if the court “considers it to be in the best interests of the accused and not contrary to the public interest”. This must be answered having regard to the accused’s moral blameworthiness and to the gravity of the offence. As well, all sentencing determinations “must respect the fundamental principle of proportionality”. Taking into account s 718.2(e), a different method of analysis must also be used when determining a fit sentence for Aboriginal offenders.

Denunciation is a key consideration in drinking and driving offences, especially where the offence was motivated by extreme emotional turmoil such as in this matter. Deterrence of like-minded potential offenders seems futile. It would be more effective if the court imposed a driving prohibition in addition to the two years’ probation. The accused accepted responsibility for the offence by pleading guilty, within weeks began addressing the alcohol addiction, met with a counsellor and a registered psychotherapist, and has the intent of completing high school and becoming a youth worker. In holding it would not be contrary to the public interest to grant this specific accused a curative treatment discharge, it would also be a just sanction given the accused is an Aboriginal offender.

The mandatory minimum sentence in s 255(1) prevented giving effect to several important factors such as: 1) the accused is a first offender with strong rehabilitative potential; 2) the offence was largely motivated by alcohol addiction and there is good reason to believe continued treatment will effectively deal with that issue; and 3) the accused’s offence was connected to their Aboriginal background which also provides for rehabilitative and restorative sentencing options. There is recognition of the stigmatization, stereotyping, and further challenge to the Aboriginal accused in finding future educational and employment opportunities. S 255(1) was stated to result in at least some grossly disproportionate sentences and could not be saved under s1. A Provincial Court’s power to determine constitutional validity of a CC provision is limited to the case that is heard, therefore no formal declaration was made for s 255(1). In this case, the accused was granted a curative treatment discharge for the reasons above.

Wakeling v Debassige, 2019 ONSC 4058

Variation to a divorce order granted in order for the parties’ children to more fully participate in Indigenous events.

Native Law Centre Case Watch

A member of the M’Chigeeng First Nation, sought to change the parenting schedule for his two children to support their connection with their First Nation’s heritage, communities, and Ojibwe language. The mother of the children is not First Nation. The children had primarily resided with their mother. The father sought to have the children primarily live with him in another province and have them attend school there as he felt their current school schedule interfered with their ability to participate in Indigenous events. The mother opposed the claims on the basis that she had been supportive of the children’s connection to their heritage, and there had not been a change in circumstances. She also sought an order preventing the father from bringing further motions to vary without leave of the court as she argued that he had abused the court system by bringing multiple variation proceedings.

Before a court may vary the parenting provisions of an order, the court must be satisfied that there has been a material change in the conditions, means, needs, or other circumstances of the child occurring since the making of the last variation order made in respect of that order (Divorce Act; Gordon v Goertz, [1996] 2 SCR 27 [“Gordon”]). A material change in circumstances is one that: 1) amounts to a change in the conditions, means, needs, or other circumstances of the child and/or the ability of the parents to meet the needs of the child; 2) materially affects the child; and 3) could not have been reasonably contemplated at the time of the last variation order.

On a balance of probabilities, the onus to prove that there has been a material change is on the party seeking the change. If that party is unable to show the existence of a material change, the inquiry can go no further. As well, evidence on a motion seeking a final order should meet the same tests for admissibility as apply at trial. When making a variation order after finding there had been a material change, the court must then take into consideration only the best interests of the children as determined by reference to that change (Divorce Act; Gordon).

After viewing all the factors, this Court determined that the only material change was relating to the National Aboriginal Day and powwows, therefore a variation order was necessary for that factor. The mother’s request to have an order granted to prevent the father from bringing further motions to vary without permission of the court, was dismissed. The mother had not provided evidence of previous costs orders against the father, nor that he had failed to pay such costs in the past.

Campbell v Vancouver Police Board, 2019 BCHRT 12

Intervenor status granted. A First Nations woman must still prove the facts of her human rights complaint against the Vancouver Police Board at the hearing.

