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.

Indigenous Law Centre CaseWatch Blog

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.


Solomon v Garden River First Nation, 2019 FC 1505

Judicial review granted. There was a breach of procedural fairness in the process followed by the Chief and Council that led to the Applicants being banished from Garden River First Nation. The matter is remitted for reconsideration.

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The Chief and Council of Garden River First Nation [“GRFN”] issued a series of Band Council Resolutions [“BCRs”] banning Kody John William Solomon and Ralph Justin Romano [“the Applicants”] from GRFN territory. On this application, the Applicants seek judicial review of these BCRs and the process undertaken by the Chief and Council.

GRFN is governed by an elected Chief and Council who are responsible for the governance of the Nation and its approximately 3,000 members. One of the applicants have resided there his whole life, another non-member has lived on GRFN for 19 years with his member spouse and teenage daughter. The Applicants were banished as they had been charged with offences under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and that “illegal drugs have caused great harm to Garden River and its members,” and “allowing [the Applicants] to remain in Garden River may cause harm to Garden River and its members or endanger public safety.”

There is no dispute that the initial 2018 BCRs were issued by GRFN’s Chief and Council without the opportunity for any input from the Applicants, nor did they have notice. The right to a fair hearing requires that the Applicants have adequate notice of the case against them and sufficient opportunity to respond before a decision adverse to their interests was made (Charkaoui v Canada (Citizenship and Immigration), 2007 SCC 9). Given the serious consequences of the banishment decisions, the degree of procedural fairness owned to the Applicants is heightened.

It appears GRFN’s Council itself recognized flaws in the process undertaken. By-Law 20 was adopted subsequently after the BCRs in 2018. The major differences from By-Law 13 are that it allows the Band Council to banish members of GRFN and persons deemed to be threats to the peace and safety of the Band or other people lawfully on the reserve. By-Law 20 provides a process that is clearly tailored to address the particular circumstances of the Applicants, a member and a non-member of GRFN who were charged with a criminal offence. However, there was still no reconsideration of the original decision to banish the Applicants in the BCRs issued in 2019. Rather it appears the GRFN Council simply passed the new By-Law and considered it to have rectified any issues with the previous BCRs from 2018.

The case law is clear that issues of procedural fairness are considered on a correctness standard (Canadian Pacific Railway Company v Canada (AG), 2018 FCA 69). The test for assessing if the process was fair, is to ask whether a right-minded person, applying themselves to the question and obtaining the required information, would think it is more likely than not that the decision-maker did not decide fairly (Baker v Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), 1999 SCC 699 [“Baker”]). The factors outlined in Baker for assessing procedural fairness include: 1) the nature of the decision and the process followed in making it; the nature of the statutory scheme; 2) the importance of the decision to the individuals affected; 3) the legitimate expectations of the person challenging the decision; and 4) the choice of procedure made by the agency itself.

Considering that By-Law 20 appears to have been crafted to address the specific circumstances of the Applicants, they had a legitimate expectation that the process laid out in By-Law 20 would be followed. When the Baker factors are considered in conjunction with the reasonable apprehension of bias, it is clear that there was a breach of the Applicants’ right to procedural fairness. The evidence demonstrates a continuing course of conduct on the part of GRFN’s Council who never undertook the promised reconsideration of the original banishment decision. The 2019 BCRs were simply a reissue of the original 2018 banishments under the new By-Law. The decision-making process that led to the Council’s 2019 decision was procedurally unfair because the Council made up its mind in 2018. From that point, GRFN Council defended its original decision rather than engage in a true reconsideration.

Engstrom and Ragan v Peters First Nation Band Council, 2020 FC 286

Application allowed. Peters First Nation Band Council is ordered to take all steps necessary to grant full Band memberships to the Applicants.

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The Peters First Nation Band Council [“Council”] rejected the Applicants’ respective applications for band membership. This matter is the second application for judicial review seeking relief in connection with the denial of their memberships.

The first application was granted, but the Court declined to express an opinion about the merits of the Council’s decision in denying membership to the Applicants. However, it was found that the Council had acted unfairly by failing to inform them in advance of the factors that would be taken into account in deciding their applications. There was also concern regarding the Council’s failure to provide substantive reasons for its decision. The matter was accordingly remitted to Council for reconsideration, but once again, the applications were refused.

