R v Paul, 2019 SKQB 142

Offender is to be sentenced as an adult, even after consideration of Gladue factors. She is to serve, concurrently, nine years imprisonment for manslaughter and two years imprisonment for unlawful confinement.

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The accused was found guilty of a lesser charge of manslaughter as well as unlawful confinement. The offender was just shy of her 18th birthday at the time of the offences; as such, these proceedings fell under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, SC 2002, c 1 [“Act”]. However, the offender was to be sentenced as an adult as the Crown filed a notice and the offender had consented to that process under s 67 of the Act.

Proportionality, the fundamental principle of sentencing, the individualistic nature of sentencing, deterrence and denunciation, and rehabilitation as the offender is a young person were all taken into account. Further, sentencing must consider the Gladue factors when considering a person of Indigenous ancestry.

While on remand, the offender took advantage of some available programming but her time in remand could not be characterized as positive. The pre-sentence report ranked the offender in the highest level of risk to reoffend, and the psychological assessment report concluded she was at a high risk for future violent offending. The offender informed the court that she does understand she needs assistance and that was the primary reason she consented to an adult sentence to take advantage of the programming. She has been connected with her family since being incarcerated. She oscillates between expressions of remorse and pride at her capacity for violence and defiance, but stated she was sorry at the sentencing hearing which was taken as sincere.

Counsel agreed that the sentencing range for manslaughter is 4 to 11 years, with a starting point of 7 years. In some circumstances, a suitable sentence will fall outside the range. Two cases were relied on, R v Whitehead, 2016 SKCA 165 and R v Littlewolfe, 2002 SKCA 143. The prolonged nature of the attack and extent of physical violence inflicted on the victim were aggravating circumstances in this case. As for mitigating factors, her youth was a mitigating factor as well as not initially being the leader in the attack. The offender was sentenced to nine years imprisonment for manslaughter and two years imprisonment for unlawful confinement, to be served concurrently.

Ross River Dena Council v Yukon, 2019 YKSC 26

Application dismissed. Yukon has engaged in “deep consultation” with the RRDC in respect to wildlife matters. There has been no breach of the duty to consult, and where appropriate, to accommodate.

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Ross River Dena Council [“RRDC”] applied pursuant to Rule 31(6) of the Rules of Court, for the following order: 1) A declaration that the issuance of hunting licences and seals might adversely affect the Aboriginal title of the RRDC members in and to the Ross River Area by permitting conduct in that Area inconsistent with Aboriginal title; 2) A declaration that the Government of Yukon has a duty to consult with, and where indicated, accommodate the RRDC prior to issuing hunting licences and seals; and 3) A declaration that, in respect of each of the 2016/2017, 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 hunting seasons, the Government of Yukon failed to consult with and, where indicated, accommodate the RRDC prior to issuing hunting licences and seals. The Government of Yukon [“Yukon”] opposed the application and relied on RRDC v Yukon, 2015 YKSC 45 [“RRDC 2015 wildlife case”], where this court refused to grant a declaration of a constitutional duty to consult on wildlife matters as it was unnecessary when Yukon was ready, willing, and able to negotiate and consult on wildlife matters as set out in Haida Nation v British Columbia (Minister of Forests), [2005] 1 CNLR 72 [“Haida Nation“].

The context and content of Yukon’s duty to consult with RRDC in wildlife matters required a consideration of the previous decisions. In Ross River Dena Council v Yukon, 2012 YKCA 14 the Court of Appeal recognized that the Yukon had a duty to consult with RRDC in determining whether mineral rights on Crown land within lands compromising the Ross River Area are to be made available to third parties. Further, that Yukon has a duty to notify, and where appropriate, consult with and accommodate RRDC before allowing any mining exploration activities to take place within the Ross River Area. In the RRDC 2015 wildlife case, it was concluded that the Haida Nation test for the duty to consult, had been met.

After reviewing the principles set out in Haida Nation, there were a number of reasons why deep consultation was required by Yukon. First, in Ross River Dena Council v Canada (Attorney General), 2019 YKCA 3, the Court of Appeal confirmed the constitutional obligation in the Rupert’s Land and North-Western Territory Order (UK) which was important for the case at bar to recognize the historic and legal nature of the RRDC claim to title and its application to Yukon. Second, there have been significant impacts on the RRDC traditional territory ongoing for at least 50 years. Third, Yukon and the RRDC have been negotiating land claims on and off from 1973 to 2002 which supports the strength of the claim as negotiations would only proceed on the understanding that there was an asserted but as yet undefined underlying claim to title. Fourth, the strength of the claim was enhanced by the lands set aside, on an interim basis, for settlement purposes. Last, the comprehensive nature of the Framework for a Government-to-Government Agreement between representatives of the Kaska Nation, including RRDC.