Native Law Centre

Deborah Campbell, a First Nations woman, filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal [“Tribunal”] under s 8 of the Human Rights Code [“Code”]. Ms. Campbell felt that the Vancouver police mistreated her when arresting her son because of her visible Indigenous heritage. The Vancouver Police Board [“VPB”] denied the allegation of mistreatment and discrimination. The Union of BC Indian Chiefs [“UBCIC”] applied to intervene in the complaint under s 22.1 of the Code. The UBCIC wanted to provide the Tribunal with context surrounding the relationship between the BC police and Indigenous people as that would allow the Tribunal to gain a better understanding of the complaint. Campbell supported the intervention, and the VPB opposed it in concern that it would expand the scope of the complaint and remove the litigation away from the parties.

The Tribunal has broad discretion to allow a person or group to intervene in a complaint, and to specify the terms of that intervention (Hall v BC (Minister of Environment (No 4)), 2008 BCHRT 437). That discretion is conferred by s 22.1 of the Code. When considering an application to intervene, the Tribunal will balance the likelihood of the intervenor in making a “useful contribution” to the resolution of the complaint against the risk of prejudice to the parties, and the risk that the intervenor will “take the litigation away” from the parties (Hughson v Town of Oliver, 2000 BCHRT 11).

The Tribunal recognized that Indigenous people are disproportionately underrepresented in complaints that are brought before it. There are deep-rooted prejudicial implications of colonialism that continually impact Indigenous people based on their race and ancestry. Evidence of social context, however, was deemed to be inconclusive on its own when determining if discrimination has occurred (Québec (Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse) v Bombardier Inc (Bombardier Aerospace Training Center), 2015 SCC 39). At the hearing, the burden of proof remained on Ms. Campbell to prove the facts of her complaint. Merely establishing a context of “difficult” or “harmful” relationships between the VPD and Indigenous people would be insufficient on its own to determine that VPD violated Ms. Campbell’s rights under s 8 of the Code. The Tribunal considered these factors and granted UBCIC the opportunity to make oral and written submissions at the opening and closing of the hearing. If UBCIC wanted to introduce its own expert advice at the hearing, it was responsible for applying to do so.

R v Napope, 2019 SKPC 23

The nature of a breach by the accused of a s 810.2 recognizance does not put the public at risk. It is the Court’s view that that his release back into the community is important if he is to make any progress on the restorative path as contemplated by Ipeelee and Gladue.

Native Law Centre Case Watch

The accused pled guilty to one breach of a recognizance issued under s 810.2, contrary to s 811 of the Criminal Code. The Crown sought a 15 month jail sentence minus his remand at enhanced credit from the time of his arrest. Defence sought a two month jail sentence minus his remand at enhanced credit. The accused is sentenced to time served of 44 days actual jail time but with credit for 66 days at enhanced credit.

In this matter, the accused was released on an 18 month s 810.2 recognizance and was required to register to and report in person with Police Services and to his Probation Officer. The accused had ongoing difficulties with reporting in a timely manner which compelled the Probation Officer to submit a breach. The accused was residing with his mother at that time and been experiencing serious medical issues because of long-standing addictions issues. He was not intoxicated, he committed no substantive offence and did not remove himself from supervision. His health concerns may have impacted his ability to get to his appointments and attend programming, however, he always kept in touch with his supervisor, albeit late. An aggravating factor, however, is that this is not the accused’s first breach of this recognizance. He was sentenced on two breaches for not complying with his assessment, treatment, programming and a curfew. He also has a lengthy criminal record with violent convictions.

The purpose of a s 810.2 recognizance is to protect the public by preventing future criminal activity. Paramount consideration is not only placed on this purpose but also specific and general deterrence. The gravity of the breach must be examined in the context of the offender’s history (R v Zimmerman, 2011 ABCA 276). The court is required to consider the prior offences and circumstances of the accused in determining an appropriate sentence, keeping in mind that this type of recognizance has a different purpose from an undertaking or probation order.