The Court was not able to ascertain the exact motives of the Council for denying Band memberships to the Applicants. It can assess, however, the Council’s stated reasons for denying those memberships to determine whether those reasons had the mark of rationality, intelligibility and justification. The focus of judicial review is on the reasons provided by the decision-maker in support of its decision. According to the Supreme Court of Canada, reasonableness review “must be on the decision actually made”, not the reasons that could have been made (Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration) v Vavilov, 2019 SCC 65 [“Vavilov”]). Robust judicial review is about outcomes and a decision-maker’s reasoning process in getting to an outcome. Both must be reasonable in light of the legal and factual constraints that bear on the decision. A primary legal constraint is the governing statutory scheme. It is not open to a decision-maker to disregard the applicable rules. There is no such thing as absolute or untrammelled discretion (Roncarelli v Duplessis, [1959] SCR 121).

A decision-maker may have some room to interpret the rules that apply to a matter before it but that exercise must be consistent with the text, context and purpose of the provision (Vavilov). Where the words employed are precise and unequivocal, their ordinary meaning will usually be determinative. It is not open to the decision-maker to adopt an “inferior” interpretation merely because it is plausibly available and expedient; or to “reverse-engineer” to get to a desired outcome (Vavilov). The express governing rules that apply to the Council’s membership decisions are contained in the Peters Indian Band Membership Code [“Code”]. The Code was adopted by the Band in 1990 and replaced the band membership provisions that had been previously contained in the Indian Act.

In rejecting the applications of the Applicants, it is clear that the Council did not consider itself bound by the membership criteria set out in the Code. It was not open to the Council to make up its own membership rules to supplement the explicit criteria that were adopted in 1990 when the Band took control of its memberships. The Council has acted unlawfully, unfairly and in bad faith in rejecting the membership applications of the Applicants. The Council has repeatedly shown itself to be unfit to decide these matters and there is no reasonable expectation that fairness and reason will prevail if this matter is remitted to the Council again. The Council is directed to take all the steps necessary to grant full Band memberships to the Applicants.

Jim Shot Both Sides v Canada, 2019 FC 789

Claim allowed in part. A First Nation signatory to Treaty 7 filed a claim in 1980. Breaches of treaty obligations only became actionable with the passage of the Constitution Act, 1982. Canada is liable for the breach of treaty, but all other claims are time-barred. 

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In 1877, Treaty 7 was made between Canada, the tribes of the Blackfoot Confederacy, the Stoney, and the Sarcee Indians. Treaty 7 promised the Blood Tribe and each of the others, a reserve. The Blood Tribe reserve is at issue in this matter. It is set out in Treaty 7, however, that location was changed by agreement between the Blood Tribe and Canada.

Canada did two surveys of the area that was to become the Blood Reserve. The first was done in 1882 [“1882 Survey”] and the second was done in 1883 [“1883 Survey”]. The Blood Tribe asserts that the 1882 Survey, at law, created a reserve and the reduction of 102.5 square miles by the 1883 Survey required that it surrender that land as is provided for in The Indian Act, 1880. The Blood Tribe gave no such surrender. It therefore submits that it is entitled to that land or compensation for the loss of it.

Canada pleads that this action is time-barred by virtue of the Limitations Act. The Blood Tribe submits that Canada’s breach of its Treaty obligations to the Blood Tribe only became actionable in 1982 with the passage of the Constitution Act, 1982. The Blood Tribe commenced this action by Statement of Claim filed in 1980.

The Court found that a reserve for the Blood Tribe was created prior to 1883. The reserve that was set apart for them is that laid out by the 1882 Survey. It could not be reduced in size without obtaining a surrender from the Blood Tribe. There is no evidence how Canada arrived at the 650 square mile reserve created by the 1882 Survey. It appears to be based on a Blood Tribe population of 3250. Absent evidence as to how Canada arrived at the population figure it appears to have used, and given that the Court’s finding that the actual population was 3550, it is concluded that Canada failed to fulfill its treaty obligation.

