Kennedy v Carry the Kettle First Nation, 2020 SKCA 32

Appeal allowed of a judicial review that quashed a customary decision to remove opposing members on a First Nation’s election code tribunal. The Federal Court of Canada had exclusive original jurisdiction pursuant to s 18 of the Federal Courts Act to hear and determine that application. 

Indigenous Law Centre – CaseWatch BlogThe Appellants are members of the Cega-Kin Nakoda Oyate Tribunal [“Tribunal”], an election tribunal established by the Cega-Kin Nakoda Oyate Custom Election Act [“Code”]. They, like the Respondents, [“opposing members”], were appointed as Tribunal members by the Chief and Council of the respondent, Carry the Kettle First Nation [“CKFN”]. The Code provides that the Tribunal shall have five members.

In 2019, the Appellants purported to make orders of the Tribunal [“Orders”] at certain meetings. The only attendees at those meetings were the Appellants, as the opposing members refused to attend, and never approved the Orders. Subsequently a resolution was passed at a joint meeting of the Appellants and a group of Elders [“Elders’ resolution”]. The Elders’ resolution established rules for the removal of Tribunal members and removed the opposing members from the Tribunal. The CKFN applied to the Court of Queen’s Bench for judicial review, challenging the validity of the Orders and the Elders’ resolution [“Application”]. The Chambers judge who heard that judicial review quashed the Orders and the Elder’s resolution. In this matter the Appellants appeal that decision to this Court. It has been determined that this appeal must be allowed, as the Federal Court of Canada had exclusive jurisdiction to hear the judicial review application.

After s 74 of the Indian Act order was rescinded in 2018 for the CKFN, their Code came into effect. The definition of “council of the band” in s 2(1) of the Indian Act provides that when a band is not subject to a s 74 order, and is not named or formerly named in the schedule to the First Nations Elections Act, “council of the band” means “the council chosen according to the custom of the band, or, if there is no council, the chief of the band chosen according to the custom of the band”.

None of the parties takes issue with the proposition that the Code constitutes “custom of the band” within the meaning of s 2, although they differ as to what constitutes custom. It is clear that a recently adopted election code may be custom for this purpose, despite that the authority to enact such a custom election code is not granted by the Indian Act or other federal legislation (Pastion v Dene Tha’ First Nation, [2019] 1 CNLR 343 [“Pastion”]). The custom of the band is not limited, and indeed may bear little resemblance, to historic customs, practices or traditions that existed prior to the Crown’s assertion of sovereignty. What the Indian Act describes as ‘custom’ is often the written product of public deliberation within a First Nation and it may rely on the mechanisms of Western democracy, or provide for a mechanism that blends Western democracy and Indigenous tradition (Pastion). The Code is such a document regardless of whether, as Pastion suggests, it might be more apt to describe it as “Indigenous legislation” or “Indigenous law”. The Code is effective for purposes of the Indian Act regardless of whether that is so.

The Code does not contain provisions which deal expressly with the issues of removal or replacement of Tribunal members. The Appellants resolved to hold a joint meeting with the Nation Elders to deal with those issues. That meeting [“Elders’ Meeting”], attended by the Appellants, and 26 Elders, unanimously supported the Elders’ resolution, which established criteria and a process for removing and replacing Tribunal members. This Elders’ resolution also provided that the three opposing members were “removed as Tribunal members effective immediately”.

In this matter, the Appellants submitted that both the Tribunal and the Elders’ Meeting were federal boards, commissions or tribunals [“Federal entity”] within the meaning of s 18 of the Federal Courts Act [“FCA”]. The Chambers judge did not deal with the question of whether the Tribunal and the Elders’ Meeting were Federal entities. On an appeal from a judicial review, the task of an appeal court is normally to determine whether the Chambers judge selected the correct standard of review and correctly applied that standard (Kawula v Institute of Chartered Accountants of Saskatchewan, 2017 SKCA 70; Dr Q v College of Physicians & Surgeons of British Columbia, 2003 SCC 19). It is concluded that this appeal should be disposed of on the basis of the jurisdictional question, which raises two issues: 1) did the learned Chambers judge err by deciding that the Court of Queen’s Bench had jurisdiction to hear the Application pursuant to s 22 of the Code; and 2) did the Chambers judge err by failing to decide that the Federal Court had exclusive original jurisdiction to hear the Application pursuant to s 18 of the FCA?