With respect to Gladue factors (R v Gladue, [1999] 2 CNLR 252 [“Gladue”]), the accused had a difficult childhood, including attending residential school. The accused grew up from residential school to the penitentiary. The Supreme Court of Canada reiterated the seriousness of the incarceration problem and called on the justice system to address it. Rehabilitation was emphasized and sentencing judges were directed to ensure that they were not contributing to ongoing systemic racial discrimination (R v Ipeelee, [2012] 2 CNLR 218 [“Ipeelee”]).

S 718.2(e) is properly seen as a “direction to members of the judiciary to inquire into the causes of the problem and to endeavour to remedy it, to the extent that a remedy is possible through the sentencing process” (Gladue). No two offenders will come before the courts with the same background and experiences, having committed the same crime in the exact same circumstances. S 718.2(b) simply requires that any disparity between sanctions for different offenders be justified. Sentencing judges, as front-line workers in the criminal justice system, are in the best position to re-evaluate these criteria to ensure that they are not contributing to ongoing systemic racial discrimination (Ipeelee). Uniformity hides inequity, impedes innovation and locks the system into its mindset of jail. There is a constitutional imperative to avoiding excessive concern about sentence disparity (Ipeelee).

While specific and general deterrence are significant factors in assessing these types of breaches, the accused’s past and criminal history at this time and in this particular breach does not give the Court any reason to fear that the public is at risk of a violent crime. The accused’s lack of reporting is not significant as completely removing himself from supervision, which did not occur. He was lackadaisical in reporting as opposed to complete non-compliance. He turned himself in at the earliest opportunity and did not commit any other substantive offences. While a s 810.2 recognizance has a similar purpose and method as a long-term offender order, the accused is not a long-term offender. He was reporting and participating in his programs, albeit not as stringently as he should have been concerning his attendance. While these types of breaches are something the Court should be concerned about, there is no evidence that the accused has fallen back into his addictions that would open up a risk to the public.

The determination of a just and appropriate sentence is a highly individualized exercise and involves a variety of factors that are difficult to define with precision. It may happen that a sentence falls outside a particular range, that may never have been imposed in the past for a similar crime, but is not demonstrably unfit. Everything depends on the gravity of the offence, the offender’s degree of responsibility and the specific circumstances of each case. The fact that a judge deviates from a sentencing range established by the courts does not in itself justify appellate intervention. The accused is not more likely to commit a violent crime because he missed an appointment.

 

Kawartha-Haliburton Children’s Aid Society v MW, 2019 ONCA 316

Appeal allowed. The Divisional Court erred by applying the wrong framework for access, including the special considerations for Indigenous children, and misstated the approach to summary judgement in child protection matters.

Native Law Centre Case Watch

The Applicant requests access to three of her children in extended care. Her children were apprehended in 2015 by the Respondent, Kawartha-Haliburton Children’s Aid Society, pursuant to the Child and Family Services Act, [“CFSA”]. The appropriateness of the extended care order is not disputed. The mother, however, did not agree to a no-access provision when she consented to a summary judgement motion for Crown wardship. The motion judge made the children Crown wards and denied the mother access to them. The mother appealed to the Divisional Court. By this time, the CFSA was about to be replaced with the new Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 [“CYFSA”]. The major changes to the child protection legislation made pursuant to the CFYSA, such as the transition provisions of the new legislation, the new test for access to children in extended care, the special considerations for Indigenous children, and the proper approach to summary judgment in child protection matters are central to this appeal.