The material facts as set out in the original Statement of Claim are that the Blood Tribe was a party to Treaty 7, that under the Treaty the Blood Tribe was entitled to a reserve of a size to be determined based on the Treaty Land Entitlement process [“TLE”], that Canada provided a reserve, but that the reserve provided was not of the required size under the TLE. The Blood Tribe sought a declaration that it is entitled to additional lands, or in the alternative, damages. These are the material facts that touch on the claim of breach of treaty. They are few and straightforward.

Paragraph 5(1)(g) of the Limitations of Actions Act provides that an action for breach of treaty must be commenced within six years after the cause of action arose. It may seem odd, but here the Blood Tribe commenced this action two years before the cause of action arose. It did so because it pleaded the action as if it were a breach of contract claim. As result of the view of the Supreme Court of Canada that treaties are not contracts (R v Sundown, [1999] 1 SCR 393; First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun v Yukon, 2017 SCC 58), it has turned out that the claim of the Blood Tribe is not one for breach of contract but rather is a claim for breach of treaty.

The Blood Tribe since commencing this action has been the beneficiary of the entrenchment of treaty rights into the Constitution Act, 1982. Canada has not put forward any arguments on the temporal application of the Constitution Act, 1982 to suggest that it would not apply to an ongoing action. For these reasons, the claim of the Blood Tribe for breach of the TLE promise in Treaty 7 is not time-barred.

For the reasons above, the claim of the Blood Tribe is allowed, in part. The Court finds that Canada is in breach of the TLE formula in Treaty 7 in regards to the size of the Blood Reserve. The Plaintiffs were entitled under the TLE formula to a reserve of 710 square miles, whereas the current Reserve is 547.5 square miles. Canada is liable to the Blood Tribe for this breach of Treaty. All other claims are dismissed as time-barred.

Servatius v Alberni School District No 70, 2020 BCSC 15

The petitioner failed to establish that the demonstrations of Indigenous culture at her children’s school interfered with her or her children’s ability to act in accordance with their religious beliefs. Accordingly there was no infringement of the petitioner’s or her children’s freedom of religion.

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As part of an effort to acquaint students with Indigenous culture and to promote a sense of belonging in Indigenous children, a Nuu-chah-nulth Elder visited a Port Alberni elementary school and demonstrated the practice of smudging. A few months later, at an assembly, the students witnessed an Indigenous dance performance and a prayer. The petitioner’s children witnessed the demonstrations. The petitioner is an evangelical Christian. She submitted that both the smudging and the prayer that accompanied the dance interfered with the religious freedoms of herself and her children guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The petitioner sought a declaration to this effect and an order in the nature of prohibition enjoining further events of this nature in the school district.

It was conceded that the petitioner’s beliefs were sincere and that they had a nexus with religion. The petitioner, however, had two paths to fulfill a finding that the School District had interfered with their ability to act in accordance with their religious beliefs. First, and principally, the petitioner argued that the School District breached the state’s duty of neutrality. She had to show that (1) the School District professed, adopted, or favoured one belief to the exclusion of all others; and (2) the exclusion resulted in interference with the petitioner’s or her children’s freedom of conscience and religion. The organization of these events reflected a fathering momentum to incorporate the teaching of Indigenous worldview and perspectives. Arranging for students to observe hoop dancing accompanied by an Indigenous prayer, could not reasonably be interpreted as the School District professing, adopting, or promoting religious beliefs. Therefore, the petitioner’s argument failed to clear the first hurdle.

The petitioner’s second argument surrounded the right not to believe in Indigenous spirituality, the ability to refuse to participate in these practices, and the freedom from government coercion to affirm a specific religious belief as protected under s 2(a) of the Charter. She maintained that her children were compelled to participate in Indigenous spiritual practices, or affirm spiritual beliefs associated with those practices and that this constituted non-trivial interference with her and her children’s ability to act in accordance with their religious beliefs. Proof on an objective basis required more than the children being in the presence of an Elder demonstrating a custom with spiritual overtones or being in the presence of a dancer who said a brief prayer. This did not interfere with the ability to act in accordance with one’s religious beliefs.

