On his last day as Chief, and acting on behalf of the band, Don Moses agreed to settle a wrongful dismissal and defamation suit brought against the Lower Nicola Indian Band (LNIB) by Veronica Clayton, a former employee. However, the council was sharply divided and when Moses convened a meeting to pass a resolution to settle with Clayton, five (of seven) councillors did not attend. Moses then unilaterally reduced the required quorum from five to three. The case is here.
The British Columbia Supreme Court judge acknowledged that Moses was the chief of an Indian band and therefore, “a person exercising or purporting to exercise jurisdiction or powers conferred by or under an Act of Parliament, namely the Indian Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. I-5 and that the matter, therefore, fell within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the Federal Court”
Regardless, citing Canada (Attorney General) v. Telezone Inc. 2010 SCC 62 the judge held that because LNIB was only seeking damages through a third-party claim, the provincial court could hear the case in its entirety.
As with yesterday’s piece on Cameron v. Albrich, the point has to be made about the faulty reasoning behind the view that an Aboriginal Chief’s power is derived from Canada’s Indian Act. It’s the same faulty reasoning that persisted for almost one hundred years, between the St. Catherine’s Milling (1888) and Calder (1973) decisions. St. Catherine’s Milling held that aboriginal title rights were solely dependent upon the Royal Proclamation, rather than an inherent right that flowed from their own traditional use and occupancy of the land. That was the sad, prevailing thought until overturned by Calder in 1973.
Neither federal nor provincial courts should be interfering in internal First Nation matters. But that then raises the obvious question of how tribes can do so without their own court/dispute resolution systems in place. Obviously, they have nowhere else to go but outside.
And the cycle continues…