The transitional provisions of the CYFSA required that, at the date it came into force, all cases not “concluded” would be considered under the new Act. This court determines that the word “concluded” is to be taken in the ordinary sense of the word and a decision under reserve means the case is not concluded. Also, the children are First Nations as defined in the CYFSA. They and their family members identify as First Nation with the Curve Lake First Nation. In this matter, the transitional provisions of the CYFSA apply, so that the test for access was pursuant to the new Act that was to replace the CFSA. The criteria for access to children in extended care has been changed by removing the presumption against access, making the child’s “best interests” predominant in determining access, and emphasizing the importance of preserving Indigenous children’s cultural identity and connection to community. The record was insufficient to satisfy the new test pertaining to the children’s Indigenous heritage (Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton v GH, TV and Eastern Woodlands Metis of Nova Scotia, 2016 ONSC 6287 [“GH”]). The Act is remedial legislation and should be interpreted liberally especially for Indigenous children. By applying the transitional provisions to cases under reserve, thereby not “concluded”, these children would not be caught in a legislative void.

The CYFSA changed the considerations for access. The test for access to a Crown ward under the old Act was strict. The onus was on the person seeking access to establish that the relationship was meaningful and beneficial. There was a presumption against access and opportunities for adoption were prioritized over other considerations. Under the new Act, the court shall not make the access order unless it is satisfied that it is in the best interests of the child. It is to undertake a best interests analysis, assess whether the relationship is beneficial and meaningful to the child, and consider impairment to future adoption opportunities only as part of this assessment and only where relevant. The Divisional Court did not properly address the issue of the sufficiency of the record because it applied the old Act.

The Divisional Court also erred by misapplying the key principles regarding the use of summary judgment to the specific circumstances of child protection proceedings (Hryniak v Mauldin, 2014 SCC 7 [“Hryniak”]). Hryniak’s fairness principle requires that exceptional caution is needed for summary judgment in the child protection context by reviewing the Charter implications of child protection proceedings. Child protection litigation engages the Charter rights of both parents and children (New Brunswick (Minister of Health and Community Services) v G (J), [1999] 3 SCR 46). The courts should be especially mindful of the reality and material circumstances of those subject to child protection proceedings. Women, and especially single mothers, are disproportionately and particularly affected by child protection proceedings (G(J)). The cautious approach to summary judgment in child protection has long been recognized by lower courts and by this court (Children’s Aid Society of Halton (Region) v A (KL) (2006), 216 OAC 148).

The proper approach to summary judgment in child protection proceedings must exercise caution and apply the objectives of the CYFSA, including the expanded best interests of the child test. This court sets aside the motion judge’s order and refers this matter back to the Superior Court on an expedited basis to determine the question of access pursuant to the CYFSA.

R v Desautel, 2019 BCCA 151

Appeal dismissed. The Respondent is not prevented from claiming an Aboriginal right to hunt in British Columbia pursuant to s 35 even though he resides in the United States of America.

Native Law Centre Case Watch

Richard Desautel was charged under the Wildlife Act after hunting an elk without a license in the Arrow Lakes area of British Columbia. He admitted the actus reus but asserted that he has a s 35 Aboriginal right to hunt in the territory despite being a citizen of the United States of America [“USA”]. Mr. Desautel has never resided in British Columbia but is a member of the Lakes Tribe of the Colville Confederated Tribes in Washington State. His Sinixt ancestors had occupied territory above and below the 49th parallel, including the area in which he was hunting. At the time of contact with Europeans, they hunted, fished, and gathered throughout their territory.

Does the meaning of the phrase “the Aboriginal peoples of Canada” in s 35(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982 include only Aboriginal peoples who are resident or citizens of Canada, or also Aboriginal peoples whose ancestors occupied territory that became Canada? S 35 is directed towards the reconciliation of pre-existing Indigenous societies with the assertion of Crown sovereignty. A practice, custom, or tradition that is central and significant to the distinctive culture of an Indigenous society pre-contact that has not been voluntarily surrendered, abandoned, or extinguished, may be exercised by Indigenous members of modern collectives if they can establish that: 1) the modern collective is descended from the historic collective that exercised the practice, custom or tradition in that territory; and 2) there has been continuity between the practice of the modern collective with the practice of the historic collective pre-contact (R v Van der Peet, [1996] 4 CNLR 177 [“Van der Peet”]).