The demonstrations were admirable and admissible efforts to teach, in a memorable way, about Indigenous beliefs. It was proper and advisable in light of the historical circumstances that the School District organize such events. The petitioner had therefore failed to establish that the Nuu-chah-nulth smudging in her children’s classrooms or the prayer said by the hoop dancer at the school assembly interfered with her or her children’s ability to act in accordance with their religious beliefs. Accordingly, no infringement of the petitioner’s or her children’s freedom of religion had been proved.

R v TLC, 2019 BCPC 314

After weighing the sentencing principles with information provided by a Gladue report, a conditional discharge with 18 months of probation was imposed for the guilty plea of three offenses.

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TLC pled guilty to two assaults on her boyfriend and a breach of bail by having contact with him contrary to ss 266 and 145(3) of the Criminal Code. The Crown and Defence counsel agreed on what the appropriate sentencing for the offence should have been and collaborated to recommend a joint submission for a suspended sentence with an 18-month period of probation. An alternative method of placing the accused on probation would have been a conditional discharge which, would have prevented them from having a criminal record. When deciding whether the joint submission was appropriate, it was determined that the Court should only depart from a joint submission where “the proposed sentence would be viewed by reasonable and informed persons as a breakdown in the proper functioning of the justice system” (R v Anthony-Cook, [2016] 2 SCR 204). However, as this case involved an Indigenous offender, the Court found it necessary to evaluate whether there was “enough information to impose a fit sentence that properly considers the Indigenous circumstances of that particular Indigenous accused.”

There was a Gladue report written for TLC. It outlined that the offender was a First Nations woman who was not directly raised with her culture. Her mother was abused when she attended residential school. TLC was abused as a child and grew up with violence in her home. TLC was a victim of domestic assault and had been receiving trauma counselling and therapy. She also was two subjects away from completing grade 12 and had completed the Indigenous Tourism Ambassadors program through the Indigenous Community for Leadership and Development. The Court recognized numerous aggravating factors, including the violence perpetrated against TLC from a male and the repeated victimization that she faced throughout her life. Deterrence, denunciation and rehabilitation were also considered as the offender was charged with spousal assault. It was decided that TLC had truly turned her life around and giving her a criminal record would not serve the public interest; therefore, a conditional discharge with 18 months of probation was imposed.

R v Buffalo, 2020 ABQB 41

Conditional sentence granted for an Indigenous offender. A conditional sentence is available to an offender depending on the context of the case and if it is appropriate. Sentencing principles, as well as the safety of the community, must be considered in granting restorative sentences.

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A Gladue report was ordered for an offender, who has pled guilty to three charges contrary to the Criminal Code. The offender is a member of the Samson Cree Nation. He had a difficult and unstable upbringing, which had led to unfortunate life choices. These choices included a criminal record with offenses of theft, break and enter, assault, aggravated assault, a variety of weapons charges, mischief, manslaughter, and instances of non-compliance. However, he had recently turned his life around by embracing his cultural heritage, supporting his family, and operating his own business which employed other Indigenous persons. He was supported by numerous letters of support from community members and local businesses.

Since the offender requested a conditional sentence, the Court undertook the analysis of the four criteria that are required, as outlined by s 742.1 of the Criminal Code (R v Proulx, 2000 SCC 5). This framework directs the Court to determine whether a conditional sentence is “available” in the context of the case and whether it is “appropriate” to impose a conditional sentence. The availability relates to the existence – or lack of – the minimum term of imprisonment, and if not, whether a federal penitentiary term is indicated in the circumstances of the case. Regarding appropriateness, the Court considered whether the fundamental purpose and principles of sentencing are met by a conditional sentence, including the duration and conditions that should be attached. As well, the question was addressed of whether the safety of the community was endangered by the offender serving the sentence in the community.

After reviewing the circumstances of the case, the Court determined that a conditional sentence was available to the offender. It was decided that the restorative sentence met the objectives of the sentencing regime as per ss 718 to 718.2 of the Criminal Code.



R v Gamble, 2019 SKQB 327

The accused’s application for a state-funded Gladue Report is dismissed.

