Bill C-92, An Act Respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis Children, Youth and Families

Government Bill (House of Commons) C-92 (42-1) – Royal Assent – An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families – Parliament of Canada

Somehow the final passage (“royal assent”) of this bill in Canada slipped our attention back in June. Initially, we saw it referred to as a “Canadian ICWA”, but it seems fair to say that it doesn’t quite achieve that level of protection for Native children and families. If nothing else, it illustrates just how differently the Canadian government engages with the tribal nations within its borders compared to the U.S.. We want to add a large caveat, which is that none of us are experts on Canadian law or child welfare.

However, those that are put together a really helpful publication which is available here, and is well worth your read (it made us think about if ICWA would get passing grades):


From the Jurisdiction section of the report:

Why We Give the Bill a ‘D’ on this:

IN A HISTORIC FIRST FOR CANADA, the Bill purports to recognize Indigenous peoples’ inherent jurisdiction. For example, section 8(a) of the Bill affirms “the rights and jurisdiction of Indigenous peoples in relation to child and family services”. This positively worded language is also noted in the Bill’s introduction and summary. Similarly, section 18(1) states that the “inherent right of self-government recognized and affirmed by section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982 includes jurisdiction in relation to child and family services, including legislative authority in relation to those services and authority to administer and enforce laws made under that legislative authority.” Section 18(2) affirms that this right includes the right to “provide for dispute resolution mechanisms.”

As there are no section 35 cases that recognize an inherent right of self-government for Indigenous Peoples or that have recognized an Aboriginal or Treaty right over child and family services law-making, this is a significant step forward.

This is not, however, a recognition of jurisdiction that removes all federal or provincial oversight, power or intervention. By recognizing jurisdiction over child and family services as a section 35 right, the federal government immediately re-asserts its power to unilaterally infringe or limit that right, a power upheld by court cases such as Sparrow. The legislation sets legal limits in terms of Indigenous laws being subject to Charter and Canadian Human Rights Act and the BIOC. It also sets practical limits in terms of the virtual necessity of negotiating coordination agreements with the federal and provincial governments, and in the glaring absence of any provisions for funding. At best, this could be interpreted as an acknowledgment of concurrent (or shared) jurisdiction, a matter on which Bill C-92 should be more clear.


Further, section 23 states Indigenous laws only authoritative if they can be applied in a way that “is not contrary to the best interests of the child.” As previously stated, Indigenous laws have upheld the best interests of Indigenous children for thousands of years. The concern about this limit is how the BIOC doctrine has been interpreted and applied by courts, non-Indigenous governments and decisions makers to apprehend Indigenous children and separate them from their families, communities and territories for the past 50 plus years.

DOI Consultation Notice on DOI Reorganization

Download(PDF): Tribal Listening Sessions on E.O. 13871: Reorganization of the Executive Branch

Acting Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, Michael S. Black, invites Tribal leaders to attend one of the listed listening sessions to provide input on improving “efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability” at the Department of the Interior.


Cert Petition in Kelsey v. Pope

Cert Petition regarding the question of the Little River Band’s criminal jurisdiction over off-reservation crimes affecting core tribal government interests.

Questions presented:

1.  Whether Indian tribes can prosecute their members for acts that occur outside the tribe’s territory absent Congressional authorization; and

2. Whether the Band’s retroactive expansion of a narrow and precise jurisdictional statute to encompass an extraterritorial act previously outside its plain terms violates the due process protections of the Indian Civil Rights Act, 25 U.S.C. § 1302(a), and Bouie v. City of Columbia, 378 U.S. 647 (1964).

No. 16-5120 Kelsey Cert Petition

Prior posts on Kelsey v. Pope, including lower court decisions, are here.


8th Circuit Finds Tribal Cop Working under BIA Contract was Federal Officer when Assaulted

Link to memorandum in re U.S. v. Janis (Jan. 15 2016) here.

Defendant’s brief here and reply brief here.

United States’ brief here.

Previous coverage here.