S 35(1) provides the constitutional framework to acknowledge the fact that Aboriginals lived on the land in distinctive societies, with their own practices, traditions and culture and to reconcile this with the sovereignty of the Crown. The burden of proof was on Mr. Desautel to establish the Aboriginal right claimed and a prima facie infringement of that right (R v Sparrow, [1990] 3 CNLR 160 [“Sparrow”]). The meaning and scope of s 35(1) is derived from the general principles of constitutional interpretation relating to [A]boriginal rights, and the purposes behind the constitutional provision itself. Sparrow also requires that s 35(1) be construed in a purposive way and that the words in s 35(1) be afforded a generous, liberal interpretation. Further, in Van der Peet it was instructed that the courts take into account the perspective of the Aboriginal peoples claiming the right and any doubt or ambiguity as to what falls within the scope of s 35 must be resolved in their favour. Applying the Van der Peet test, the concept of continuity must have a necessary connection between the historic collective and the modern-day community. Therefore, claimants who are resident or citizens of the USA can be “Aboriginal peoples of Canada” where they can establish the requirements set out in Van der Peet.

Courts adjudicating Aboriginal rights claims must be sensitive to the Aboriginal perspective, but also aware that Aboriginal rights exist within the general legal system of Canada. The time period integral to the Aboriginal community claiming the right is the period prior to contact. Where an Aboriginal community can demonstrate that a particular practice, custom or tradition has continuity with those of pre-contact times, that community will have demonstrated that the practice, custom or tradition is an Aboriginal right for the purposes of s 35(1). The concept of continuity is the means by which a “frozen rights” approach to s 35(1) will be avoided. Continuity does not require evidence of an unbroken chain of continuity. Aboriginal rights are constitutional rights, but that does not negate the central fact that the interests that the rights are intended to protect, relate to the specific history of the group claiming the right. Aboriginal rights are not general and universal as their scope and content must be determined on a case-by-case basis. The existence of the right will be specific to each Aboriginal community.

Mr. Desautel’s right to hunt in the traditional territory of his ancestors in that geographical area were never voluntarily surrendered, abandoned or extinguished. This Court will not modify the Van der Peet test to add a geographic requirement that would prevent members of Indigenous communities, who may have been displaced, from the opportunity of establishing their Aboriginal rights in areas their ancestors had occupied pre-contact. This matter is distinguishable from R v Powley, [2003] 4 CNLR 321 [“Powley”] where in order to accommodate the unique history of the Métis communities that evolved post-contact, the time period analysis in Van der Peet was focused on pre-European control. Powley requires an Aboriginal rights claimant to be a member of a contemporary community in the geographic area where the right was exercised. It is also distinguished from R v Bernard, [2018] 1 CNLR 79, where a Mi’kmaq member of the Sipekne’katik First Nation in New Brunswick was charged with contravening the Fish and Wildlife Act, for hunting deer. The trial judge found Mr. Bernard had failed to establish that he was a member of a modern collective descended from the original rights-bearing Mi’kmaq community that hunted at the mouth of the St. John River. Unlike Mr. Bernard, Mr. Desautel has established a connection to the historic community that hunted in the traditional territory where the claimed Aboriginal right was exercised.

It has been determined that there is continuity of the practice of hunting in the area where Mr. Desautel shot the elk. Members of the Lakes Tribe are the modern-day successor collective of the Sinixt peoples and Mr. Desautel was exercising his lawful Aboriginal right to hunt for ceremonial purposes in the traditional territory of his Sinixt ancestors, pursuant to s 35(1). The issues raised by the Crown regarding the Lakes Tribe’s legal status in the USA, or the extent of any potential duty to consult and accommodate, raises ancillary questions that, in the Court’s view, are not material to the central issue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto v ST and BF, 2019 ONCJ 207

The inability to name a child’s bands and First Nations, Inuit or Métis communities does not negate the initial determination that a child is a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child.