In this case, the conditions necessary to engage the right to apply pursuant to s 22 have not been met because the Application was filed by the CKFN. That, in itself, is enough to determine the issue. The Tribunal has not yet made a final decision as to the results of the election, therefore the CKFN could not bring the Application in the Court of Queen’s Bench pursuant to s 22 of the Code, and the Chambers judge did not have jurisdiction to hear the Application pursuant to that section.

The same reasoning applies to the Elders’ Meeting. The question is not whether those recognized as Elders by the Nation are a Federal entity whenever they play a role in the CKFN’s affairs. The question is whether the Elders’ Meeting had the authority to pass the Elders’ resolution. If the Elders’ Meeting had the authority it exercised or purported to exercise, it was because that authority was the custom of the band, and like the authority of the Tribunal, was made effective in this context. The Tribunal and the Elders’ Meeting were both Federal entities within the meaning of s 18 of the FCA. The Chambers judge erred by failing to decide that the Federal Court had exclusive original jurisdiction to hear the Application pursuant to s 18 of the FCA.

Neshkiwe v Hare, 2020 ONCJ 42

Motion granted for the M’Chigeeng First Nation to be added as a party to the proceedings in keeping with the best interests of the child. This matter will eventually involve constitutional questions surrounding the children’s custody.

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Following the parent’s separation, an Indigenous mother left Toronto with her two children. Shortly after the father, who is also Indigenous but from a different community than the mother, launched an ex parte motion for temporary custody, that was granted. The ex parte motion ordered the children’s return to Toronto and for police assistance from various police forces to enforce this Court’s order. The mother and M’Chigeeng First Nation [“MFN”] advised the Court they intended to challenge the Court’s jurisdiction to make any orders for custody or access, asserting exclusive jurisdiction of the children.

In the meantime, the Court’s ex parte Order had not been followed. The father initially only served the Order for enforcement on UCCM Anishnaabe Police Service [“UCCM”] and did not serve it on OPP until the term for police enforcement was about to expire. The mother nor the MFN had prepared Notices of Constitutional Questions, while still raising a challenge and taking steps outside the Court consistent with that position. On December 5, the Court directed all Constitutional Question were to be served and filed before December 19 and granted leave to MFN to bring a motion to be added as a party to this proceeding. The enforcement term was stayed on a without prejudice basis.

MFN is asserting exclusive jurisdiction of the children. Both the mother and the MFN have advised the Court that they intend to challenge the Court’s jurisdiction to make any orders for custody or access. They anticipated advancing this claim based on an existing Aboriginal and Treaty right under s 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. However, neither has been pleaded, nor any Notices of Constitutional Question been served or filed. The mother also took the position that the Court lacked jurisdiction based on the application of an existing By-Law and a Band Council Resolution, both of which had been passed by the MFN, as an alternative legal basis from the anticipated section claims.

Until such arguments could be sorted out, a practical problem unfolded that still exists. The mother indicated to the Court that she would not comply with the Court’s Order. The MFN prohibited the father from coming onto its territory. UCCM refused to enforce the Order, as it had been instructed by the MFN to act in that fashion. The OPP, however, would enforce the Order, but brought the Court’s attention to certain potential negative consequences for the Court to consider. It was suggested to suspend the operation of the police enforcement term until the legal questions are resolved.

The Court has issued another Endorsement containing further directions for the conduct of this case and has asked that a litigation plan be presented. Regarding the police enforcement term, the Court stayed enforcement, which was about to expire anyway, on a without prejudice basis.

The overarching consideration in deciding to add the MFN as a party to the proceedings was in keeping with the best interests of the children. It was not seriously disputed that the First Nation should be added as a party. The s 35 claims have both individual and collective aspects to them. Adding the First Nation to the proceedings was also in the best interests of the children as they have a position to take and to offer evidence surrounding these particular children. Lastly, they have a legal interest. Once that position has been clarified after a full hearing, then they may call into question the Court’s jurisdiction.

Dumais et al v Kehewin Band Council et al, 2020 FC 25

Motion dismissed. The reasons for dismissal is not the merits of the Plaintiffs’ grievances against Kehewin Band Council et al for refusing them memberships under Bill C-31, but rather this Court has no jurisdiction to entertain them.

