Good v Canada, 2018 FC 1199

Application dismissed. The applicant did not discharge her burden to satisfactorily prove that the First Nations Election Act was contravened during a First Nation’s Chief and Band Council election.

Wiyasiwewin Mikhiwahp Native Law Centre
Case Watch

Michelle Good has appealed all of the last three elections of the Red Pheasant First Nation [RPFN], but this is the first appeal she has applied for under the First Nations Elections Act [FNEA]. She is a practicing lawyer in British Columbia, and is a band member of the RPFN. On November 5, 2015, the RPFN Band Council signed a Band Council Resolution [BCR] in favour of opting into the FNEA, a statutory regime that legislates a process for First Nations to elect their Band Council members. After receiving the BCR, the Minister added the RPFN to the FNEA Schedule. An election followed on March 18, 2016. After the election results became known, Good filed an application under s 30 of the FNEA in the Federal Court to review the election. She went on to allege that the election and the election process contravened numerous sections of the FNEA. Good has applied for nine different declarations and an order that a new election be called as her only relief.

An election to be set aside requires meeting a statutory test under ss 31 and 35(1) of the FNEA. The two-part test requires the Applicant to establish that a provision was contravened and that the contravention likely affected the election result. Contraventions unlikely to have affected the result of the election will not trigger overturning the election. The requisite standard of proof for establishing this test is the balance of probabilities. In interpreting the FNEA, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal noted that the presumption of regularity is reflected in the onus and evidentiary burden imposed on an applicant to demonstrate that a contravention has occurred that likely affected the result of an election. Once an applicant establishes a prima facie case, the burden switches to the respondent to refute it. The type of contravention is important and relevant as not every contravention will justify triggering the overturning of the election. This Court retains discretion on overturning elections, even in situations involving fraud or other forms of corruptions.

Evidence in a judicial review proceeding is dealt with by the Court through examination of the affidavits before it. In this matter, the record before the Court was complicated by numerous affidavits which included redacted affidavits, supplementary affidavits, and late filed affidavits. Many of the affidavits contain hearsay evidence, argument, and irrelevant or inflammatory comments. The Court found this unacceptable, inappropriate, and not a good use of judicial resources. Not only is such a record unfair to the Judge, but it is also unfair to the Respondents as the Respondents cannot know exactly what the relevant allegation is, or the specific evidence that supports the allegation.

A main allegation in many of the affidavits revolved around cash being given to band members by the Chief and Council at the time of the election and with respect to the appeal. Money given to assist band members in need has been the tradition for many years, and evidence was led by both parties to the effect that the RPFN is not a wealthy First Nation. Many of its members are in need of assistance for food, gas, and other necessities. People text or solicit the Chief and Council for cash and if the requests are deemed as legitimate, typically money will be given from their own pockets or accounts, and on occasion from a band account. This practice does not stop during election campaigning. The Court had to determine in each situation whether the contributions by the individuals were philanthropic, or for the purposes of vote purchasing. The Respondents provided a methodical refutation to these allegations.

There were also allegations of unlawful control of enough blank ballots to control the outcome of the election. The allegations had reasonable explanations given by the Respondents and the Court preferred their evidence. It is not a violation of the FNEA or any common-law principles to be asked to join a slate of candidates. This political maneuvering would appear to be what occurs in many elections, and is a recognized part of the political process. It was also alleged that fraud occurred from the overbroad use of Form 5D (Form to Request a Mail-in Ballot) and Form 8C (Declaration of Person Delivering a Mail-in Ballot Package) which allowed illegally obtained ballot forms to be placed in the ballot box, therefore controlling the outcome of the election. Walking in ballots and completing the 8C Form in itself is not evidence of fraud, especially given that most of the band members live off reserve. Good also alleged that people were given the paper with the slate of candidates that they were to vote for, but there was no evidence of this that was acceptable to the Court. There is no prohibition against entering a polling station with a slip of paper in and of itself.

The substantive allegation surrounding vote buying was supported by excerpted Facebook posts. This is not reliable evidence, as it is inherently suspect. An individual can post on Facebook that they have sold their vote, and another individual can “corroborate” a potentially false narrative without any underlying substrata of truth to the event. While it has been held that Facebook posts can result in legal action, such as in the employment context, it is highly distinguishable from individuals attempting to “set-up” others on social media platforms to establish the corrupt nature of elections on the RPFN. Good was not present at the actual election and her only knowledge was garnished from following social media. There was also alleged vote-buying at the Ramada Inn in the hospitality room put on by the Chief. Having a “come and go” hospitality room is not out of the ordinary for candidates in any and all political forums, and it is not found on these facts that the hospitality room or the events that occurred within comprised an inducement to buy a vote.

The remaining evidence does not support a contravention of the FNEA, and in the alternative, it does not affect the results of the election. There were several other affidavits that were not specifically addressed as that evidence was related to issues not relevant or not before the Court. The Court commented that this election was a complex web of intrigue and that the band is clearly divided in its loyalty and this toxic environment can never be in the best interests of the band.

Beaucage v Métis Nation of Ontario, 2019 ONSC 633

Motion granted. The nature of the Métis Nation of Ontario’s responsibilities and relationship with the government, does not transform the private voluntary organization’s membership decisions into public law decisions that are subject to judicial review.