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre

The Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto [“Society”] has brought a protection application for SF, an 8-month-old child. The child is in need of protection pursuant to the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017 [“the Act”]. At first the child was described as not a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child but the Court was not satisfied that it had sufficient evidence and adjourned the case for the Society to further explore the issue. After the matter returned to court, it was held that the child should be identified as a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child. The court is not precluded from finding that a child is a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child just because the child does not have any bands or First Nations, Inuit or Métis communities.

The child was brought to a place of safety due to concerns surrounding the parent’s mental health and capacity. The court endorsed that the Society must immediately investigate whether the child is a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child, based on information received from the mother. She stated that her mother had told her that she is of Métis background, but also that her mother had lied to her about many things, so she does not know if she is being truthful or not. The Society had not been able to connect with the grandmother, despite multiple efforts. Neither Indigenous Services Canada or any of the Métis organizations that were contacted had been able to confirm the family’s identity. The society did contact the great-grandmother, who confirmed that the family is Métis and that her mother was Indigenous, but that was all the information they had.

Once the court determines that a child is a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child, the second part of the statutory finding that must be made is to identify the child’s Indigenous bands or communities. There may be more than one band or community (Children’s Aid Society of Algoma v CA, 2018 ONCJ 592 [“CAS of Algoma v CA”]). The Act sets out that its paramount purpose is to promote the best interests, protection and well-being of children. First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples should be entitled to provide, wherever possible, their own child and family services, and all services to such eligible individuals should be provided in a manner that recognizes their cultures, heritages, traditions, connection to their communities, and the concept of the extended family.

The court must apply the definition of First Nations, Inuit or Métis child set out in the Ontario Regulation 155/18 for the purpose of identification under the Act and the criteria is exhaustive. The court should take a broad view in interpreting if the child has a connection to an Indigenous band or community under the regulation. This seems to be in accordance with the spirit of the Act which tends to be more inclusive when it deals with Indigenous peoples. Subparagraph 1(c) of the Ontario Regulation 155/18 uses the words “there is information that demonstrates that”, which sounds like a clear invitation to the person making the s 90(2)(b) determination of identity to rely on information that is not necessarily “evidence”. It says nothing about the standard of such information (CAS of Algoma v CA).

However, to just say that anyone can put forth a claim and have it accepted without question would be an open invitation to abuse the administration of justice. It could cause considerable harm to children by delaying decisions affecting them and would be disrespectful to the First Nations, Inuit and Métis persons the Act is intended to include. While the inability of a person to name specific Indigenous bands or communities might be a factor in assessing the identification issue, it should not be determinative. The reality is that due to the Sixties Scoop, many Indigenous persons now have fractured memories of their Indigenous connections and it is likely that many will not be able to name specific bands or communities. Evidence or information will often come from memories of discussions with relatives and will often lack detail. Many will not be registered with any First Nations band or belong to any First Nations, Inuit or Métis organization. In many cases, neither will their parents. This does not necessarily preclude the court from making a finding that the child is a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child. The new legislative provisions are an opportunity for these children to reignite lost connections with their culture and heritage.

The court should take a broad view in interpreting if a child is a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child (CAS of Algoma v CA). This is an approach that is consistent with the statements made in both the preamble and purposes section of the Act. It is this court’s view that only a low threshold of reliable and credible evidence or information should be sufficient to make a finding that a child is a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child. The Act and regulations set out considerable rights and additional considerations for these children that recognizes their cultures, heritages, traditions, connection to their communities, and the concept of the extended family. It would be contrary to the purposes of the Act to disenfranchise these children. If a child’s Indigenous bands or communities cannot be identified, it is the rights that are set out in the Act that are not activated. However, many other additional considerations still apply to First Nations, Inuit and Métis children in the Act and its regulations that should not be extinguished just because the child’s Indigenous bands or communities cannot be named. The same best interests test applies on an adoption application.

