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

Bill C-262 Letter from Experts to Canada’s Honourable Senators

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre

A letter, submitted by 101 various experts and academics in the fields of Indigenous, human rights, constitutional law and/or international law, urges Canada’s Honourable Senators for the swift proceeding of Bill C-262 before the current session of Parliament ends.

Summary of Bill C-262 Letter from Experts:

Bill C-262, formally titled, “An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” was passed on May 30, 2018, in the House of Commons. Indigenous peoples and individuals, leaders, and human rights experts hailed this historic event as a victory for the human rights of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

The letter, however, communicates the concern that misguided claims or apprehensions continue to be used by some Senators to justify opposition and slow the progress of the bill in the Senate. This piece of legislation does not create new rights. It establishes a process for the government, in full partnership with Indigenous peoples, to achieve implementation of the Declaration in Canadian law in the three following ways: 1) Bill C-262 affirms the Declaration as a universal international human rights instrument with application in Canadian law. This is consistent with the fact that the UN Declaration already has legal effect in Canada and can be used by Canadian courts and tribunals to interpret Canadian laws; 2) the Bill requires the government to work with Indigenous peoples to review existing laws and bring forward reforms to ensure their consistency with the Declaration and; 3) Bill C-262 creates a legislative framework for the federal government to collaborate with Indigenous peoples to establish a national action plan for the implementation of the Declaration. Bill C-262 has been referred to Committee, 11 months after its adoption by the House of Commons.

Below are the links to the English and French versions of Bill C-262 Letter from Experts.

English Version of Bill C-262 Letter from Experts:
EN_Bill C-262 Letter from Experts

French Version of Bill C-262 Letter from Experts:
FR_Bill C-262 Letter from Experts

 

Corneau v AG of Québec, 2018 QCCA 1172

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

The test set out in R v Powley for Métis rights requires that a Métis community’s distinct nature be sought out, but does not require that the underlying practices and traditions be distinct.

This case involved an application brought against Mr. Corneau, and other alleged offenders, for occupying sites on public lands without any property right, lease or occupancy permit contrary to s.54 of The Act Respecting the Lands in the Domain of the State (“the Act”). Mr. Courneau contested the application on the basis that he belongs to a Métis community which confers rights to occupy the alleged public lands. It was held at trial that Mr. Corneau did not meet the requirements of the test set out in R v Powley for Métis rights. Mr. Corneau has appealed the decision, calling into question the trial court’s assessment of: (i) the evidence following the identification of the historic Métis community; (ii) the existence of a modern community; (iii) the appellants’ membership in the modern community and (iv) the period of control. In the end, the Québec Court of Appeal (“the Court”) dismissed the appeals and ordered that Mr. Corneau abandon the sites and return the premises to their former condition.

The Court began by reviewing the R v Powley decision, which clarified the test for identifying a Métis community’s rights. It first began by observing that the term Métis is not a matter of genetics, but rather of culture and identity. As articulated by the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”), the term Métis “does not encompass all individuals with mixed Indian and European heritage; rather it refers to distinctive peoples who, in addition to their mixed ancestry, developed their own customs, way of life and recognizable group identity”. Furthermore, a Métis community are “a group of Métis, with a distinctive collective identity, living together in the same geographic area.” The Court then identified the constitutionally protected Métis rights as those rights subsisting in Métis communities that emerged between first contact and the effective imposition of European control. The focus therefore is on rights that existed “post-contact”, for example after a particular Métis community arose, but also “pre-control”, or before it came under the effective control of European laws and customs.

The Court then reviewed the factual matrix as presented by the trial court. The trial court found the evidence adduced by the appellants to be insufficient to establish an identifiable historic Métis community that would allow mixed individuals to be distinguished from their biological authors. This was decided after consideration of the evidence presented by historians, genealogists and anthropologists. It was also the opinion of the trial judge that even if there was a historic community of Métis tied to the land in question, there was no modern community holding the right being claimed. Finally, in consideration of the personal circumstances of Mr. Corneau, the trial judge found the evidence of self-identification with a Métis community unconvincing. The trial court observed that: (1) Mr. Corneau’s self-identification occurred later in life and was driven by opportunism; (2) that his ancestral connection did not, on the balance of probabilities, belong to an historic Métis community; and that (3) the absence of a cultural tie between the Métis organizations and his ancestral Métis community suggest that there is not, on the balance of probabilities, sufficient evidence of the existence of the right claimed.

