Unpacking pipeline challenges: Fundamentals of Canadian Law Episode 11

Oil Pipeline

The Kinder Morgan / Government of Canada pipeline is being challenged by both provinces and Indigenous groups. What laws pertain to these challenges?

There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to the Kinder Morgan — soon, Government of Canada — pipeline.British Columbia has challenged it, as have several Indigenous groups. But what laws govern their ability to challenge this national project? We explore first the distinction between federal and provincial powers with Associate Dean Cherie Metcalf, teacher of the Constitutional Law module in our Introduction to Canadian Law course… and then dive into Indigenous and Aboriginal law, chiefly the “duty to consult,” with the creator and instructor of our Aboriginal Law course, Hugo Choquette.

Curious about the cases Hugo cites in his portion? Here are the links:

Haida Nation: http://canlii.ca/t/1j4tq

Chippewas of the Thames v Enbridge: http://canlii.ca/t/h51gx

Tsilhqot’in: http://canlii.ca/t/g7mt9

Tsleil-Waututh Nation Assessment of the Trans-Mountain Pipeline: https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/2551008/TWN%20Assessment%20Report%2011×17.pdf

 

TRANSCRIPT:

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00:03 Speaker 1: Welcome to Fundamentals of Canadian Law. I’m Matt Shepherd, and this is our first ever two-parter. There’s been a lot of conversation about pipelines in Canada lately. This episode of our podcast actually bridges a recent change. Part 1 was recorded before the federal government announced it was going to purchase a transnational oil pipeline from Kinder Morgan, and part 2 was recorded after that announcement. The facts discussed in our first half aren’t really changed by this purchase. In fact, it streamlines the conversation, but we just wanted to make that clear off the bat. Federal priorities and trade law, provincial laws, Aboriginal and indigenous law, it’s all being discussed right now in the context of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, soon to be the Government of Canada pipeline. The pipeline is being championed by the federal government. It’s being challenged by a number of groups. So we wanted to unpack the legal premise and some of the details of these challenges.

01:03 S1: In our first part, we’ll be talking to Associate Dean Cherie Metcalf, the Instructor for the Constitutional Law module of Law 201/701: Introduction to Canadian Law. We’ll be discussing the division of powers between the federal government and the provinces and how BC can challenge the pipeline in some ways, but not in others. In our second half, we’ll be joined by Hugo Choquette, the Course Designer and Instructor for Law 202/702: Aboriginal Law. We’ll be talking about the pipeline from an indigenous and Aboriginal law perspective, the rights of various Aboriginal groups to mount challenges and what the legal structures around those challenges are. This podcast is brought to you by the Queen’s Certificate in Law, the only online Certificate in Law offered by a law faculty in Canada. You can find out more at takelaw.ca.

01:58 S1: So, Kinder Morgan is running a pipeline across Canada carrying bitumen, and BC essentially has some legislation on deck, which is going to prevent that theoretically?

02:11 Speaker 2: Yeah. BC is actually, they’re bringing this referenced case to their own Provincial Court of Appeal to see whether or not they can impose certain kinds of environmental restrictions. So what makes it tricky constitutionally is the possibility that these environmental controls could actually mean that you could stop transportation of bitumen through BC unless you meet the criteria that they’ve set environmentally. That’s the thing that makes it seem like it could hold up the pipeline project.

02:46 S1: Right. And that’s illustrative of the division of federal and provincial power in that the province doesn’t have the power to basically just forbid something outright, but it has the power to regulate things as long as those are regulations that are pertinent to power that the province itself holds. I don’t know if I’m saying that very clearly but you see what I’m getting at.

03:07 S2: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, powers are divided between the federal and provincial governments, and the ability to regulate something like the Kinder Morgan Pipeline as a… There’s a federal power to do that for things like federal… They’re called federal undertakings. So something like a federal transportation network that’s intended to allow shipment of goods to international markets. That is the kind of thing that we recognize the federal government’s got the power to regulate because it’s important for the national interest and there’s a long history there. So railways are another good example of this kind of federal undertaking.

03:49 S1: And even if the undertaking questions for a private enterprise, it’s still a federal undertaking that the federal government legislates.

03:57 S2: Right, it’s the… Even if there’s a company that’s involved, it’s the power to regulate that federally that really is an issue. Is it the federal government that actually who gets to set the constraints that that company is gonna have to follow? Or what role is there for provinces to set up additional constraints? So this is something that has come up in the past because provinces do have an ability to actually regulate what goes on within their borders, so they do have the ability to legitimately set up things like environmental protection statutes because we’re worried about, as people living in BC, what happens to the water and the air and the environmental conditions in BC.