RRDC was at the claim stage of asserting Aboriginal title. Yukon had consulted extensively with RRDC representatives through sharing the harvest results, the population surveys, and discussing wildlife management issues. Yukon had further provided RRDC with notification of planned wildlife initiatives; shared specific wildlife data and information; and provided funding to RRDC to participate in discussions and negotiations. RRDC had acknowledged the correspondence. While RRDC believes that the entire Ross River Area should be a permit hunt area, Yukon saw this as a way to limit hunting access rather than a useful wildlife management tool. It must be remembered that failure to agree does not necessarily result in a breach of the duty to consult. Yukon was also prepared to continue discussing the proposal. After responding to concerns from RRDC indicating a decline in the Finlayson Caribou Herd, Yukon closed the permit hunt for the Finlayson Caribou Herd and set the outfitter quota to zero for the 2019/2020 hunting season which was seen as significant accommodation. For these reasons, there had been “deep consultation” with RRDC with respect to wildlife matters and no breach of the duty to consult, and where appropriate, to accommodate. RRDC’s application was dismissed.

Alton Natural Gas Storage Inc v Poulette, 2019 NSSC 94

Permanent injunction order granted. The Applicant company may make a place on its lands where protestors could gather and be seen by the public. The Respondents and their belongings are confined to this permitted area.

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Alton Natural Gas Storage Inc [“Alton”] was seeking a permanent injunction against Respondents who oppose Alton’s plan to use hydro technology to construct a vast underground cavern system. Discharge construction water would flow as a result into the Sipekne’katik River [“River”]. The Mi’kmaq people have used the waterway for over 4,000 years. The Sipekne’katik First Nation and other First Nations have significant interests in the River. Alton was proposing to construct a system of caverns in the land beside the River to store natural gas and had acquired over 40 acres of land bordering the River. To do so, Alton planned on creating the caverns by pumping the River water into salt deposits underground. Alton expressed that the brine was to be injected into a mixing channel adjacent to the River, diffused, diluted, and returned to the River at a salinity level within the natural range.

Numerous First Nations, however, expressed their fears that the brine would pollute the River. A camp was built near the front entrance to Alton’s land and its guardhouse. Alton alleged that the camp prevented the heavy equipment needed to create a pump system. Protestors continued to impede access to Alton’s property at various times after 2016. The court determined that for Alton to receive a motion for an interlocutory injunction it must show three things: 1) that its claim raises a serious issue to be determined on the hearing of the application for a final injunction; 2) it will suffer irreparable harm if there is no temporary injunction before the hearing of the application; and 3) the balance of inconvenience must favour Alton over the Respondents (RJR MacDonald v Canada, [1995] 3 SCR 199 [“RJR”]).

Alton proved title and occupation to the land along the River where the protestors were camped and had established a serious issue to be tried. Evidence of threats from Youtube was sufficient to establish irreparable harm (RJR). Assessing the balance of convenience involved “determining which of the parties will suffer the greater harm from the granting or refusing of an interlocutory injunction, pending trial” (Maxwell Properties Ltd V Mosaik Property Management Ltd, 2017 NSCA 76).  The Court expected something more than an assertion of Aboriginal or treaty rights to establish a balance of inconvenience favouring the Respondents. Therefore, the balance of convenience was determined to be with Alton.

R v Luke, 2019 ONCJ 514

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

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

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

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

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

Bird v Blott, 2019 ABQB 764

Application for certification granted with costs. A class action will go forward to sue an Albertan lawyer who was disbarred for his misconduct in managing IRS files.

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This is an application by the Plaintiffs for certification of a class action pursuant to s 5 of the Class Proceedings Act [“CPA”]. It concerns the alleged mishandling of approximately 5600 residential school claims by former Calgary lawyer, David Blott, on behalf of Aboriginal clients who were signed up to retain Blott by the form filling efforts of Honour Walk Ltd. Mr. Blott was reported to have received 21 million dollars for his firm’s services. The absolute failure of Blott to provide individualized legal services to the Plaintiffs in the Residential School Class Action is well documented in judicial decisions (Fontaine v Canada (AG), 2012 BCSC 839 and 2012 BCSC 1671). He had set up his practice in such a way as to maximize profit and minimize the effort required.

In order for the Court to certify these proceedings, it must be satisfied that the conditions set out in the CPA have been met, but be construed generously. An overly restrictive approach must be avoided in order to realize the benefits, such as judicial economy, access to justice and behavior modification and so on, by those who cause harm at the certification stage (Hollick v Metropolitan Toronto (Municipality), 2001 SCC 68) [“Hollick”]; Cloud v Canada (AG), (2004) 73 OR (3d) 401 (ONCA)).