The Court then set out the standard of review as requiring a palpable and overriding error standard for questions of mixed fact and law. It noted that, as per R v Van der Peet, courts must not undervalue the evidence of Aboriginal claimants simply because there is no evidence conforming to the evidentiary standards of other areas of law, such as a private law torts case. It also cited Mitchell v MRN, which highlighted that while Aboriginal claims must still be established on the basis of persuasive evidence, their forms of evidence must also be afforded equal and due treatment.

In respect of issue (i) and (ii), the Court agreed with the trial court that there was no historic Métis community, but upheld the appellants’ contention that the trial court applied the test too strictly. The Court observed that the test, as applied by the trial court, takes for granted that the practise and traditions of the community in question must be distinct, while the SCC only required that the distinctive nature be sought out. Nonetheless, this error is not determinative, as it does not change the conclusion of the Court that there was no historic community holding rights to be claimed. Specifically, the Court agreed that the appellants’ expert witnesses failed to meaningfully question the evidence of historian Russel Bouchard. Evidence from Bouchard was relied on to build the claim that the individuals from mixed marriages between Euro-Canadians and Indians defended their diversity as a cultural and identity marker. The respondents, however, presented evidence suggesting that such marriages did not result in a distinct community, but rather integration into the already established Montagnais community and later into Euro Canada. In the end, the practices or traditions must also be proved. While the Court does not directly address the issues of whether there exists a modern Métis community, they are not required to as they have concluded that no historic community existed.

In respect of issue (iii), the Court held that the trial court erred in their comparison of the historic Métis community of Sault Ste Marie with the alleged historic Métis community of Domaine du Roy and Mingan Seignory. In particular, the Court held that the trial court’s strict application of the factors of density and proximity is inappropriate. As stated by the Court, “it is possible to imagine that members of a historic community could settle in several separate locations while forming a single regional unit.”  An historic community can be regional and nomadic.

In respect of issue (iv) the Court agreed with the trial court’s contention that control over the territory in question occurred between 1842 and 1850. Both the appellants and the respondents contest this finding. The appellants argued that the correct time period ought to be after 1856 when Aboriginal people were displaced following the creation of reserves, relying on primitive land surveys between 1843 and 1860, indicated in the installation of a municipal regime and administration of justice, to support this position. The Court found, however, that they failed to submit sufficient evidence to illustrate a palpable and overriding error on the part of the trial court.

The respondents argued that the trial court erred in analyzing the evidence based on the legal criterion for control. The Court dismissed this position on the basis that the expert evidence relied on by the respondents mis-categorized the Domaine du Roi territory as one governed by the seigneurial land grant system, under which control was established between 1733 and 1767. Under cross-examination it was revealed that no primary or secondary sources refer to Domaine du Roi as a secondary estate. Instead, the Domaine du Roi was preserved for the fur trade and no land grants were offered in respect of it and ended in 1842 when the government included a condition in a renewed lease of the Hudson’s Bay Company that the government could have the land surveyed and could settle colonists in any part of the Domaine suitable for agricultural colonization. Thus, the Court found that the evidence supported the approach taken by the trial court.

 

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.

A Summary of the Attorney General of Canada’s Directive on Civil Litigation Involving Indigenous Peoples

This document provides a summary of the Attorney General of Canada’s Directive on Civil Litigation Involving Indigenous Peoples (the Directive).

The Directive was written by Jody Wilson-Raybould, the former Attorney General of Canada, in response to her mandate letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It outlines a series of litigation guidelines instructing Crown counsel as to how the Principles Respecting the Government of Canada’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples (the Principles) must be applied in civil litigation involving Indigenous peoples.

The former Attorney General articulates that the guidelines are intended to reflect a significant shift in Crown-Indigenous relations. In particular, the Directive recognizes the limited ability of litigation to achieve the sort of reconciliation and renewal required in Crown-Indigenous relationships. The former Attorney General recognized that Indigenous peoples are entitled to select their own forum to resolve legal issues while also reiterating that where litigation is important, the guidelines should direct the Government’s positions and strategies.