Defendant raised two questions on appeal: (1) whether officers in the Dept. of Public Safety on the Pine Ridge Reservation are federal officers authorized to carry out tribal law and (2) whether the court erred in instructing the jury to find Officer Mousseau a federal officer as a matter of law.

The Eighth Circuit held that through the Indian Law Enforcement Reform Act a “638 contract” between the BIA and the Oglala Sioux Tribe explicitly required officers to enforce both tribal and federal laws.

However, it decided that the district court erred on jury instructions because although it was correct to rule as a matter-of-law that Oglala Sioux’s Public Safety officers were federal officers for the purpose of 18 U.S.C. § 111, it should have been up to the jury to determine whether Officer Mousseau was a Dept. of Public Safety officer at the time of the assault.  The Court determined the error was harmless, though, since evidence on record made it clear beyond a reasonable doubt that a rational jury would find Mousseau an officer when she responded to a complaint of illegal alcohol consumption at a home on the Reservation.

First Nations protests over Canadian Bill C-45

Articles can be found herehere, and here, among other places.

A snippet of one of the articles here:

Approximately 200 people braved the cold to attend a Bill C-45 Prayer Gathering in front of the Saskatchewan Legislature on Sunday. The event was part of a growing opposition from First Nations communities against the second federal omnibus budget implementation bill.

The far-reaching bill includes changes to the Indian Act, the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Fisheries Act, among others.

According to many First Nations groups these changes will have a drastic and negative affect on their communities and were proposed without proper consultation.

“We hope that Canadian society and the Saskatchewan public will stand with us and not let this happen,” said Chief Barry Kennedy of Carry the Kettle First Nation.

No Axes To the Taxes – Marcinyshyn v. R.

Marcinyshyn v. R was recently handed down by the Tax Court of Canada – and is really just more of the same.  The aboriginal appellants were denied tax relief because of the failed “connecting factors” test, notwithstanding their argument that the test has become obsolete as a result of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bastien and Dubé.

Self-Government For Mi’kmaq in Nova Scotia?

CTV recently released (October 4) a tiny story on what could be a monolithic advancement for the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia, and in turn for aboriginals throughout Canada.  Here’s the story.  However, be forewarned, this small piece, not even 200 words, barely offers any substance and reads more like an Onion article (“[O]ne of the most pressing details to work out for the Mi’kmaq is to find a place to put a House of Assembly”).   And perhaps tellingly, Federal Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister John Duncan would not offer comment on it.  Curioser and curioser.  Stay tuned…

Supreme Court of Canada Affirms Aboriginal Status Rights in Two Tax Cases

On July 22nd, (I know it’s late, but I just moved!) the Supreme Court of Canada upheld appeals in favor of aboriginal interests in two important cases, Bastien Estate v. Canada and Dubé v. R.  Here’s an interesting and informative (pre-decision) commentary by Katherine MacLellan on Indian Act s. 87 taxation.

In Bastien Estate, the Supreme Court ruled that Roland Bastien, (now deceased for six years) a Huron man who took out term deposits at a credit union did not have to pay tax on the interest he earned on his investment.  For 27 years, Bastien ran a small handbeaded moccasin business on the Wendake Reserve (near Quebec City), where he also invested some of the income from the operation and sale of his business in term deposits with a caisse populaire (a credit union), also on his reserve.  Bastien believed the income was exempt from taxation under s. 87 of the Indian Act.

However, the Canada Revenue Agency disagreed, and added the term deposit investment income to his income for 2001.  His estate representatives appealed the decision but lost at both the Tax Court of Canada and the Federal Court of Appeal.  Both lower courts ruled that the caisse populaire generated its revenues outside the reserve, not on it, and therefore the interest paid to Mr. Bastien was not exempt from taxation.

But the Supreme Court rejected that opinion and found that the lower courts gave too much weight to the fact that the credit union produced its revenues in the “commercial mainstream” off the reserve.

The companion case to Bastien, Dubé v. The Queen, involved Alexandre Dubé, an Attikamek aboriginal, who was also found to be exempt from tax on interest he earned on term deposits with an on-reserve credit union.

Continue reading