The court received information from the great-grandmother that she identifies as a First Nations, Inuk or Métis person. However, a great-grandmother is not a relative as defined in the Act. The legislature put a limit on how far back the investigation about a child’s family’s First Nations, Inuit or Métis connections would go to two generations before the child. However, the grandmother is a relative, and despite her lack of cooperation with the Society, she provided specific information to the mother that she identified as Métis. The problem the court initially faced was that the mother claimed that the grandmother was not truthful. This is where the subsequent information provided by the great-grandmother became important. Essentially, the great-grandmother corroborated the information provided by the grandmother to the mother, by stating to the Society that the family is Métis and that her mother was Indigenous. The court finds that this evidence and information is sufficient to meet the low threshold required to find that the child is a First Nations, Inuk or Métis child.

Environmental Challenges on Indigenous Lands: A CIGI Essay Series

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre

“Indigenous lands are under ever-increasing pressure from governments and extractive sector corporations that are eager to encourage economic development and foreign investment. Against a backdrop of colonialism and dominant societies’ disregard for Indigenous peoples’ own laws, these lands have become the site of conflict and environmental degradation. When Indigenous communities find themselves dispossessed by the government’s approach to extraction licensing, infrastructure development and the establishment of environmental processes and protections, trust can erode quickly.

In November 2018, Indigenous leaders, environmental activists, human rights lawyers, academics, advocates and extractive industry participants came together at a conference in Banff, Alberta to discuss the ongoing efforts to hold industry and government accountable for legacy environmental damage. The discussions provided an opportunity for Indigenous peoples’ own laws to be brought to the foreground in finding solutions to today’s most difficult environmental challenges — and provided inspiration for this essay series. Environmental Challenges on Indigenous Lands explores the complex conflicts between international, domestic and Indigenous law when it comes to addressing a global environmental crisis, supporting economic development and making steps toward meaningful reconciliation.”

View essay publications of the Environmental Challenges of Indigenous Lands: A CIGI Essay Series here.

The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology: Statutory Review of the Copyright Act

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre

COMMITTEE OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The Standing Committee recognizes that, in many cases, the Act fails to meet the expectations of Indigenous peoples with respect to the protection, preservation, and dissemination of their cultural expressions. The Committee also recognizes the need to effectively protect traditional arts and cultural expressions in a manner that empowers Indigenous communities, and to ensure that individual Indigenous creators have the same opportunities to fully participate in the Canadian economy as non-Indigenous creators.

Achieving these objectives will require that policymakers approach the matter in creative ways. They could, for example, draw inspiration outside of copyright and intellectual property law and carefully consider how different legal traditions, including Indigenous legal traditions, interact with each other. Such work requires a more focused and extensive consultation process than this statutory review. The Committee, however, cannot stress enough the importance of moving forward collaboratively with Indigenous groups and other stakeholders on the matter, and that potential solutions proposed by Indigenous witnesses in this review should serve as a starting point. The Committee therefore recommends:

Recommendation 5

That the Government of Canada consult with Indigenous groups, experts, and other stakeholders on the protection of traditional arts and cultural expressions in the context of Reconciliation, and that this consultation address the following matters, among others:

  • The recognition and effective protection of traditional arts and cultural expressions in Canadian law, within and beyond copyright legislation;
  • The participation of Indigenous groups in the development of national and international intellectual property law;
  • The development of institutional, regulatory, and technological means to protect traditional arts and cultural expressions, including but not limited to: 1) Creating an Indigenous Art Registry; 2) Establishing an organization dedicated to protecting and advocating for the interests of Indigenous creators; and 3) Granting Indigenous peoples the authority to manage traditional arts and cultural expressions, notably through the insertion of a non-derogation clause in the Copyright Act.

The Committee cited, but did not repeat, the recommendation from (Manatch, ICMI, and Sa’ke’j Youngblood Henderson for a non-derogation clause (see footnote 49, page 29 of attached PDF below).

https://www.ourcommons.ca/DocumentViewer/en/42-1/INDU/report-16/page-87#15

https://www.ourcommons.ca/Content/Committee/421/INDU/Reports/RP10537003/indurp16/indurp16-e.pdf