The former Attorney General went on to outline that the Directive applies to section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, which entrenches Aboriginal and Treaty rights, as well as other Crown obligations towards Indigenous peoples. It is intended to animate the advice provided by departments and Cabinet towards the goal of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, which is the fundamental purpose of section 35 of the Constitution. Importantly, the Directive indicates that the honour of the Crown is reflected not just in the substance of positions taken by the Crown in litigation, but also in how those positions are expressed. This broader goal is grounded in four main objectives: (1) advancing reconciliation; (2) recognizing rights; (3) upholding the honour of the Crown; and (4) respecting and advancing Indigenous self-determination and self-governance.

The Litigation Guidelines are as follows:

Litigation Guideline #1 – Counsel must understand the Principles and apply them throughout a file’s lifespan.

Counsel must seek to understand and apply Indigenous perspectives, recognizing the diversity of Indigenous perspectives and the rights underlying these varied relationships.

Litigation Guideline #2 – Litigation strategy must reflect a whole-of-government approach.

Principle 3 requires the Government to act with honour, integrity, good faith and fairness in all dealings with Indigenous peoples. To this end, counsel must endeavour to engage in discussions between Indigenous peoples and the departments and agencies about the way in which litigation might affect their relationship. This guideline calls for litigation strategies that are firmly rooted in the policies of the Crown and advocates awareness of government-wide implications of judicial decisions or settlements. This will necessitate broad consultation from government actors.

Litigation Guideline #3 – Early and continuous engagement with legal services counsel and client departments is necessary to seek to avoid litigation.

In order for conflict and litigation to become the exception and not the rule, counsel must engage with client departments and agencies as soon as they become aware of a conflict that may result in litigation, and endeavour to develop coordinated approaches that aim to resolve disputes without litigation.

Litigation Guideline #4: Counsel should vigorously pursue all appropriate forms of resolution throughout the litigation process.

The primary goal of counsel must be to resolve issues, using the court process as a forum of last resort. Forms of resolution such as alternative dispute resolution processes (such as negotiations and mediations) must be considered including the invocation of Indigenous legal traditions or other traditional Indigenous approaches. Consideration must also be given to creative solutions with other department counsel and other government departments or agencies.

Litigation Guideline #5: Recognizing Aboriginal rights advances reconciliation.

This guideline recognizes that the Principles necessitate a change in the interpretation and governing of Aboriginal rights. It specifically points to Principles 1 and 2, which call on the Government of Canada to ensure its dealing with Indigenous peoples are based on the recognition and implementation of the right to self-determination and state that reconciliation requires hard work, changes in perspectives and action, compromise, and good faith. It also specifically points to the need to recognize Aboriginal rights, including Aboriginal title, wherever these can be recognized. Litigation counsel is advised to avoid taking positions or adding parties to litigation that undermine the ability of Indigenous groups to resolve disputes amongst themselves.

Litigation Guideline #6: Positions must be thoroughly vetted, and counsel should not advise client departments and agencies to pursue weak legal positions.

Counsel should resolve differences of opinion on available arguments and the strength of legal positions through discussion. Where discussion fails, consultation and approval must be done in an appropriate manner.

Litigation Guideline #7: Counsel must seek to simplify and expedite the litigation as much as possible.

Counsel must ensure that litigation is dealt with promptly and consider resource imbalances between parties.

Litigation Guideline #8: All communication and submissions must be regarded as an important tool for pursuing reconciliation.

This guideline emphasizes the role of written and oral submissions as an instrument of communication between the parties, the Attorney General, Indigenous peoples, the judicial system and the public. In these pleadings, efforts must be made to advance reconciliation through the application of the Principles.

Litigation Guideline #9: Counsel must use respectful and clear language in their written work.

The Attorney General is expected to be a model litigant, upholding the expectation and maintaining high standards of civility and advocacy in their communication with the courts, Indigenous peoples or their counsel.

Litigation Guideline #10: Legal terminology must be consistent with constitutional and statutory language.

Counsel should abide by the specific terms used in the Constitution, by Parliament, and by the legislatures relating to Indigenous peoples, including the term Aboriginal as defined by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, the term “Indian” as it appears in subsection 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867, and the term First Nation in reference to the First Nations Land Management Act, S.C.

Litigation Guideline #11: Overviews must be used to concisely state Canada’s position and narrow the issues.

An overview of Canada’s position, whether in pleadings or in factums, is an important communicative tool. The overview must be used to plainly explain Canada’s position, outlining what is and what is not an issue.

Litigation Guideline #12: To narrow the scope of litigation, admissions ought to be made, where possible.