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

The Métis Nation of Ontario (“MNO”) has moved to quash this application for judicial review on the ground that this Court has no jurisdiction. The underlying application for judicial review sought an order to set aside the decision of a genealogist, that denied the applicant’s appeal from earlier decisions that refused his application for membership in the MNO. The applicant’s mother and sister became registered citizens of the MNO in 2002. In 2003, the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) released its decision in R v Powley, [2003] 4 CNLR 321 (“Powley”). The SCC, although emphasizing that there is no universal definition of “Métis”, provided a framework for determining who is Métis for the purposes of s 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Thereafter, a new definition of “Métis” was effectively adopted by the MNO. This application for judicial review does not relate to s 35 rights. When the new definition was implemented by the MNO, however, current citizens such as the applicant’s mother and sister were grandfathered and therefore did not need to meet the new requirements. New applicants, including family members as in this situation, however, must now meet the new requirements.

The test on a motion to quash an application for judicial review asks whether it is plain and obvious or beyond doubt that the judicial review application would fail (Adams v Canada (AG), 2011 ONSC 325 (“Adams”); Certified General Accountants Assn of Canada v Canadian Public Accountability Board (2008), 233 OAC 129 (Div Ct)). In this case, it is beyond the jurisdiction of this Court. As found in prior decisions, the Divisional Court has no jurisdiction under s 2 of the Judicial Review Procedure Act to judicially review any decision outside the public law sphere (Trost v Conservative Party of Canada, 2018 ONSC 2733; Adams; Deeb v Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada, 2012 ONSC 1014). The purpose of judicial review is to ensure the legality of state decision making (Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Judicial Committee) v Wall, 2018 SCC 26 (“Wall”). In Wall, the SCC underscored the importance of distinguishing between “public” in the generic sense and “public” in the public law sense. Broad public impact is insufficient to bring a decision within the public law sphere.

All corporations are creatures of statute. The corporation must be discharging public duties or exercising powers of a public nature before it is subject to judicial review (Knox v Conservative Party of Canada, 2007 ABCA 295). The MNO Act does not confer public duties on the MNO or delegate governmental responsibilities to it. The MNO Act and its history do not transform the decision at issue into a public law decision that is subject to judicial review. The MNO participates specifically on behalf of its citizens, not on the basis that it represents all Métis (“Powley”). Provincial and federal governments may accept an MNO card based on the MNO registry of citizens, but an MNO card is not an exclusive requirement. The MNO calls its members citizens but nothing turns on the use of that nomenclature.

Pictou Landing First Nation v Nova Scotia (Aboriginal Affairs), 2018 NSSC 306

Application granted. A potential for adverse impact suffices to trigger the duty to consult. Although the question is open on whether “government conduct” attracting the duty to consult includes the legislative process, the doctrine does extend to strategic, higher level decisions that may have an impact on Aboriginal claims and rights.

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre

Located at Abercrombie Point, Pictou County, is a bleached kraft pulp mill (“the mill”) that is owned and operated by Northern Pulp Nova Scotia Corporation (“Northern Pulp”). The Boat Harbour Act(“BHA”), provides that the use of the mill must cease on January 31, 2020. Northern Pulp, however, is in the planning stages to apply for an Environmental Assessment (“EA”) (Environmental Act) for the design, construction and operation of a new Effluent Treatment Facility (“ETF”), otherwise the current ETF must be closed as required by the Act. The Province is currently in active consultation with the Pictou Landing First Nation (“PLFN”) regarding this application and has confirmed $70,000.00 in capacity funding to support PLFN’s meaningful participation in that process. The Province has disclosed it is also engaged in confidential discussions directly with Northern Pulp regarding potential Crown funding to support construction of the new ETF (“Potential Crown Funding”), but no such decision has yet been made.

PLFN applied for judicial review of a decision by the office of Provincial Minister of Aboriginal Affairs to deny consultation with respect to the issue of whether the Province may fund the construction of a new EFT. PLFN took the position that any such Potential Crown Funding by the Province is a separate decision that triggers an independent duty to consult with the PLFN, as this decision will have the effect of continuing the operation of the mill beyond the 2020 deadline. It could further impact the asserted rights and interests of the PLFN, but the Province disagrees that any form of Potential Crown Funding would trigger an independent duty to consult with the PLFN, as it does not meet the established legal test. There is yet no additional or potential adverse impact on the PLFN’s rights and interests.

The Court concluded upon the facts that: 1) the current ETF is an integral part of the current operation of the mill as a whole; 2) that the current ETF must close no later than January 31, 2020; 3) that the new ETF which will replace the existing facility will be integral to the continued operation of the mill beyond the deadline, and it must replace those functions discharged by the current ETF; 4) each additional potential source of funding that is available for the project makes it more likely that the new ETF project will happen; and 5) that as a consequence of a Provincial decision to fund the project, even if it is not the only potential source of funding, it would make it more likely that the mill will remain open.

An application for judicial review is the appropriate mechanism by which to seek a determination as to whether there has been a breach of the duty to consult. The Court, however, is not being asked to review a completed process of consultation replete with an extensive activity record. This would ordinarily trigger the application of a standard of reasonableness. But in these circumstances, the extant case law frames the applicable standard of review as one of correctness. Either the duty to consult exists or it does not (Mi’kmaq of Prince Edward Island v Prince Edward Island [2018] PESC 20). The duty to consult is triggered at a low threshold, but it must remain a meaningful threshold. There must be some appreciable or discernible impact flowing from the impugned Crown conduct before a duty to consult will arise. This is both logical and practical because there has to be something for the Crown and the Aboriginal group to consult about. It is conceivable that the Crown may proceed after consultation with a new ETF against the strong opposition of PLFN. But if it did, there becomes an issue of compatibility with the honour of the Crown. “Meaningful consultation” requires a “meaningful effort by the government to act in a manner that is consistent with the honour of the Crown in that particular context” (Mikisew Cree First Nation v Canada (GGC), [2019] 1 CNLR 277 (SCC)).