Indigenous Law Centre – CaseWatch Blog

The Plaintiffs have asked for default judgement against the Kehewin Band and Band Council [“Kehewin”]. Due to the historical gender discrimination that existed against women with registered Indian status under the enfranchisement, or “marrying out”, provisions of the Indian Act, SC 1956. In 1985, however, the Indian Act was amended, also known as Bill C-31, to be consistent with s 15 of the Charter. Bill C-31 automatically restored band membership to the women who had lost their Indian status directly through enfranchisement.

Kehewin refused to recognize Bill C-31 or accept any of its eligible individuals or their children as band members. As a result, the Plaintiffs commenced the underlying action in 2000 seeking declaratory relief and damages against Kehewin and Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada, as represented by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development [“Canada”]. The Plaintiffs claim there was a fiduciary duty owed towards them and there was a breach of that duty.

In this matter, the Plaintiffs seek default judgment for damages resulting from Kehewin’s discrimination and associated denial of all tangible and intangible benefits of band membership. The action against Canada has been held in abeyance pending disposition of the present motion. The action moved forward by fits and bounds for almost a decade. Throughout this period, Kehewin engaged in a deliberate and systematic pattern of delay, using all possible means to frustrate the Plaintiffs’ efforts to conduct an orderly and complete discovery.

Kehewin never formally took control of its membership lists. Kehewin rebuffed all attempts to restore membership to the Plaintiffs, refusing to comply with Bill C-31 or recognize Canada’s authority. Kehewin also failed to file an action or application to challenge the constitutionality of Bill C-31. Kehewin simply ignored Bill C-31. Kehewin refused to recognize any Bill C-31 eligible individuals as Kehewin Band members. Kehewin’s adoption and application of their Kehewin Law #1 made it impossible for individuals reinstated to registered Indian status or Kehewin Band membership under Bill C-31 to qualify for Kehewin Band membership.

The applicable test to establish if this Court has jurisdiction is set out by the Supreme Court of Canada: 1) there must be a statutory grant of jurisdiction by the federal Parliament; 2) there must be an existing body of federal law which is essential to the disposition of the case and which nourishes the statutory grant of jurisdiction; and 3) the law on which the case is based must be “a law of Canada” as the phrase is used in s 101 of the Constitution Act, 1867 (ITO-Int’l Terminal Operators v Miida Electronics, [1986] 1 SCR 752 [“ITO”]).

The Plaintiffs rely on the provisions of ss 17(4) and paragraph 17(5)(b) of the Federal Courts Act [“FCA”] to find jurisdiction. First, the nature of the proceeding generally contemplated by ss 17(4) is an interpleader. To the extent any obligation may be owed by Kehewin or Canada to the Plaintiffs, are concurrent, not conflicting. The obligation can only be owed to one. It is the claims as against Canada by other parties which must be in conflict to fulfill the requirements of ss 17(4) (Roberts v Canada, [1989] 1 SCR 322). While Kehewin takes a different legal position regarding the Plaintiffs’ status as band members, this does not create a conflicting claim as against Canada. Therefore, this Court does not have jurisdiction to entertain the Plaintiffs’ action against Kehewin under ss 17(4) of the FCA.

Next, paragraph 17(5)(b) of the FCA grants concurrent jurisdiction to the Federal Court to entertain claims against persons in relation to the performance of their duties as an officer, servant or agent of the Crown. Band councils have been recognized as legal entities separate and distinct from their membership with the capacity to sue and be sued by courts at all levels. On the one hand, they may act from time to time as an agent of the Crown with respect to carrying out certain departmental directives, orders of the Minister and the regulations passed for the benefit of its members. On the other hand, the band councils do many acts which are done in the name of and which represent the collective will of the band members, all of which is directly related to the elective process provided for in the Indian Act whereby the band members elect its governing body. The element of control is key to a finding of agency (Stoney Band v Stoney Band Council, [1996] FCJ No 1113).

