Summary

40024

Attorney General of Ontario, et al. v. Mike Restoule, Patsy Corbiere, Duke Peltier, Peter Recollet, Dean Sayers and Roger Daybutch, on their own behalf and on behalf of all Members of the Ojibewa (Anishinaabe) Nation who are beneficiaries of the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850, et al.

(Ontario) (Civil) (By Leave)

Keywords

Aboriginal law — Treaty rights — Interpretation of treaty promises— Fiduciary duty —Appeal — Standard of review — Robinson-Huron Treaty of 1850 — Robinson-Superior Treaty of 1850 — Duty of diligent implementation — Proper approach to interpretation of treaties — Appropriate standard of review for interpretation — Proper interpretation of augmentation provision in Robinson Huron and Robinson Superior Treaties of 1850 —Whether Crown’s obligation to implement augmentation promise mandates specific outcomes capable of judicial determination — Whether Crown’s failure to implement augmentation promise in accordance with honour of Crown is appropriately remedied by a declaration — How limitations legislation is to be viewed given Robinson Huron and Robinson Superior Treaties of 1850 polycentric exercise of discretion — Whether fiduciary duty can coexist with duty of diligent implementation — Whether trial judge erred in finding “procedural” ad hoc fiduciary duty — Whether elements of sui generis fiduciary duty present.

Aboriginal law —Appropriate standard of review — Existence of fiduciary duty — Whether appeal court was correct to overturn finding of ad hoc fiduciary duty — Whether appeal court erred in failing to find existence of sui generis fiduciary duty — Whether majority on appeal was correct in observing that generalized fiduciary obligation has been largely replaced by honour of Crown.

Summary

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In 1850, the respondents, the Anishinaabe of the northern shores of Lakes Huron and Superior, entered into two treaties with the Crown: the Robinson-Huron Treaty and the Robinson-Superior Treaty (“Treaties”). The Treaties provided for cessation of a vast territory in northern Ontario, and for payment, in perpetuity, of an annuity to the Anishinaabe. The initial agreed-upon sum was paid and an Order-in-Council declared them ratified and confirmed. In 1875, the annuity was increased to $4 (£1) per person, and, in 1877, the Huron and Superior chiefs petitioned successfully for arrears on the increase since the conditions for increasing the annuity had been met long before the increase. The annuity has not changed since.

The Huron respondents initiated an action against Canada and Ontario seeking declaratory and compensatory relief related to the interpretation, implementation and alleged breach of the annuity provisions in the Robinson-Huron Treaty; the Superior respondents made the same claims under the Robinson-Superior Treaty. The actions were tried together, split into three stages. At Stage One, the Treaties were interpreted, at Stage Two, the defences of Crown immunity and limitations were addressed, and, at Stage Three, the remaining issues (inter alia, damages and the allocation of liability) stood to be addressed. This appeal relates to Stages One and Two. Stage Three of the trial commenced in February 2023, but a settlement of that stage was reached.

Lower Court Rulings

June 17, 2019
Ontario Superior Court of Justice

2018 ONSC 7701
Inter alia, the Treaties require Crown to increase annuity amount when net Crown resource based revenues from treaty territory increase sufficiently; annuity to correspond to fair share of net revenue; revenue to be determined in consultation with First Nations parties; Crown subject to duties flowing from honour of Crown and fiduciary duty; augmentation promise must be diligently implemented
June 26, 2020
Ontario Superior Court of Justice

C-3512-14, C-3512-14A
Respondents’ claims not barred by limitations legislation; Crown not to benefit from Crown immunity; partial summary judgment on questions of limitations and Crown immunity
November 5, 2021
Court of Appeal for Ontario

2021 ONCA 779
Appeal of Stage One order allowed in part (inter alia, “fair share” references and reference to fiduciary duty deleted; costs award to Huron parties amended); appeal of Stage Two decision dismissed