A potential for adverse impact suffices to trigger the duty to consult as it extends to strategic, higher level decisions that may have an impact on Aboriginal claims and rights (Rio Tinto Alcan Inc v Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, [2010] 4 CNLR 250 (SCC)). As to what constitutes an “adverse effect”, the claimant must show a causal relationship between the proposed government conduct or decision and a potential for adverse impacts on pending Aboriginal claims or rights. Although there is a generous, purposive approach to this element, past wrongs, including previous breaches of the duty to consult, and speculative impacts does not suffice to be an adverse effect (R v Douglas, [2007] 3 CNLR 277 (BCCA)). The adverse effect must be on the future exercise of the right itself, but an adverse effect on a First Nation’s future negotiating position also does not suffice. Adverse impacts extend to any effect that may prejudice a pending Aboriginal claim or right. Often the adverse effects are physical in nature, however, it could also be in connection with what constitutes Crown conduct, high-level management decisions or structural changes to the resource’s management, even if these decisions have no immediate impact. This is because such structural changes to the resources management may set the stage for further decisions that will have a direct adverse impact on land and resources.

The Province’s interest as lender funding the new ETF will undoubtedly influence “higher level” strategic decision making. If the Province is to become the lender, not only is it providing the means by which the ETF will be built, but it will have an interest to ensure that the mill will continue to remain in operation into the future so as to at least recover the taxpayers’ investment. Separation of the potential funding issue would result in the loss of an opportunity for the two sides to discuss whether the financing, if it was to be provided by the Province, should or could be tied into a system of penalties or rewards for achieving, or failing to achieve, proposed emission or effluent discharge targets. This may, potentially, impact upon the likelihood that these targets would be attained. The bifurcation of issues of the “design and construction” from the “actual funding” of the ETF, artificially compartmentalizes a process which should be treated more holistically.

Canada (Canadian Human Rights Commission) v Canada (AG), 2018 SCC 31

Appeal dismissed. Tribunal decisions stand that the complaints were a direct attack on legislation. Legislation not a service under the Canadian Human Rights Act.

This appeal concerns several complaints alleging that Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (“INAC”) engaged in a discriminatory practice in the provision of services contrary to Section 5 of the Canadian Human Rights Act (“CHRA”). This section prohibits, among other things, the making of discriminatory distinctions in the provision of services customarily available to the general public. The Indian Act, since its enactment in 1876, has governed the recognition of an individual’s status as an “Indian”. The Indian Act has a registration system under which individuals qualify for this status on the basis of an exhaustive list of eligibility criteria. It is incontrovertible that status confers both tangible and intangible benefits. INAC denied a form of registration under the Indian Act that the complainants would have been entitled to if past discriminatory policies, now repealed, had not been enacted.

In two separate decisions, Matson v Canada (Indian and Northern Affairs), 2013 CHRT 13 and Andrews v Canada (Indian and Northern Affairs), 2013 CHRT 21 (“Andrews”), the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal (“Tribunal”) determined that the complaints were a direct attack on the Indian Act. On the basis that legislation is not a service under the CHRA, it dismissed the complaints. On judicial review, both the Federal Court ([2015] 3 CNLR 1) and the Federal Court of Appeal ([2016] 4 CNLR 1), found that the Tribunal decisions were reasonable and should be upheld. Two issues were before this Court: (1) whether deference is owed to a human rights tribunal interpreting its home statute and (2) whether the Tribunal’s decisions dismissing the complaints as direct attacks on legislation were reasonable.

On the first issue, where an administrative body interprets its home statute, there is a well-established presumption that the reasonableness standard applies. In applying the standard of review analysis, there is no principled difference between a human rights tribunal and any other decision maker interpreting its home statute. Where an administrative body interprets its home statute, the reasonableness standard applies Dunsmuir v New Brunswick, 2008 SCC 9 (“Dunsmuir”). In both of its decisions, the Tribunal was called upon to characterize the complaints before it and ascertain whether a discriminatory practice had been made out under the CHRA. This falls squarely within the presumption of deference. The Tribunal clearly had the authority to hear a complaint about a discriminatory practice, and the question of what falls within the meaning of “services” is no more exceptional than questions previously found by the Court not to be true questions of jurisdiction.

A contextual analysis would not rebut the presumption in this case. Where the presumption of reasonableness applies, the contextual approach should be applied sparingly in order to avoid uncertainty and endless litigation concerning the standard of review analysis. The presumption of reasonableness was intended to prevent litigants from undertaking a full standard of review analysis in every case. This Court may eventually find it necessary to revisit the standard of review framework. However, dissatisfaction with the current state of the law is no reason to ignore the precedents following Dunsmuir. Where a contextual analysis may be justified to rebut the presumption, it need not be a long and detailed one. Changes to “foundational legal tests” are not clear indicators of legislative intent, and do not warrant the application of the contextual approach or, by extension, correctness review. Nor does the absence of a privative clause, the fact that other administrative tribunals may consider the CHRA, the potential for conflicting lines of authority, or the nature of the question at issue and the purpose of the Tribunal.