The difficulty with the Plaintiffs’ argument is that no facts have ever been advanced in their pleadings which could support a finding of agency, nor does the notice of motion seek a declaration or finding of agency. It is not open to the Plaintiffs on a motion for default judgment to now assert liability of Kehewin based on agency. The introduction of this new theory of liability at this late stage of the proceeding is problematic. In any event, the facts established by the Plaintiffs on this motion do not support a conclusion that Kehewin was under the control of Canada when it refused to provide benefits to the Plaintiff. Regrettably, the Plaintiffs have failed to satisfy the first branch of the ITO test.

Dilico Anishinabek Family Care v Her Majesty the Queen (Ontario), 2020 ONSC 892

Motion for stay dismissed. The applicants have not discharged their burden to show that they, or Indigenous children, will suffer irreparable harm if a stay of the Minister’s Directive and Designations is not granted.

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This motion is for a stay. These proceedings involve a long-standing jurisdictional dispute between two representative Indigenous groups in northwestern Ontario over who should be permitted to provide child and family services in the City and District of Thunder Bay. The Minister of Children, Community and Social Services [“Minister”] issued designations authorizing three children’s aid societies to provide the full range of child and family services in Thunder Bay. At the same time, the Minister issued a directive providing that: a) Dilico Anishinabek Family Care [“Dilico”] will provide services to all Indigenous children and families other than Indigenous children from First Nations affiliated with Tikinagan Child and Family Services; b) Tikinagan will provide services to children and families from Tikinagan-affiliated First Nations; and c) the Children’s Aid Society [“CAS”] of Thunder Bay will provide services to non-Indigenous children and families [“Directive and Designations”].

Dilico was incorporated in 1986 by the Robinson Superior Treaty First Nations and granted authority in 1994 by a group of 12 First Nations to provide child protection services to Indigenous children and families in Thunder Bay. Dilico has operated as a designated CAS since 1995 under what is now the Child, Youth and Family Services Act [“CYFSA”]. Initially, Dilico’s designation restricted it to exercising powers as a CAS only over those members of the Dilico-affiliated First Nations residing in the City and District of Thunder Bay, together with powers over all children residing on specified reserve lands. In 2012, Dilico entered into a memorandum of understanding [“MOU”] with the Thunder Bay CAS. Under the MOU, Dilico assumed child protection jurisdiction over not only Dilico-affiliated First Nation children, but all Indigenous children in Thunder Bay.

Tikinagan Child and Family Services [“Tikinagan”] was incorporated in 1984 through the efforts of the 49 Chiefs of Nishnawbe Aski Nation which represents many First Nations across northwestern Ontario. In 1986, Tikinagan was given approved agency status by the Ministry and, in 1987, received its designation as a CAS. Tikinagan’s geographical area includes most of northwestern Ontario including parts of the District of Kenora and the northwest portion of the District of Thunder Bay. Tikinagan has the authority to offer the full range of child and family services within its territorial jurisdiction.

Dilico and the Fort William First Nation brought applications for judicial review seeking to set aside the Directive and Designations of the Minister on various constitutional and administrative law grounds, which will be heard at a later date. The applicants’ also motioned for a stay of the Directive and Designations; below are the reasons for the dismissal.

The court must consider three cumulative factors in determining whether to grant a stay: 1) whether there is a serious issue to be tried; 2) whether the moving party would suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a stay; and 3) whether the balance of convenience as between the parties favours granting the stay, in the sense that the harm that will be suffered by the moving party if the stay is not granted outweighs the harm that will be suffered by the responding party if it is (RJR-MacDonald Inc v Canada (AG), [1994] 1 SCR 311 [“RJR-MacDonald”]).

Cases involving child welfare or child custody require a modification to this approach to the three-part RJR-MacDonald test. The overriding consideration in such cases is the best interests of the child. In this matter, the Minister, the Thunder Bay CAS and the two Indigenous CASs operate within a statutory framework which makes the best interests of the child paramount. Section 1(1) of the CYFSA provides that the “paramount purpose of this Act is to promote the best interests, protection and well-being of children.” The applicants have, asserted grounds for judicial review of the Directive and Designations which are not frivolous. There are serious issues which can only be resolved in a full hearing. The applicants have, therefore, satisfied the first aspect of the RJR MacDonald test.