Admissions of facts that support claims of historical harm should be acknowledged, with approval from the client and Assistant Deputy Attorney General. In pleadings, facts that are known to support the statements in the Indigenous party’s pleading and that may advance reconciliation should be explicitly stated and not just admitted where appropriate. For example, instead of only listing those paragraphs with such facts in a generic statement of admission, counsel should affirmatively plead those facts:

In response to paragraph x of the statement of claim, since at least the date of contact, the plaintiffs and their ancestors have lived at various sites in the vicinity of the identified area.

Litigation Guideline #13: Denials must be reviewed throughout the litigation process.

Denials made at early stages of litigation, when the facts may be unknown and when it would be imprudent to admit too much, must be withdrawn if and when it becomes clear that such denials are inconsistent with the available evidence.

Litigation Guideline #14: Limitations and equitable defences should be pleaded only where there is a principled basis and evidence to support the defence.

Long-standing federal positions such as extinguishment, surrender and abandonment are discouraged by the Principles. These defences should only be pleaded where there is a principled basis and evidence to support to the defence. Moreover, where litigation has been long delayed, defences such as laches and acquiescence are preferable to limitation defences.

Litigation Guideline #15: A large and liberal approach should be taken to the question of who is the proper rights holder.

This guideline speaks to the right of Indigenous peoples and nations to define for themselves who the rights-bearing collective is. Canada should not object to the entitlement of a group to bring litigation when rights are asserted on behalf of larger entities where no conflicting interests exist.

Litigation Guideline #16: Where litigation involves Federal and Provincial jurisdiction, counsel should seek to ensure that the litigation focuses as much as possible on the substance of the complaint.

Litigation Guideline #17: Oral history evidence should be a matter of weight, not admissibility.

Litigation Guideline #18: Decisions on judicial reviews and appeals should be subject to full consultation within government and be limited to important questions.

Litigation Guideline #19: Intervention should be used to pursue important questions of principle.

This guideline indicates that intervention requires consideration of whether the Attorney General’s intervention can assist the course through the provision of legal or constitutional perspective not addressed by the parties to the dispute.

Litigation Guideline #20: All files must be reviewed to determine what lessons can be learned about how the Principles can best be applied in litigation.

The final guideline suggests a review process that will enable counsel and the client department to learn from each litigation case by reflecting on how similar litigation cases can be avoided in the future.

For more information on the Principles see: Principles respecting the Government of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous Peoples.

For more information on the Directive see: The Attorney General of Canada’s Directive on Civil Litigation Involving Indigenous Peoples.

Editor’s Note: Professor Larry Chartrand of the University of Ottawa and former Director of the Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre, contributed his thoughts and expertise that assisted the improvement of the Directive.

R v Anugaa, 2018 NUCJ 2

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

The unique cultural context and circumstances of Nunavut amount to a third category of exceptional circumstances with respect to the application of R v Jordan and its presumptive ceilings for trial delay.

This case involved two allegations of indictable historic sexual assault alleged to have happened in Sanikiluaq between May 2, 1977 and May 2, 1978. The accused, Lukasie Anugaa, was charged on July 8, 2013. Mr. Anugaa elected to be tried by a judge and jury. However, it turned into a case about pre-trial delay, in which five different jury trial dates were scheduled. Mr. Anugaa’s fifth and latest trial was scheduled to start on January 15, 2018. Over 54 months passed between the day Mr. Anugaa was charged and the anticipated end of his trial. Mr. Anugaa made a pre-trial application to the Court based on section 11(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Supreme Court of Canada decision’s in R v Jordan, arguing that his right to a trial within a reasonable time had been violated. Mr. Anugaa sought a stay of proceedings on this basis, which would have brought the case to an end. The Crown opposed the stay.

The Nunavut Court of Justice decided that the delay in the circumstances of this case had been reasonable. In 2016, the Supreme Court revisited its previous interpretation of section 11(b) of the Charter in Jordan. The Supreme Court set out presumptive ceilings in terms of the amount of time that would generally amount to an unreasonable delay between the issuance of charges and a criminal trial. The Supreme Court also discussed exceptional circumstances to the strict application of these presumptive ceilings. Two examples of exceptional circumstances listed in Jordan are “discrete events” and cases that are “particularly complex”. The delay caused by “discrete events” can be deducted from the remaining net delay. Where the case is particularly complex, no deductions are needed and the Court will instead consider if the complexity justifies the time spent on the case.