On the second issue, the adjudicators reasonably concluded that the complaints before them were properly characterized as direct attacks on legislation, and that legislation in general did not fall within the meaning of “services”. Although human rights tribunals have taken various approaches to making a distinction between administrative services and legislation, this is a question of mixed fact and law squarely within their expertise, and they are best situated to develop an approach to making such distinctions.

The adjudicator in Andrews noted that the sui generis nature of Parliament’s power to legislate is inconsistent with the characterization of law-making as a public service and that law-making does not have the transitive connotation necessary to identify a service customarily offered to the public. Parliament is not a service provider and was not providing a service when it enacted the registration provisions of the Indian Act. Law-making is unlike any of the other terms listed in s 5 as it does not resemble a good, facility or accommodation. It is sui generis in its nature. This is confirmed by the powers, privileges and immunities that Parliament and the Legislatures possess to ensure their proper functioning, which are rooted in the Constitution. The dignity, integrity and efficient functioning of the Legislature is preserved through parliamentary privilege which, once established, is afforded constitutional status and is immune from review. The disposition of this appeal, however, says nothing as to whether the Indian Act infringes the rights of the complainants under s 15 of the Charter. In this regard, there have been two successful challenges to the Indian Act registration provisions, both of which have prompted legislative reform (Descheneaux v Canada (Attorney General) [2016] 2 CNLR 175 (QCCS); McIvor v Canada (Indian and Northern Affairs, Registrar), [2009] 2 CNLR 236 (BCCA).

Furthermore, Parliament can be distinguished from the administrative decision makers that operate under legislative authority. These individuals and statutory bodies, which include the Registrar, may be “service providers”, or entities that provide services customarily available to the general public. If they use their statutory discretion in a manner that effectively denies access to a service or makes an adverse differentiation on the basis of a prohibited ground, s 5 will be engaged. But, when their job is simply to apply legislated criteria, the challenge is not to the provision of services, but to the legislation itself (Public Service Alliance of Canada v Canada Revenue Agency, 2012 FCA 7). The complaints did not impugn the means by which the Registrar had processed their applications, but substantively targeted the eligibility criteria that the Registrar was required to apply. Both Tribunal decisions stand on their own merits.

Da’naxda’xw/Awaetlala First Nation v BC Hydro, 2017 BCSC 2179

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

Application for judicial review dismissed. A party seeking a remedy in damages must do so in an action, not in an application for judicial review.

Kleana Power Corporation [KPC], proposed a run-of-the-river hydro-electric project on the Klinaklini River (the “Project”) in 2008 within the asserted traditional territory of the Da’naxda’xw/Awaetlala First Nation [DAFN]. KPC wished to submit a proposal in the 2008 “Clean Power Call” issued by British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority (“BC Hydro”), with a view to being awarded an energy purchase agreement for the sale of electricity generated from the Project to BC Hydro. The DAFN considered the Project to be an economic opportunity consistent with their cultural and ecological interests. The proposed boundary of a protected conservancy, however, was within the traditional territory claimed by the DAFN, which created a barrier to the Project. Both petitioners say that in 2008 they received an assurance from the respondent Minister of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas (the “Energy Minister”). The assurance was that when the Project could proceed, but if KPC lost the opportunity to participate in the 2008 Clean Power Call due to a delay in amending the conservancy boundary, then the Energy Minister would direct BC Hydro to enter into negotiations with KPC for an energy purchase agreement at a price for power that was linked to the results of the winning bids in the call. The petitioners say that the Energy Minister’s assurance was clear, unambiguous and unqualified, therefore they acted in reliance on the Energy Minister’s assurance. They spent time and resources pursuing the boundary amendment necessary for the Project to proceed.

The petitioners sought judicial review in 2010, of the refusal of the then Environment Minister to recommend to the Lieutenant Governor in Council an amendment to the conservancy boundary. The reviewing judge found that the Environment Minister had a legal duty to consult with the DAFN concerning their request for an amendment to the boundary with a view to considering a reasonable accommodation and had failed to fulfill this duty to consult (Da’naxda’xw/Awaetlala First Nation v British Columbia (Environment), [2011] 3 CNLR 188 (BCSC) “Da’naxda’xw 2011”). The Court concluded in Da’naxda’xw/Awaetlala First Nation v British Columbia Hydro and Power Authority, 2015 BCSC 16 (“Da’naxda’xw 2015”) that the petitioners had not established that they were entitled to any remedy on the administrative law grounds raised. But declarations were issued to the effect that the DAFN were entitled to further relief and a remedy in respect of the original breaches of the duty to consult. The petitioners appealed and the Energy Minister and Province cross-appealed with respect to the declaratory relief that was ordered. In Da’naxda’xw/Awaetlala First Nation v. British Columbia (Energy, Mines and Natural Gas), 2016 BCCA 163 (“Da’naxda’xw CA”), the Court of Appeal dismissed the petitioners’ appeal and ordered that the declaration be set aside. The cross-appeal was allowed and the petition was remitted for reconsideration of the remedy for the DAFN. This proceeding was an application for a judicial review.