04:46 S2: So where it gets tricky is where we try to figure out, well, what’s the impact on this federal kind of enterprise from the BC legislation? And it’s totally fair for BC to have legislation and it can even have an effect on federal undertakings, but what the courts have said in the past is, “Well, I can’t go so far as to sort of impair or fundamentally interfere with the federal government’s ability to actually regulate these things.” So there’s some kind of a boundary in there between what the provinces can do and how they can regulate things within the province and when they’re gonna go too far and essentially interfere with, or stop, or prevent these federal undertakings from being able to operate.

05:35 S1: So BC has the power to have its own, as you said it, it has the power to have its own environmental regulation so they can say, “Hey, well, we will only let people take these environmentally hazardous things through BC if they have the appropriate permits.” And that’s a measure of control they can exert over this pipeline. That’s how they can do it constitutionally but when people are deciding whether or not this is legitimate, whether or not it goes too far, do they take motive into account?

06:07 S2: So when in [06:08] ____… The people that will be trying to decide whether it goes too far or not, it’s essentially the courts where they’re gonna bring this and ask judges to review it in light of all the previous cases. So, what they’ll really be trying to do is they’ll be looking at the legislation and where motive sometimes can come in is through things like the legislative history and looking at the legislation itself. So they’ll be trying to figure out, “Well, is this something that in pith and substance really is a genuine regulatory program that fits within BC’s jurisdiction?” One possibility could be… Well, actually the real point here is to try and essentially stop interprovincial trade. If that was really the pith and substance of what the scheme was they were going to enact, that’s not a power that the province has. It could be related in that sense, but the court will look beyond headlines in the newspaper. So they’ll look at all kinds of components, they’ll look at the legislation itself and they’ll look at it as part of the larger scheme.

07:13 S1: Right. I guess because the question in my head when I hear about this, and this may not be a fair question is, is this being done out of a legitimate concern for the environment? Or is this, “Hey, we’ve got a thing here that’ll let us stop this pipeline so let’s use this thing, and the environment’s a bit of a fig leaf, that lets them do the one thing they can do.”

07:35 S2: Yeah. In this case, I think that BC, part of the reason they possibly wanna stop the pipeline is because they have a legitimate environmental concerns, right? [chuckle]

07:48 S1: Right.

07:51 S2: They’re related things. If you look at the proposed legislation that they referred to the court, it does really focus on things like the risk of a spill and possible harm to the environment and they talk about implementing the ‘polluters pays’ principle so they wanna have assurances that whoever’s gonna be in possession of this diluted bitumen is actually going to have the resources to deal with any spills and that they’ve got a plan and all these kinds of things.

08:20 S1: So it’s not on its face a fig leaf, it’s legitimate?

08:22 S2: Yeah. No, no, no. But I think that there are genuine concerns about it. And so part of the constitutional tug of war here is, “Well, at what point do those local concerns, do they ever allow a province to trump the interest in an interprovincial or a national priority?”

08:44 S1: Right.

08:45 S2: So the federal power allows the federal government to essentially declare something to be a federal undertaking or to regulate something in the interest of trade. Like I say, so there is sort of this historic power to, in narrow ways, it doesn’t allow the… Certainly, it restricts the federal government, but it does allow them to regulate these kinds of enterprises in a way that can mean provinces don’t get to say no.

09:15 S1: Right.

09:15 S2: And so that’s why this case is actually… Like I say, it’s a little bit of a difficult tug of war because I think British Columbia views itself as having legitimate reasons for concern when it comes to having the pipeline traverse its territory.

09:31 S1: But when the courts look at this, too, it’s not just a pipeline and it’s not just an environmental concern, it’s a precedent for all provinces and the federal government?

09:40 S2: That’s right. It is a constitutional precedent that looks at, “Well, what is the federal power to actually regulate in the national interest?” And given that we’ve recognized that in the past, historically, provincial laws are not able to be applicable constitutionally if the effect there would be to really impair the federal regulatory power.

10:09 S1: Right.

10:09 S2: So that suggests that British Columbia, even though they have some legitimate provincial interests, if they try to use them or try to regulate in a way that would actually allow them to stop the pipeline from being effective by essentially being able to say, “Well, you can’t ship unless you comply with our regulatory standards.” That could really be potentially problematic in terms of precedent and the ability of the federal government to actually regulate important things that are recognized as national needs and national priorities.