The Court concluded that the applicants have not discharged their burden to show that they, or Indigenous children, will suffer irreparable harm if a stay of the Directive and Designations is not granted. This conclusion is sufficient to dispose of the motion. However, there are other factors which tip the balance against a stay in any event. The public interest also includes a public interest in the legitimacy of public institutions. The public interest therefore includes a high level of respect for the decisions of the legislative and executive branches of government. The courts have limited institutional competence to interfere with those decisions. The courts have a supervisory role to play, but should be wary of usurping legislative and executive roles, particularly where they lie at the policy end of the decision-making spectrum (Hupacasath First Nation v British Columbia (Minister of Forests), 2005 BCSC 345; RJR-MacDonald).

At the end of the day, the balance of convenience weighs in favour of refusing the stay and, pending the disposition of the applications for judicial review, advancing the goal of providing child welfare services to Tikinagan-affiliated children and their families in a culturally appropriate manner. The applicants’ onus of showing that the balance of convenience favours granting the stay has also not been discharged.

 

R v Robinson, 2019 BCPC 273

Defendant found guilty. The Wabalisla Street on the Bella Bella Indian Reserve is a road within the definition of a “highway” as set out in the Motor Vehicle Act.

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The defendant was charged with driving while prohibited, contrary to s 95(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act [“MVA”]. The issue was whether the Crown proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Wabalisla Street located on Bella Bella Indian Reserve is a road within the definition of a “highway” as set out in the legislation. The analysis fell into two areas of consideration: 1) was the road designated or intended for or used by the general public for the passage of vehicles, and 2) are Aboriginal persons living on a reserve members of the general public.

The defence argued the reserve is in essence a closed community and any others who might use the street do so only to the extent which is incidental to the ownership of reserve property. Further, as the community is only accessible by water or air, any of the roads are thus precluded from the characteristics of a public highways within the meaning of the MVA. Bella Bella is a final destination, not a point of passage from one destination to another.

Albeit, there was investment in the network of transportation infrastructure that the community has either expressed or implied invitation to the general public to drive on their roads. The pursuit of tourism gave additional weight to this conclusion. There are numerous community-based resources along this roadway. It has traffic signs, is paved and is passable by two conventional cars. All persons are welcome on the reserve without restrictions or regulations. The defence also submitted that as the community had enacted their own by-law for the regulation and use of vehicles on their reserve pursuant to s 81(1)(f) of the Indian Act, this was evidence of their intent not to be subject to the MVA.

The fact that the community has a parallel regulatory by-law is not demonstrative that they have thus occupied the field through their regulations governing driving nor does it establish an intention not to be bound by the MVA. The defence says that a reserve road used by reserve residents is not a public road and is therefore, not a highway under the MVA. The Crown submits that the definition of a “highway” under the MVA, has use by the general public, which includes those Aboriginal members living on a reserve. The legislative purpose of s 95(1) of the MVA is to provide public protection against those prohibited from driving. The 1800 residents of the Bella Bella Reserve is not a trivial number of people. Collectively, they constitute the “general public”. There is nothing in the MVA that excludes individuals living on a reserve to be considered part of the general public. Therefore, the Crown has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Wabalisla Street in Bella Bella is a highway under the MVA.

Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd v Huson, 2019 BCSC 2264

Interlocutory injunction and enforcement order granted. The defendants are restrained from preventing access to key service roads used by the plaintiff, Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd.

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The plaintiff, Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of TC Energy Corporation (formerly known as TransCanada Pipelines Ltd). The plaintiff obtained all of the necessary provincial permits and authorizations to commence construction of a natural gas pipeline [the “Pipeline Project”]. Over a period of several years beginning in 2012, the defendants set up the Bridge Blockade on the Morice West Forest Service Road [“FSR”]. The defendants have said publicly that one of the main purposes of the Bridge Blockade was to prevent industrial projects, including the Pipeline Project, from being constructed in Unist’ot’en traditional territories. In 2018, the Court granted an interim injunction enjoining the defendants from blockading the FSR. Blockading persisted, however, at another access point along the road, which resulted in the Court varying the interim injunction order to include all of the FSR.

The Pipeline Project is a major undertaking, which the plaintiff contends will generate benefits for contractors and employees of the plaintiff, First Nations along the pipeline route, local communities, and the Province of British Columbia. The defendants assert that the Wet’suwet’en people, as represented by their traditional governance structures, have not given permission to the plaintiff to enter their traditional unceded territories. The defendants assert that they were at all times acting in accordance with Wet’suwet’en law and with proper authority. The Wet’suwet’en people have both hereditary and Indian Act band council governance systems and there is dispute over the extent of their respective jurisdictions.