Central to the Nunavut Court of Justice’s analysis was the statement in Jordan that the list of exceptional circumstances is not closed. There are exceptional circumstances that surround access to justice in Nunavut as it sprawls over Canada’s vast northern landmass. Just to name a few, 38,000 people live in 25 remote communities scattered over Nunavut’s 2,093,190 square kilometres. There is only one courthouse, the Nunavut Court of Justice, located in Iqaluit. Outside Iqaluit, the Court travels regularly to each one of the other 24 far flung communities and the distances between them are immense. The circuit sits in school gyms, community halls and even council chambers. Many of the community halls lack functioning washrooms and heating systems fail leaving court participants to conduct court in their winter parkas and mittens. The harsh arctic climate is unforgiving, therefore flights are delayed or cancelled as blizzards are a regular occurrence. The cancellation of a court circuit has an impact out of proportion to a similar cancellation in the south as it means the possibility of no court in the community for an entire year, unless a jury trial has been scheduled. Jordan does not account for the impact of Nunavut’s tremendous infrastructure deficit, as the taxpayer money available to the Government of Nunavut is woefully inadequate. This level of service will continue despite the new Jordan rules.

In the Court’s view, Jordan is also problematic as it does not consider the unique cultural context in Nunavut. There is central importance of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit. Nunavut’s communities are small and very closely knit. The Court stands down for burials and funerals and sentencing hearings are delayed in order to permit offenders to participate in seasonal hunts. The Court avoids scheduling jury trials during the extremely short arctic summers because it is a time when many Nunavummiut return to the land. This seasonal reality cannot be overstated and will continue in the future. Jordan only enumerates two subcategories which permit delay: exceptional discrete circumstances and exceptional case complexity.

In Mr. Anugaa’s case, the Court felt that the above was not enough to be described as “discrete events” as contemplated by Jordan. Rather, the way these events were dealt with reflected the very ethos of the approach of the delivery of justice in Nunavut. To apply Jordan justly in Nunavut, the Court held that there must be a third subcategory of exceptional circumstances which reflects the territory’s unique cultural context. The Court took the position that Jordan did not account for the need to respect and incorporate Inuit culture and experiences into the delivery of justice to Nunavummiut. The delivery of justice in Nunavut poses unique and unavoidable challenges in circumstances found nowhere else in Canada. Therefore, Mr. Anugaa’s application for a stay was rejected and the case was ordered to proceed to trial.

The parties were also at odds over where another trial should be held if the stay was not granted. The Crown brought an application to move the jury trial to a different community. It was argued that every eligible adult in Sanikiluaq had already likely been summonsed at least once to serve on the jury and fair trial interests required a change in venue, due to Mr. Anugaa being notorious in the community. The Court accepted that it was necessary to hold the trial in a different community in the unique circumstances of the case, as Mr. Anugaa is entitled to a jury of his peers but not entitled to a jury of his neighbours.

Alberta (Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act, Director) v JR, 2018 ABPC 258

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action, and Gladue principles inapplicable to child protection matter.

JR and AL are the parents of seven children ranging in age from nine months to nine years. Both parents have been diagnosed with cognitive and intellectual disabilities. Throughout their time spent together and apart, JR and AL suffered from multiple addictions, which aggravated domestic violence issues between them. All seven children have spent considerable time in state care due to the domestic violence and addictions suffered by their parents. The youngest children even tested positive for methamphetamines post-birth. The oldest children display severe behavioural issues and are likely to struggle in future years, thereby needing a stable and safe environment.

The applicant, Kasohkowew Child Wellness Society (KCWS), exists pursuant to a tripartite agreement between the Province of Alberta, the Government of Canada and the Samson Cree Nation. KCWS brought an application under the Child Youth and Family Enhancement Act RSA 2000 c C-12 (CYFEA), for a permanent guardianship order for all seven children and this was ultimately granted by the Court. Counsel for AL opposed the application, making submissions in favour of less invasive action based on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action, and the principles set out in R v Gladue, [1999] 1 SCR 688.