The Amended Petition was in part premised on the asserted failure of the Energy Minister to give a direction to BC Hydro consistent with what the DAFN alleged was the commitment given to them in 2008, and was how the application was framed, responded to, and argued. This petition has never been further amended nor was the Environment Minister named as a respondent. No relief was sought in respect of the consultation ordered in Da’naxda’xw 2011, or the actions of the Environment Minister in 2008. There was no pleaded case of a failure to comply with the Da’naxda’xw 2011 order. Since Da’naxda’xw have never sought leave to further amend the Amended Petition in any respect, no further remedy can now be granted as it is res judicata.

Given the conclusions in Da’naxda’xw 2015 regarding the scope of the Minister’s commitment, and the dismissal by the Court of Appeal of the petitioners’ appeal, there are only two grounds on which to possibly grant a remedy for the DAFN: (1) the Environment Minister’s 2010 breach of the duty to consult regarding the request by the DAFN for an amendment to the conservancy boundary; and (2) the consultation that followed the Da’naxda’xw 2011 order, up to and including the Order-in-Council amending the conservancy boundary in June 2012. Neither can provide support for a remedy for the DAFN in the circumstances of this case. Whether the Environment Minister breached the duty to consult the DAFN in 2010 was the central issue in Da’naxda’xw 2011 and led to the remedy granted in that matter. It is a final order, and neither the Environment Minister nor the DAFN appealed. These cannot now be relitigated based on the outcome of Da’naxda’xw 2015 and the subsequent dismissal of the DAFN’s appeal in Da’naxda’xw CA.

Where a pleading fails to fulfill its function, that defect should not be overlooked, even in Aboriginal litigation. “The trial of an action should not resemble a voyage on the Flying Dutchman with a crew condemned to roam the seas interminably with no set destination and no end in sight” (Lax Kw’alaams Indian Band v. Canada (Attorney General), 2011 SCC 56. The Amended Petition sought judicial review and relief only in respect of the conduct of the Energy Minister. The petitioners have never sought leave to further amend the Amended Petition. There was no complaint that there was a failure to comply with the order for further consultation or a breach of the duty owed to the DAFN that followed the Da’naxda’xw 2011order, nor was it asserted that the consultation was inadequate. A failure to plead the adequacy of consultation results in the issue not being properly before the court (Adams Lake Indian Band v Lieutenant Governor in Council, 2012 BCCA 333). Any further consultation concerning the decisions made by the Environment Minister in 2008 and 2010 could not lead to anything other than a discussion about some measure of compensation, in other words, monetary damages.

 

Quewezance v Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations [FSIN], 2018 SKQB 313

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

Application dismissed for a judicial review and a quashing of the decision to divest Mr. Quewezance as a Senator of the FSIN. The FSIN is not a governmental body and as such its decisions are not subject to judicial review as there is no freestanding right to procedural fairness with respect to decisions taken by voluntary associations.

Theodore Quewezance applied for an order to have a decision to be quashed by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations [FSIN] which had him removed him from the position as a Senator of the FSIN through judicial review. Such jurisdiction depends upon the presence of a legal right, such as a breach of a private law wrong in contract, tort or other valid cause of action, that Mr. Quewezance has made no claim. There cannot be a judicial review of a freestanding right to procedural fairness.

Judicial review, in its origin and present conceptualization, is a public law concept under which superior courts engage “in surveillance of lower tribunals” in order to ensure that these tribunals respect or adhere to the rule of law (Knox v Conservative Party of Canada). It is well established that the decisions of Indian Bands are subject to judicial review. However, the FSIN was created or established by its Convention in 1982, which was an agreement entered into among all Indian Bands, except one, within the Province of Saskatchewan. The Court agrees with how the FSIN has been described in Battlefords Tribal Council Inc. v Federation of Saskatchewan Indians Inc.: the FSIN is a political organization with undetermined legal status that is likened to a voluntary unincorporated association of the Chiefs in Saskatchewan. The FSIN represent the interests of First Nations persons in Saskatchewan based upon the principles and procedures outlined in their founding document, The Conventions Act, 1982.

By way of analogy, rural municipalities in Saskatchewan are local governments by virtue of The Municipalities Act. However, the organization Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities [SARM], formed by the Rural Municipalities to advance their collective interests, is a voluntary organization and not a governmental body. SARM’s decisions are not subject to judicial review. The Court in Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Judicial Committee) v Wall, stated that first, judicial review is limited to public decision makers, which the Judicial Committee of SARM is not, and second, there is no free-standing right to have such decisions reviewed on the basis of procedural fairness.

WSÁNEĆ School Board v BC Government and Service Employees’ Union, 2017 FCA 210

The Doré framework is applicable when an administrative tribunal’s decision making engages the underlying principles and values of section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and such decisions are to be reviewed on the same standard of reasonableness.

This case involved an application for judicial review by the WSÁNEĆ School Board (the WSB) seeking to set aside a decision of the Canada Industrial Relations Board (CIRB). Specifically, the WSB challenged a decision of the CIRB to dismiss an application from the WSB in which it sought to exclude employees teaching WSÁNEĆ language, beliefs, and culture in the SENĆOŦEN Immersion Program from the all-employee bargaining unit of the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGSEU).