The statement of claim disclosed a cause of action. The next condition for certification required an identifiable class that should be defined independently of the merits of the action (Western Canadian Shopping Centres Inc v Dutton, 2001 SCC 46). This definition included those who retained the Blott Defendants arising out of the residential school experience and should not be unnecessarily broad (Hollick). The way in which the Blott Defendants arranged Mr. Blott’s practice essentially ruled out the possibility of a solicitor and client relationship, which Mr. Blott’s clients were entitled to expect. The Court is satisfied that there is an identifiable class.

There is a common issue among this identifiable class of an experience of being largely ignored and exploited. It turned what was supposed to provide reconciliation and closure into another traumatic experience. It would appear that most of Mr. Blott’s clients will have had very similar complaints and circumstances. The fact that some of them may have been affected differently does not mean there are no common issues. The Court is satisfied that the condition of a common issue for certification has been met.

Thousands of innocent people retained Blott to seek justice for them, as part of a class of residential school attendees. This class of people are vulnerable and for the most part, impecunious. As with the resolving of the residential school claims through a class proceeding, it is hard to see how justice can ever be obtained for the Blott clients other than through another class proceeding. It is important to proceed with their claims as a class because, like the residential school claims, it will be useful to establish standards and a basis for comparison when one does analyze the quantum of each claim.

The law firm acting on behalf of the Plaintiff class is doing this on a pro-bono basis, and there can be no doubt that the efficiency of dealing with all the claims in this way is far superior to numerous individual claims. The Court is satisfied that a class proceeding is the preferable procedure for this action.

Wakeling v Debassige, 2019 ONSC 4058

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

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

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

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

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

R v Stride-Drew, 2019 NLSC 147

A first offender’s Aboriginal status triggered a Gladue analysis. She was sentenced to 33 months imprisonment after pleading guilty to sexual interference involving a 14 year old child.

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The Offender pled guilty to sexual interference contrary to s 151 of the Criminal Code [“CC”]. She was 22 years of age and older than the 14 year old victim by 8 years. In this matter, the issue is the determination of a fit and just sentence for the Offender considering the circumstances of this offence. The Crown submits that a term of imprisonment of three years with mandatory ancillary orders is appropriate and is at the low end of a sentence for sexual intercourse with a child under the age of 16 years. The Defence requests a term of imprisonment of two years plus a day be imposed on the basis of Gladue considerations support a sentence outside the range (R v Gladue, [1999] 2 CNLR 252).

S 718.01 of the CC states that when a court imposes a sentence for an offence that involved the abuse of a person under the age of eighteen years, primary consideration should be given to the objectives of denunciation and deterrence of such conduct. S 718.2 (ii.1) requires that the abuse of a person under the age of 18 years be deemed an aggravating circumstance. S 718.2 provides a non-exhaustive list of secondary sentencing principles, including the consideration of aggravating and mitigating circumstances, the principles of parity and totality. There is also the instruction to consider all available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances, with particular attention paid to the circumstances of Aboriginal offenders.

The extent of the sexual interference on the victim is very grave and on the high end of the scale. The victim’s unwillingness and distress should have been obvious to the Offender. She took full advantage of the opportunity to sexually abuse the child when she entered the room. The traumatic and long-lasting effects of sexual abuse on children are well known. The victim was only 14 years old, was very upset during the incident which was partially witnessed by two persons who came to his assistance. The victim was also required to testify at a Preliminary Inquiry.

The mitigating factors for the offender is that she is a youthful first offender, she entered a guilty plea to the charge and has expressed remorse. The offender was not in a position of trust with respect to the victim. There was no violence on the part of the offender to perpetrate the offence or evidence of planning to have sexual intercourse with the victim.

The offender is Mi’kmaq and member of the Miawpukek First Nations Band of Conne River. She has a positive attitude towards employment and is very receptive to counselling. She agrees that a Federal term of incarceration would be in her best interests given the available programs. The offender’s upbringing was extremely unstable, as she endured physical violence and mental abuse for many years. She has physical and mental health problems requiring daily medication. While this is not offered at all as an excuse to sexually abuse a child, it does give an understanding of this young Aboriginal woman, how it has impacted her and the offence as Gladue requires. The Court believes her prospects for rehabilitation are positive.

If not for her high degree of intoxication on the date of the offence, the Offender may not have committed this offence, but the facts are very grave. Denunciation and deterrence remain the primary considerations. Other than the Gladue factors, this is not a case where a sentence would be on the low end of the scale. The sentence would be three and a half years imprisonment as imposed in R v Barrett, 2012 NLCA 46. Given the compelling pre-sentence report and a thorough Gladue analysis, that sentence has been reduced to a sentence of 33 months.