The Environmental Assessment Office issued to the plaintiff a Section 11 Order that identified the Aboriginal groups with whom the plaintiff and the Province of British Columbia were required to consult regarding the Pipeline Project. The plaintiff engaged in consultation with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs through the Office of the Wet’suwet’en over a number of years. The Office of the Wet’suwet’en expressed opposition to the project on behalf of 12 of the 13 Wet’suwet’en Houses. Offers by the plaintiff to negotiate agreements with the Office of the Wet’suwet’en have not been accepted.

The plaintiff has entered into community and benefit agreements with all five Wet’suwet’en elected Bands. The long-term financial benefits to those, and 20 other Indigenous Bands, may exceed $338 million cumulatively over the life of the Pipeline Project. The elected Band councils assert that the reluctance of the Office of the Wet’suwet’en to enter into project agreements placed responsibility on the Band councils to negotiate agreements to ensure that the Wet’suwet’en people as a whole would receive benefits from Pipeline Project. This appears to have resulted in considerable tension between the Office of the Wet’suwet’en and the elected Band councils.

The Court found that the reconciliation of the common law with Indigenous legal perspectives is still in its infancy (Beaver v Hill, 2018 ONCA 816 [“Beaver”]). Indigenous customary laws generally do not become an effectual part of Canadian common law until there is some means or process by which they are recognized. This can be through its incorporation into treaties, court declarations, such as Aboriginal title or rights jurisprudence, or statutory provisions (Alderville First Nation v Canada, 2014 FC 747). There has been no process by which Wet’suwet’en customary laws have been recognized in this manner. The Aboriginal title claims of the Wet’suwet’en people have yet to be resolved either by negotiation or litigation. While Wet’suwet’en customary laws clearly exist on their own independent footing, they are not recognized as being an effectual part of Canadian law. Indigenous laws may, however, be admissible as fact evidence of the Indigenous legal perspective. It is for this purpose that evidence of Wet’suwet’en customary laws has been considered relevant in this case.

There is significant conflict amongst members of the Wet’suwet’en nation regarding construction of the Pipeline Project. The Unist’ot’en, the Wet’suwet’en Matrilineal Coalition, the Gidumt’en, the Sovereign Likhts’amisyu and the Tsayu Land Defenders all appear to operate outside the traditional governance structures of the Wet’suwet’en, although they each assert through various means their own authority to apply and enforce Indigenous laws and customs. It is difficult for the Court to reach any conclusions about the Indigenous legal perspective. Based on the evidence, the defendants are posing significant constitutional questions and asking this Court to decide those issues in the context of the injunction application with little or no factual matrix. This is not the venue for that analysis and those are issues that must be determined at trial.

The defendants have chosen to engage in illegal activities to voice their opposition to the Pipeline Project rather than to challenge it through legal means, which is not condoned. At its heart, the defendants’ argument is that the Province of British Columbia was not authorized to grant permits and authorizations to the plaintiff to construct the Pipeline Project on Wet’suwet’en traditional territory without the specific authorization from the hereditary chiefs. Rather than seeking accommodation of Wet’suwet’en legal perspectives, as suggested by their counsel, the defendants are seeking to exclude the application of British Columbia law within Wet’suwet’en territory, which is something that Canadian law will not entertain (Beaver).

Such “self-help” remedies are not condoned anywhere in Canadian law, and they undermine the rule of law. The Supreme Court of Canada has made it clear that such conduct amounts to a repudiation of the mutual obligation of Aboriginal groups and the Crown to consult in good faith (Behn v Moulton Contracting Ltd, 2013 SCC 261).

All three branches of the test for an interlocutory injunction are satisfied. Injunctive relief is an equitable remedy. In the Court’s view, it is just and equitable that an injunction order be granted and that this is an appropriate case to include enforcement provisions within the injunction order. The public needs to be informed of the consequences of non-compliance with an injunction order (West Fraser Mills v Members of Lax Kw’Alaams, 2004 BCSC 815).