The WSB argued that including the SENĆOŦEN employees in an all-employee bargaining unit would negatively impact the constitutional rights of the WSÁNEĆ First Nations to control the transmission of their language and culture, as entrenched in ss 25 and 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The WSB submitted that the Canada Labour Code must be interpreted and applied in a manner that respects these constitutional rights and takes into account the values and principles that underpin them, including the need for reconciliation. The WSB also asserted that the CIRB had breached its procedural fairness rights by failing to grant it an oral hearing. The WSB had unsuccessfully sought an oral hearing before the CIRB on the basis that this would allow for an explanation of the WSÁNEĆ beliefs and teachings in accordance with their oral traditions.

The Federal Court of Appeal held that the CIRB’s decision to dismiss the application was reasonable and that the CIRB was not obligated to provide an oral hearing.

Writing for the court, Gleason JA accepted that correctness is the appropriate standard for determining whether an oral hearing is required as part of procedural fairness though he also stated that the circumstances in which a party’s procedural fairness rights may be said to be violated are narrow. With respect to the merits of the CIRB decision, Gleason JA noted that reasonableness was generally the applicable standard to CIRB decisions that interpret and apply the Canada Labour Code and held that WSB’s invocation of ss 25 and 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 did not require him to reach a different conclusion here.

The WSB did not seek to have the CIRB rule on the scope of its Aboriginal rights to control education nor did it argue that such rights brought the labour relations of the SENĆOŦEN employees outside the purview of the Code. Instead, WSB invoked principles and values enshrined in ss 25 and 35 of the Constitution Act 1982, and argued that these required the CIRB to determine that the SENĆOŦEN employees should be excluded from BCSGEU. Gleason JA found this argument to be analogous to the those advanced in Doré v Barreau du Quebec, 2012 SCC 12, [2012] 1 SCR with respect to the need for an administrative tribunal to balance Charter values against other administrative law considerations. He accepted that the Doré framework could be applied to principles and values underlying s 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

Gleason JA invoked the principle that employee units should not be fractured without compelling evidence. As indicated by the CIRB, compelling evidence might include geographic factors, specific statutory provisions and the likelihood that a larger unit may not be viable. Ultimately, Gleason JA found that there was no evidence the WSB would lose their control over the way the SENĆOŦEN employers performed their duties. He also pointed out that the application may have been premature as there was no way to know whether the BCGSEU would accept terms and conditions that the WSB sought for the SENĆOŦEN employees and the WSB raised concerns about an eventual strike that were premature and theoretical in the absence of any evidence that a strike was likely.

With respect to procedural fairness, Gleason JA noted that the request for an oral history was neither clearly made nor well supported by the evidence. Moreover, he pointed out that it was well within the Court’s powers under the Canada Industrial Relations Board Regulations to decide the matter without an oral hearing, which the WSB knew prior to making their application.

Case Watch for November 2016

FROM OUR PUBLICATIONS DESK

Case Watch

The following decisions came across our desk over the past month:

Equality rights of Métis children & families in child protection

Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton v GH, 2016 ONSC 6287: The Ontario Superior Court of Justice released a decision in a Crown wardship application where it was found that the definitions of “Indian”, “Native person”, and “Native child” in Ontario’s Child and Family Services Act were invalid on the basis that they unjustifiably infringe s 15 of the Charter. The Court found that the impugned definitions do not extend to all individuals who self-identify as being Aboriginal. In fact, all parties conceded that they do not extend to Métis children. The Court also found that the Act afforded significant special protections for individuals falling into these definitions at every stage of a child protection intervention. The Court recognized that all Aboriginal peoples, including Métis, have been subject to a legacy of prejudice, stereotyping, and disadvantage. With this context in mind, the Court determined that the definitions created distinctions based on the analogous ground of “Aboriginality without membership in a community designated as “Native” under the [Act]”. It also concluded that these distinctions created or perpetuated disadvantage for Métis children and their families due to their inability to access the special protections under the Act. In conducting this analysis, the Court noted that the Act clearly created these unfair and objectionable disadvantages on its face and this could be discerned through logical reasoning alone. There was no need for social science evidence and empirical data. As no s 1 argument was advanced, the infringement was not saved. A suspended declaration of invalidity was issued and it was ordered that the Métis child in this case be treated as if he were an Indian, Native person or Native child within the meaning of the Act.

Inadequate investigation of vote-buying allegations by INAC

Good v Canada (Attorney General), 2016 FC 1272: The Federal Court released a decision allowing in part an application for judicial review of INAC’s dismissal of an election appeal under the Indian Act. The applicant first unsuccessfully sought to appeal the March 2014 election of the Red Pheasant First Nation through INAC based on allegations of misconduct by the electoral officer and corruption in the form of vote-buying. She then sought judicial review of INAC’s rejection of that appeal. However, a subsequent election had since taken place in March 2016. The Court found that INAC’s delegate erred by choosing to dispense with any investigation of the applicant’s vote-buying allegations and proceeding to dismiss the appeal on the basis that corruption had not been proven on a balance of probabilities. The Court noted that this approach appears to have become settled practice within INAC’s Elections Unit. While the Court was sympathetic to INAC’s desire to streamline its management of appeals, it had significantly changed the very nature of the appeals process in a manner tantamount to attempting to amend the law via internal policy. The Court took no issue with how the delegate addressed the issue of electoral officer misconduct, but found that the delegate’s refusal to investigate conflicting evidence on vote-buying was unreasonable, based upon an error of law and procedurally unfair. While these issues were moot due to the subsequent election, the Court exercised its discretion to deal with the central controversy between the parties as roughly 40% of First Nations hold elections under the regime at issue in this case.