R v Abram, 2019 ONSC 3383

Application granted. The Applicant is entitled to a hearing before a jury to request that his parole ineligibility period be reduced.

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The Applicant was convicted of the first-degree murder of his 17-month-old stepson in 2005. He received the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment with no parole eligibility for 25 years. Having served more than 15 years of his sentence, the Applicant applied for a faint hope hearing where it will be asked that his parole ineligibility period be reduced. S 745.61 of the Criminal Code requires that such applications be screened for merit before a jury hearing is granted.

The primary purpose of the s 745 hearing is to call attention to changes which have occurred in the applicant’s situation that might justify imposing a less harsh penalty upon the applicant (R v Swietlinksi, [1994] 3 SCR 481). The Applicant was given the benefit of the lower screening standard, meaning, whether there is a “reasonable prospect of success” due to the uncertainty in the law, as well as this being the standard imposed at the time the offence was committed. If success falls within a range of reasonable outcomes, it qualifies as a reasonable prospect of success. Further, Gladue bears on whether the Applicant should have the right to make an application before a jury which applies in this case.

This Court considered victim impact statements, the community impact, the Applicant’s character and conduct in the institution, as well as his remorse/acceptance of responsibility. Many correctional records reported that the Applicant had a deep understanding of what he did, and a compelling need to make amends by becoming a better person. His community was eager to have him return. The most striking features of this case is the level of unqualified support offered by correctional officials towards the Applicant.

The Crown attempted to argue that the Applicant failed to accept full responsibility because he was unwilling to enrol in treatment programs aimed at sex offenders. The Court stated that the absence of sexual motivation did not affect the characterization of the crime but bears on whether the Applicant requires treatment as a sex offender. Because professionals within the correctional system had concluded there is no need for such treatment, the Applicant cannot be faulted for abiding by the recommendations of institutional officials. The Crown also attempted to argue a comment made in a psychological assessment 12 years ago showed his lack of remorse. The comments made then do not reflect the applicant’s current conceptualization of his crime. The prospect of success is therefore reasonable when one considers the Applicant’s present character, institutional history, adherence to Indigenous traditions, and his ongoing commitment to personal growth.

Anderson v Alberta (AG), 2019 ABQB 746

Advanced costs granted. It would be manifestly unjust to either compel the First Nation to abandon its claim or to force it into destitution in order to bring the claim forward.

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This is an application by the Beaver Lake Cree Nation [“BLCN”] for an order of advanced costs to allow them to proceed with their Statement of Claim filed 10 years ago against Canada and Alberta. The litigation deals with the cumulative effects of the “taking up” of land in the Beaver Lake traditional territory and the damage done thereby on the way of life of the members of the BLCN. An advanced costs decision is ultimately discretionary and there is a high threshold of accountability for using public funds through courts rather than through the legislature or the government bureaucracy.

The Court may award interim costs when a party demonstrates impecuniosity, a meritorious case, and issues of public importance (BC (Minister of Forests) v Okanagan Indian Band, [2004] 1 CNLR 7 [“Okanagan”]; Little Sisters Book and Art Emporium v Canada (Commissioner of Customs and Revenue), 2007 SCC 2 [“Little Sisters”]). Even if all the criteria are met, there is no right to interim costs. The Court has discretion whether to grant an order for interim costs, or consider other methods to facilitate the hearing of the case depending on its assessment of the individual circumstances of the case.

Impecuniosity means that it would be impossible to proceed with the litigation absent the order of costs. The threshold for proof of impecuniosity is high and it is not to be used as a “smart litigation strategy (Little Sisters). A party seeking such an extraordinary remedy is required to make full and transparent disclosure of its assets, expenses, ability to raise or borrow monies, and ability to obtain counsel, and the likelihood of a contingency fee agreement and an estimate of the costs it requires to fund the litigation (LC v Alberta, 2017 ABQB 93).

The BLCN is an impoverished community with a number of pressing infrastructural and social needs. It has only recently started to turn the corner financially as they accumulate some funds from various sources. The vast majority of the BLCN’s financial assets are not available to fund this litigation. Funding this litigation by the BLCN must be weighed against the community’s other pressing needs. The BLCN has funded this litigation for 10 years through its own sources, it now cannot fund the litigation at the rate required to bring it to trial.

The Court is satisfied that all three elements of the Okanagan/Little Sisters test have been met. This case is sufficiently extraordinary that the Court should exercise its discretion to grant the application. If the BLCN receives compensation or otherwise receives a windfall, then this order shall be revisited. Transparency is required from the parties.

Campbell v Vancouver Police Board, 2019 BCHRT 12

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

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

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

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