With respect to UNDRIP, counsel for AL pointed to Article 7.2, which states “Indigenous individuals have the collective right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and shall not be subjected to any act of genocide or any other act of violence including forcibly removing children of the group to another group (emphasis added)”. In response, the Court pointed out that KCWS is a delegated First Nations authority established under a tripartite agreement to provide child, youth and family services to Samson Cree Nation. The Court found it difficult to assume that such an authority would be at all involved in discriminating against its own people. Instead, the Court assumed that the director would only remove children and place them with non-Aboriginal foster parents as a last resort, and that the director found it in the best interests of the children to do so. The Court held that UNDRIP is aspirational and does not trump the best interests or physical and mental safety of the child.

Counsel for AL quotes several TRC Calls to Action that relate to reducing the number of Aboriginal children in care. She pointed out that some of the child welfare workers directly involved with the family were not Cree or even Aboriginal. However, the TRC Calls to Action she quoted only calls for child welfare workers to be properly educated and trained in the history and subsequent impacts of the residential school system, and about the potential for Aboriginal communities and families to provide more appropriate solutions to family healing. The TRC did not say that all child welfare workers must be Aboriginal.

As for the potential applicability of R v Gladue, submissions of this type are usually in the context of criminal law cases, not child protection matters. The Court noted that the purpose of the CYFEA is not to punish parents, but to protect children and achieve what is in their best interests. In this case that would be stable, permanent and nurturing relationships and continuity of care for all seven children. As far as the negative impacts regarding the transmission of Cree culture, steps had been taken to keep the children together as much as possible. It was necessary to have the two youngest children placed in a group home, but the older five children are all together in one foster home. In terms of the preservation of the uniqueness of the children’s Aboriginal culture, heritage, spirituality and traditions, the Court was convinced that all appropriate steps were taken by KCWS to ensure these needs are met for the children.

National Aboriginal Day Celebrations

 BY CHRISTINA GRAY

Photo Credit: Lynda Gray, Ts'msyen Author of First Nations 101.

Photo Credit: Lynda Gray, Ts’msyen author of First Nations 101.

This June 21st, 2016 is significant as it marks 20 years since National Aboriginal Day was instituted as a national holiday in Canada. This is the one day specifically for Aboriginal people (and non-Aboriginal) across Canada to come together and celebrate, share meals, stories, music, and partake in cultural activities ranging from salmon feasts, canoeing to listening to throat singing.

Aside from being National Aboriginal Day, June 21st is also the summer solstice. It’s the longest day of the year and the shortest night of the year. This year we were fortunate enough to see the Strawberry Moon where the moon shone bright pink. It’s naturally a day to spend time in the warmth of the sunshine and celebrate the earth’s rotation in bringing us a renewed wealth of life.

People from all walks of life on June 21st come together to recognize our diverse cultures. In cities it can often feel stifling or invisible to be an Aboriginal person with distinct legal traditions, culture, history, and a distinct past. One that includes a lot of cultural and legal strengths, but that is often fraught with continued difficulties.

This last year the Truth and Reconciliation Commission formally closed in Ottawa with the release of their Final Report and Calls to Action. The closing of the TRC ended their 5-year mandate as part of the “truth telling and reconciliation process” in response to the Indian Residential School legacy.

At the TRC closing there was a lot of good energy shared between people. There was a walk for reconciliation, workshops, musical performances, art exhibits, and informal drumming and dancing that happened in the streets and hotel foyers. That energy will never be forgotten and neither will the residential schools’ dark legacy. This day is part of recognizing the truth-telling that happened through the TRC.

On my way home, I had a conversation with my mom about the good energy that I felt from attending the closing ceremonies. I left Ottawa with a renewed sense of who I am as an Aboriginal person living in a big city. I had time to reflect and find strength from being with survivors and allies. Attending the TRC was truly an internal and external reconciliation with Canada’s residential school legacy.

On June 22nd, there will another opportunity to build relationships, reconcile, and celebrate who we are as Aboriginal people in Canada. Over 300 school children, Aboriginal people, and community members will be doing just that at the Walk for Reconciliation at Saskatoon’s Victoria Park at 10am. This walk is to commemorate the one year that has passed since the TRC’s closing and for people to “rock your roots”. Let’s continue that good energy that was felt at the TRC’s closing and be proud of our distinct heritage, be it Mayan from Oaxaca, Dene, or Cree!

About the Author: Christina Gray is legally trained and works in Publications at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Law, Native Law Centre of Canada. A first people of the Ts’msyen of Lax Kw’alaams, Dene from Lutsel K’e, and Red River Metis.