Relevance of Aboriginal equity stake to remedy in consultation case –

Michipicoten First Nation v Ontario (Minister of Natural Resources and Forests), 2016 ONSC 6899: The Ontario Superior Court of Justice dismissed an application for judicial review of provincial approvals for the Bow Lake Wind Farm Project on the shared traditional territory of the Michipicoten and Batchewana First Nations in northeastern Ontario. Michipicoten argued that the Crown breached its duty to consult and sought to quash the approvals, preclude further approvals until more consultation takes place, and have the court remain seized of remedies or order removal of the infrastructure, remediation of the lands, and costs. The Court noted that Michipicoten had inexplicably delayed several months in pursuing and perfecting its application for judicial review, which caused the proponent and Batchewana, which has a 50% interest in the project, serious harm. For this reason, the Court dismissed the application on its own motion. In the alternative, the Court went on to conclude that consultation was adequate as Michipicoten failed to provide any evidence of potential adverse impacts on its Aboriginal or treaty rights in spite of many requests to do so. Furthermore, the Court concluded that the remedy sought in terms of decommissioning the project was inappropriate. Michipicoten argued that a proponent’s commercial interests may not come into play in determining the balance of convenience in a consultation dispute between the Crown and an Aboriginal community. However, the Court found this principle inapplicable in this case since Batchewana would face irreparable harm if the relief sought was granted.

Validity of a Will under the Indian Act not providing for spouse –

Poitras v Khan, 2016 SKQB 346: The Saskatchewan Court of Queen’s Bench allowed an application for letters probate under a Will created pursuant the Indian Act. The testator met the man who became her husband and married him after she had already made her Will. Under provincial legislation, the testator’s spousal relationship would have automatically revoked her Will. However, the testator was a status Indian living on reserve and there was no such provision under the Indian Act to invalidate her Will automatically. Under the Indian Act, the Minister had the power to declare the Will void if it imposed hardship on persons to whom the testator had responsibility or was contrary to the interests of the band or the public. In this case, the Minister had referred the matter to the Court, conferring its power to declare the Will void on the Court. The testator’s husband, Mr. Khan, sought to invoke this power on the basis that he was not provided for in the Will. The Court confirmed the validity of the Will, but also noted that Mr. Khan could still potentially seek a claim for one half of the testator’s family property accrued from the date of marriage until death under provincial legislation.

Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s jurisdictional limits re: Indian Act –

Beattie v Canada (Attorney General), 2016 FC 1328: The Federal Court dismissed an application for judicial review of a decision of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal where a complaint was dismissed as being solely a challenge to legislation beyond the Tribunal’s jurisdiction. The applicant, Mr. Beattie, sought to register two leases and an assignment of lease in the Indian Lands Registry. The Registrar rejected the applications on the basis that the leases did not include the Crown as a party and no ministerial approval had been provided. Since the leases could not be registered, the assignment could not be registered either. As a result of this decision, the applicants brought a complaint to the Tribunal alleging that the respondent had discriminated against them on the basis of their race, national or ethnic origin by denying a service customarily available to the public. The Tribunal dismissed the complaints on the basis that they were beyond its jurisdiction since they were challenging the Indian Act itself, which obliged the Registrar to reject the leases and assignment. The Court was satisfied that the Tribunal’s decision was reasonable and it was reasonable to rely on other Federal Court and Tribunal decisions where such challenges to legislation were dismissed as beyond the Tribunal’s jurisdiction. The Court also rejected the applicants’ assertion that title to the reserve lands at issue in this dispute were vested in an individual pursuant to either a Certificate of Possession or customary tenure.

Court’s duty to explicitly consider & inquire into Gladue factors –

R v Park, 2016 MBCA 107: The Manitoba Court of Appeal allowed an appeal from sentence for impaired driving and drug possession due in part to the sentencing judge’s failure to adequately consider Gladue factors. It was conceded that defence counsel during the sentencing hearing did not address Gladue factors other than to note that the accused was Aboriginal. No Gladue report was ordered. The Crown argued that defence counsel expressly waived the Gladue rights of the accused whereas counsel for the accused on appeal argued that the Court had a duty to make further inquiry when no advocacy was provided on Gladue factors during sentencing. The Court of Appeal found there was no express waiver in this case. Defence counsel at sentencing acknowledged there were Gladue factors but focused on other arguments. A waiver must be express and clear. Both defence and Crown counsel have an obligation to bring forward Gladue information. Where that does not happen, the Court may need to go further and has a duty to at least make further inquiries. The Court must also make explicit its consideration of Gladue factors and its determination that it has adequate information on those factors before it. It is unsatisfactory for both the offender and the public to have to infer such circumstances were properly considered. The sentencing judge failed to expressly confirm that Gladue factors were considered and failed to clarify defence’s reliance on Gladue, which in turn had an impact on the sentence. The sentence was varied.

No need for ‘linkage’ between Gladue factors & offence –

R v Predham, 2016 ABCA 371: The Alberta Court of Appeal allowed an appeal from sentence with respect to convictions for driving while disqualified, breach of recognizance, failure to appear and possession of a stolen licence plate. The appellant argued that the sentencing judge erred in failing to give appropriate weight to his Gladue factors, among other things. In particular, the appellant took issue with the sentencing judge’s reasons where it was suggested that Gladue factors were less relevant to the offence of driving while disqualified in the absence of alcohol, drugs or violence. The sentencing judge stated that there must be “some relationship between the Gladue factors and the offending in order for there to be that sort of linkage”. The Court of Appeal held that it was an error of law to require a linkage between Gladue factors and the offending conduct. The Court stated that it is also an error to carve out a certain category of offences as being immune from the Gladue analysis. The Court was also satisfied that the sentencing judge’s error influenced his ultimate decision. The sentence was varied.