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 The accused was found guilty for aggravated assault and unlawful confinement of a victim. The victim was waylaid and taken into a house where he was beaten and tortured. He was branded and his finger was cut off.

The sentencing of the accused has been delayed numerous times. The ongoing issue is how best to put required Gladue information (R v Gladue, 2 CNLR 252) before the Court for sentencing purposes. The accused wants a full Gladue Report filed, but has no resources for it. He wants the state to pay for this report. Court Services opposes such an order. The position taken is that there is sufficient information through a series of pre-sentence reports [“PSR”] already filed. Further, it is argued there are other means of putting that information before the Court.

At present there are no national standards and there is no national regulator. No formal accreditation is required to do a Gladue Report, as none exists. Section 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code and R v Gladue and R v Ipeelee, [2012] 2 CNLR 218, require that “Gladue information” be considered by any sentencing judge when dealing with an Indigenous offender. There can be no doubt that modern sentencing requires such a consideration. While s 718.2(e) is silent on how the Court may obtain this required information, for the purposes of sentencing, obtainment of this information is a must.

The defence argued that the information in the PSRs was inadequate. It is unclear by whose standards this would be the case. A major flaw in the accused’s argument was that there are absolutely no standards, nationally or even provincially, for the preparation of Gladue Reports or the type of information a court needs, and that requirement is highly fact-dependant. What is required in one case may not be required in another.

There is no basis in the evidence before the Court or in the law that the Gladue information must come to the court in the form of a report. Even if this Court granted the order sought by this offender, an author would not be identified or an amount for fees be decided for such a report. That is subject to negotiations between a potential author and Court Services. To make an order that is so directive to the executive branch of government is to overstep within the judicial branch. The granting of the relief sought herein is exceptional, rare, and done in response to specific and exceptional circumstances where a PSR does not provide the appropriate information and there is no other way to obtain that information and present it to the court. That is not the case here.

MCW v BC (Director of Child, Family and Community Service), 2019 BCPC 289

An Indigenous mother’s application to restrict access visits organized by the Director with community members that are not the foster family is dismissed.

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The Director in this matter has applied for a continuing custody order [“CCO”] with respect to four children of Indigenous heritage, that were placed in the Director’s temporary care. The biological mother seeks to prohibit the Director from permitting persons that are related to the children and are connected to an Indigenous community, from having access to the children, for fear that the children may be traumatized now that they are used to their non-Indigenous foster family.

MCW is the biological mother of five children. All of her children’s lives have been subjected to temporary placement and interim orders, including orders of supervision while in the care of their mother intermittently. The foster parents of the four youngest children have remained supportive of the mother and have provided the children a loving environment. While the mother is supportive of transferring custody of her children to the foster parents, there has been resistance from the Lake Babine Nation, as they are opposed to Indigenous children being placed in non-Indigenous homes. The Ministry, along with assistance from the Lake Babine Nation, attempted to cultivate a relationship between one of the children and her half-sister. The mother described the removal of one of her children to spend time with the half-sister as traumatic, and feared the Ministry was attempting to break up the four youngest children. The Director submitted that facilitating visits between the two siblings did not constitute abuse or harm. Cultivating this connection is part of the Director’s obligation to maintain or facilitate contact with the extended family of a child in care.

Due to the contentions MCW had surrounding these proceedings, she filed an application for an order restricting access to the children. The mother relied on ss 2(a) and 98(1)(c) of the Child, Family and Community Service Act [“CFCSA”]. The Director referenced Bill C-92 to justify the CCO. Bill C-92 establishes that, when determining the best interests of an Indigenous child, primary consideration is given to the child’s physical, emotional and psychological safety, security and well-being and emphasizes Indigenous children’s right to stay with their families and communities and grow up immersed in their cultures.

Facilitating visits between the one child and her half-sister fell squarely within the Director’s legislated rights, duties and responsibilities as her custodian and guardian. While the visits got off to a rocky start, the submissions that the transitions were then trouble-free were accepted. The visits did not constitute the type of explosive, abusive, or intimidating conduct that s 98 of the CFCSA was intended to target. Accordingly, the mother’s application for an order restricting the access to her children was dismissed.

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.