Note: Benjamin Ralston is a sessional lecturer at the College of Law and a researcher at the Indigenous Law Centre. We are proud to acknowledge his contribution as co-counsel for the defendants in this case.

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.

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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.

Blackjack v Yukon (Chief Coroner), 2018 YKCA 14

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre

Appeal dismissed. The chief coroner and a judge have concurrent, equivalent and continuing jurisdiction to order an inquest whenever it is advisable, regardless of the steps previously taken by the chief coroner.

This is an appeal by the chief coroner from an order that an inquest be held into Cynthia Blackjack’s death, a First Nation woman from Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation (“LSCFN”). Ms. Blackjack, after having repeatedly attended a local health centre, died during her transport to Whitehorse on-board a medevac aircraft. The chief coroner assumed conduct of the investigation under the Coroners Act, and after her investigation, she decided not to hold an inquest into the circumstances surrounding Ms. Blackjack’s death. The LSCFN brought allegations of racial discrimination in the provision of health care services to the chief coroner’s attention and asked for her reconsideration of an inquest. Despite the allegations of systemic discrimination, the chief coroner maintained her decision. The LSCFN and the mother of Ms. Blackjack then applied to a judge under s 10 of the Coroners Act for an order that an inquest be held, which was granted. The chief coroner appealed from this order and to have it set aside. She contends that the chambers judge lacks the jurisdiction to make the order and has failed to accord her decision due deference.

There are two distinct functions for an inquest by Canadian coroners into the circumstances surrounding questionable deaths in their communities (Faber v The Queen, [1976] 2 SCR 9, (“Faber”); Charlie v Yukon Territory (Chief Coroner), 2013 YKCA 11, (“Charlie”)): 1) there is an investigative function that is narrow and case specific that involves an inquiry into the identity of the deceased and how, when and where that death occurred and; 2) the public-interest function, which is broader and social. This entails exposing systemic failings that cause or contribute to preventable death, and recommends systemic changes to reduce the risk to human life. It satisfies the community that the circumstances surrounding questionable deaths have received due attention from accountable public authorities (Faber; Pierre v McRae, 2011 ONCA 187, (“Pierre”)).

Coroners perform these functions, with and without the assistance of juries, within parameters established by legislation. When an inquest is conducted, it is inquisitorial in nature and it functions as an extension of the initial investigative process (Charlie). Like coroners, juries do not determine legal responsibility, as inquests also fulfill the broader public-interest function. Over time, Canadian courts have come to recognize this function as increasingly significant for several reasons, including the need to allay public suspicions, remove doubts about questionable deaths and contribute to justice being both done and seen to be done (Faber; Pierre). This is often particularly important where the deceased was a vulnerable person. It is also particularly apparent in this case given Ms. Blackjack’s possible vulnerability as a First Nation citizen and the nature of the care she received in the period preceding her death, regardless of whether a causal link was established between those circumstances and the medical cause of her death.

The applicable principles of statutory interpretation are uncontroversial. As stated in s 10 of the Interpretation Act, the provisions of the Coroners Act must be given such fair, large and liberal interpretation as best insures the attainment of its objects. The words of s 10 must be read in the entire context, in the grammatical and ordinary sense, harmoniously with the scheme and objects of the Coroners Act and the intention of the legislature (Rizzo & Rizzo Shoes Ltd. (Re), [1998] 1 SCR 27). The sorts of circumstances that surround a questionable death which may engage the functions of an inquest are potentially diverse and difficult to identify in the abstract. That there is good reason to believe a deceased person received substandard care in and around the time of death, could be a matter of legitimate public concern. It could involve systemic failings and may warrant public scrutiny, regardless of what precisely caused the death from a purely medical perspective.

The chief coroner and a judge have concurrent, equivalent and continuing jurisdiction to order an inquest whenever it is advisable, regardless of the steps previously taken by the chief coroner. Although the chief coroner has other powers under the Coroners Act, they are powers of investigation and administration, neither of which fall within the purview of a judge and all of which a deputy chief coroner can fulfill when the chief coroner is unavailable. The fact that the chief coroner is also granted other statutory powers under the Coroners Act does not suggest the legislature intended to subordinate the jurisdiction of a judge to that of the chief coroner under s 10. The words of s 10 also indicate a concurrent and equivalent jurisdiction that is continuing in nature. The plain meaning of its words is that both the chief coroner and a judge have ongoing jurisdiction to direct an inquest, if advisable, regardless of what has previously transpired. In effect, s 10 allows either the chief coroner or a judge to order an inquest into a death where the chief coroner has previously declined to do so.

