The Court certified a class action against the Samson Cree Nation for members from whom payment of per capita distributions, special pays, and interest were withheld during litigation and disputes over members added by virtue of Bill C-31 in 1987. The majority of common issues were approved as sought, or as modified by the Court or agreed to by counsel, and can proceed to trial.
For most of its history, the Indian Act based entitlement to Registered Indian status and band membership on descent through the male parent. This system of eligibility for Indian registration based on descent through the male line was in effect until Bill C-31 was passed in 1985, in response to the equality commands of the Charter. Women who lost their Registered Indian status before 1985 for “marrying out” were restored to status by Bill C-31. These women, and any children they had with their non-Indian husbands, could be registered as Indians pursuant to s 6 of the Indian Act, enacted by Bill C-31.
Before Bill C-31, the Government of Canada maintained all Band lists, and determined Band eligibility on the basis of its statutory and administrative rules about parentage and marriage. After Bill C-31, this dual role for Canada continued with respect to many Bands. However, Bill C-31 also gave Bands the option of taking control of their membership by establishing their own membership codes.
The Plaintiff, Bonnie Lee Bruno [“Bruno”], is a member of the Samson Cree Nation [“Nation”]. Her name was added to the Band List of the Nation maintained by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development [“Minister”], under the provisions of Bill C-31. Previously enfranchised Indian women and their children became members of Indian Bands on lists administered by the Minister, unless First Nations developed band membership rules approved by the Minister on or before June 28, 1987. The Court found that, on the unchallenged evidence before it, that this was not done in this matter, thus giving primacy to the list maintained by the Minister on which the Plaintiff, and allegedly others in the class, had status effective June 29, 1987. 233 individuals were added as at that date.
Prior to the passage of Bill C-31, there was considerable controversy within many First Nations over, among other things, questions over whether the women who had “married out” should be accepted back into the community and as Band members. After Bill C-31 came into effect, there were numerous challenges before the courts regarding Band membership and the equality rights issues raised by the history of enfranchisement and the attempted solution of Bill C-31.
This class proceeding relates to a claim of class members from whom, after they were added to the Band List of the Samson Cree Nation [“Nation”] by virtue of Bill C-31, the Nation withheld payment of per capita distributions and Special Pays, and interest, from 1988 to 1995 per the Plaintiff, and lesser or greater time periods as to other class members. Beginning in June 1987, the Plaintiff and other individuals’ names were entered onto the Samson Nation Band List maintained by the Minister pursuant to Bill C-31, but that the Class Plaintiffs only became members of Samson Nation about 1995 when Samson recognized and admitted them as members of the Samson Nation.
The first criterion for certification is that the plaintiff’s pleading discloses a cause(s) of action. No evidence is required, but rather the facts, as pleaded, are assumed to be true (Hunt v Carey Canada,  2 SCR 959). The pleading is to be read generously (Cloud v Canada (2004), 73 OR (3d) 401 (CA)). The standard test for unjust enrichment is: an enrichment of the defendant; a corresponding deprivation of the plaintiff; and the absence of a juristic reason for the enrichment (Garland v Consumers’ Gas Co,  1 SCR 629).
At this stage, the Plaintiff merely needs to allege an arguable cause of action, which she has done. Proof of the allegation is for trial. The Court finds that a cause of action for unjust enrichment has been established for the purpose of certification. It is determined that this is an appropriate case to proceed by way of a class proceeding, and the majority of 16 common issues and 4 subclass common issues are approved as sought, or, in some cases, with modification.