Injunction against Cleveland baseball team’s name & logo denied –

Cardinal v Major League Baseball, 2016 ONSC 6929: The Ontario Superior Court issued its reasons for dismissing an urgent interim injunction application to restrain the Cleveland baseball team, Rogers Communications, and Major League Baseball (MLB) from displaying the team’s name or logo during a game in Toronto and while the underlying federal and provincial human rights complaints proceed. In the underlying complaints, the applicant, Douglas J. Cardinal, is alleging that the use of the team’s name and logo constitutes prohibited discrimination and harassment against him on the grounds of race, ancestry, colour, ethnic and national origins, and constitutes a publication or display intended to incite infringement of the Ontario Human Rights Code. The Court held that it had jurisdiction over the application, rejecting MLB’s argument that it ought to allow the United States Supreme Court to determine the underlying issues in this case based on principles of comity. The Court was also satisfied that the parties raised serious issues to be tried in terms of whether a service had been offered and whether the team’s name and/or logo offend the provisions of federal and Ontario human rights legislation, as well as the relevance of MLB’s freedom of expression to the dispute. However, the Court did not accept the applicant’s assertion that he would sustain irreparable harm if an injunction was not granted, noting that damages were available and disputes over use of the impugned name and logo have been ongoing for years. The Court noted that the applicant sought a change to the status quo and his last minute application, if granted, would materially prejudice the respondents. The issue of delay went to both the question or irreparable harm and the balance of convenience.

Settlement approved in Newfoundland & Labrador school claims –

Anderson v Canada (Attorney General), 2016 NLTD(G) 179: The Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court approved the terms of a $50 million settlement in a class action brought by Aboriginal individuals who attended schools, dormitories or orphanages in the province between 1949 and 1980. The plaintiffs claimed that Canada breached a fiduciary duty to the students who attended these facilities to protect them from actionable physical or mental harm. The Court was satisfied that the settlement was fair, reasonable, made in good faith, and in the best interests of the class as a whole. It was also satisfied that the fees and disbursements of the plaintiffs’ counsel were fair and reasonable. The settlement includes both General Compensation Payments for years that students resided at the facilities at issue, and Abuse Compensation Payments that depend on the harm individual students suffered. The settlement provides for a confidential paper-based claims process and Canada is committed to funding mutually agreeable commemoration and healing initiatives over and above its compensation funding.

Tax Court’s exclusive jurisdiction over tax assessment challenges –

Horseman v Canada, 2016 FCA 252: The Federal Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal from a decision to strike the appellant’s claims as falling under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Tax Court of Canada. The appellant received a Notice of Assessment and Requirement to Pay $59,000.06 of outstanding GST. He initiated this Federal Court action for a declaration that the Requirement to Pay is null and void and contrary to the Indian Act, Treaty No. 8, and s 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The Court found that this challenge was properly characterized as an indirect challenge to a tax assessment, making it plain and obvious that the Tax Court had exclusive jurisdiction. The Tax Court has jurisdiction to consider the constitutional validity, applicability or operability of federal legislation and regulations and can issue remedies if a notice of constitutional question is properly served. It is also well-established that the Tax Court can determine claims under s 87 of the Indian Act over the applicability of tax requirements, or involving tax exemption claims under Treaty No. 8. Such assertions are properly tested in the Tax Court.

Provincial human rights tribunal’s jurisdictional limits re band store –

Dinsmore v Slenyah Store, 2016 BCHRT 176: The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal dismissed a human rights complaint alleging discrimination in the area of employment on the basis of colour or race with respect to a business in Fraser Lake, British Columbia known as the Slenyah Store. The business was operated by the Stellat’en First Nation up until April 2014. The majority of its customers are status Indians who are able to purchase gas and cigarettes at tax exempt rates there. In 2013, the store was in serious financial difficulty. It was kept afloat via overdraft protection from Stellat’en and Stellat’en paid the store’s back taxes to get it out of its financial difficulties. In 2014, the store was incorporated to be operated at arm’s length through a limited partnership. As a result of these changes, all the store’s employees were laid off by Stellat’en and encouraged to reapply for positions with the limited partnership that would operate the store going forward. The Tribunal found that while the store was operated by Stellat’en it was an integral part of the First Nation’s overall governance and operations. Its purpose was to permit members to avail themselves of their tax-free status, it was financially integrated with the First Nation, its employees were employees of the First Nation, and its operations were continuously concerned with the status, rights and privileges of Stellat’en’s members. As a result, the store fell under federal jurisdiction and outside the Tribunal’s jurisdiction while it was operated by Stellat’en. While operated at arm’s length through a limited partnership, however, the store was a provincial undertaking subject to the Tribunal’s jurisdiction. The Tribunal went on to dismiss the complaint against both entities on the ground that it had no reasonable prospect of success if it were to proceed on its merits.

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This Case Watch blog post has been brought to you by the Native Law Centre in partnership with Pro Bono Students Canada – University of Saskatchewan