Continuing jurisdiction of this sort is unusual in an adversarial system of justice. Nevertheless, it fits comfortably within the overall scheme of the Coroners Act. An inquest does not serve to determine rights and fault. There is no risk of double jeopardy or unduly prolonged exposure to liability posed by continuing jurisdiction of this nature. There is no risk of inconsistent orders if the chief coroner and a judge have concurrent, equivalent and continuing jurisdiction. This is so because s 10 jurisdiction is only exercised when one or the other directs that an inquest be held. While either or both may choose not to exercise s 10 jurisdiction faced with a particular set of circumstances, the Coroners Act does not enable either to order that an inquest shall not be held.

MRC de Roussillon v MRN, 2017 QCCS 3744

Wiyasiwewin Mikiwahp Native Law Centre Case Watch

Application dismissed. There is no duty to consult between the province and its municipalities about lands being transferred to the Federal government for the purposes of adding to a First Nation reserve.

The Applicants sought to have an Order in Council of the Government of Québec declared invalid on the basis of bad faith or abuse of power by the Québec government. The Order concerns vacant lands located on the territory of the Municipalité Régionale de Comté de Roussillon (“RCM”) and adjacent to the Kahnawake Reserve (the “Lands”), which the Ministère des Transports du Québec (“MTQ”) acquired several years ago to extend a highway. With the extension completed, the Lands were no longer needed for road purposes. The Order transfers the usufruct of the Lands to the Government of Canada for a possible addition to the territory of the Kahnawake Reserve. In the alternative, the Applicants also argued that condition No. 3 of the Order is ambiguous and void, as it has the effect of expanding the Kahnawake Reserve. They claim the Province does not have the legislative authority to create an Indian Reserve.

The Order transfers the usufruct of the Lands free of charge to the federal government for the benefit of the Kahnawake Mohawk Indian Band. Some of the Lands and the extension of the highway were located on the territory of the Seigneurie du Sault-Sault-Louis (SSSL), for which the Mohawks of Kahnawake filed a specific claim in the early 1990’s, alleging that the King of France gave them the territory. Since 2003, this specific claim has been under discussion with the federal government and is still ongoing.

The mechanism for transferring lands of the Québec province in order to reserve them for Indians is regulated under Québec and federal laws. The Minister of Natural Resources and Wildlife first designates the lands, and then the Québec government may “reserve and allot” the lands by adopting an order to transfer, gratuitously, the usufruct of the lands to the Government of Canada, with a view to administering it in trust for the Indian bands. No other legislative condition limits the exercise of the Québec government’s discretion in this regard. The Order, however, is only the first step in an administrative process by which the provincial lands will be added to the Kahnawake reserve as “designated lands” within the meaning of section 2(1) of the Indian Act. The process of creating an Indian reserve or adding to an existing reserve (known as “ATR” – Additions to Reserves) is subject to a specific legislative framework. A federal directive also regulates the ATR process including “an early and healthy dialogue between the First Nation, the public and affected individuals and interest groups to increase awareness and deal with potential issues”. However, “municipal governments do not have a general or unilateral veto over the granting of reserve status” and discussions with municipal governments “should not unreasonably delay the proposal” of an ATR.

The Order is political and therefore a purely administrative decision of the Québec government, or Cabinet, which is the top of the administrative and political power hierarchy. The adoption of the Order is a political decision and carries no obligation of procedural fairness or consultation with regard to the individuals affected. In respect of the autonomy, latitude and discretion enjoyed by the government in this area, any challenge to such a decision can be based only on very limited grounds. In making a political decision, the government cannot act against the law or abuse its discretion. The Order does not contravene any law. As for the rest, the government must answer for its political decisions to the electors and not the courts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Although the second appeal judge recognized that Indigenous membership has expanded to include self- identification, there still must be evidence in relation to the child so a determination can be made as to whether access is beneficial and meaningful to her. The first appeal judge erred by ordering access based on nothing but the parents’ self-identification with Indigenous heritage in the absence of any evidence on this issue specific to this child.