10:46 S1: So a court decision may not be entirely based on just this one instance, it’ll be based on what this instance means moving forward?

10:53 S2: Yeah, generally. Generally speaking, that’s usually how court cases [chuckle] are decided.

10:58 S1: Right.

10:58 S2: You hope that’s what it’s gonna look like?

11:00 S1: Yes.

11:00 S2: Yeah, yeah.

11:00 S1: That’s literally what precedent means.

[laughter]

11:02 S2: It’s literally what precedent means.

11:02 S1: And that’s the foundation of our system of justice.

11:03 S2: Exactly.

11:05 S1: Right.

11:05 S2: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, and then precedent is very important in constitutional cases as well.

11:10 S1: Right. And I guess the point I’m trying to make is, even if the decision doesn’t go BC’s way, it doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t a commitment to environmental values on the courts.

11:17 S2: Oh, no.

11:18 S1: It’s about this much broader issue.

11:19 S2: Yeah. And it may be that there are certain things that they can do within their own legitimate regulatory power without reaching the stage of actually impairing the federal pipeline operations.

11:35 S1: Right. I feel like this tension must be fairly constant in Canada too, is the federal provincial issue that we’re unpacking a bit here ’cause it’s just come to such a sharp point.

11:47 S2: Yeah, that’s right. There’s the balance between provincial power and federal power has come up lots of times in the past and actually the recent Comeau case.

12:06 S1: Right.

12:06 S2: So this is the one about moving goods interprovincially that talked about whether or not you could bring beer across the provincial boundary.

12:12 S1: Yeah.

12:14 S2: In some ways that’s another case where this federal versus provincial autonomy is at issue.

12:20 S1: Right. Because federally you could transport goods from province to province.

12:23 S2: Federally.

12:24 S1: But province has the right to legislate its own.

12:25 S2: Well, the federal government is the government that’s actually got the power to regulate interprovincial trade.

12:31 S1: Right.

12:31 S2: So provinces can’t enact laws that directly aim at regulating the flow of goods across provinces. So that’s why BC, they can’t enact an environmental law that’s really about trying to prevent movement of goods across borders.

12:47 S1: Right.

12:48 S2: If it’s really about that and not about its own domestic environmental stuff, it can’t do that.

12:54 S1: But they can legitimately say we have environmental concerns and we’re gonna legislate this right now.

12:56 S2: Exactly. But they can legitimately, and there can even be sort of an incidental or secondary effect.

13:03 S1: Right.

13:03 S2: So that’s where you get into these. And that’s essentially what the court found in the Comeau case is that there was a permissible secondary effect of trying to regulate the control over the liquor supply within the province that had an effect on whether or not you could bring goods in, but it wasn’t directly about trying to control that trade as its main focus.

13:28 S1: I don’t know if this is an answerable question but will the Comeau decision have a direct bearing on any BC decision?

13:36 S2: The Comeau decision is really, it’s more directly about the interpretation of Section 121, which is about sort of a… It’s a common market clause. And the BC decision I think will more likely be about the federal power to regulate federal undertakings versus provincial power to regulate internally within their own division of powers. So I think it’s not directly applicable, but some of the themes around recognizing provincial autonomy and leaving enough space for provinces to have legitimate ability to regulate things that are of concern in the province, I think that sentiment will probably be relevant to the Kinder Morgan reference.

14:27 S1: Right. Well, I feel like I understand so much more now. Thank you, Cherie.

14:29 S2: Good. Great. Thanks, Matt.

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00:00 Matt Shepherd: So Hugo, I thought maybe in the context of the pipeline, we could just talk about what are some of the aboriginal law issues just surrounding the whole situation, the whole thing.

00:10 Hugo Choquette: Right. And it’s interesting because these issues go to the heart of Aboriginal law, which as we’d discussed in a previous podcast, is that law of the Canadian state which applies to Aboriginal peoples. And the lawsuits had been brought by some of the First Nations in this particular instance argue that the First Nations were not properly consulted. So it’s important to understand where there’s duty to consult on behalf of the federal government and provincial governments comes from and why it’s such an important right for the First Nations, but also a duty on the Crown. And the other thing I wanna say, though, just from the outset is it’s also important to remember that there’s several First Nations who are supporting the project. There’s actually 43 First Nations that have actually signed deals previously with Kinder Morgan that are now going to have to decide what the impact of the federal government’s purchasing the pipeline is going to be.

01:05 HC: So it’s not the case that this is universally opposed by First Nations groups. I think it’s important to remember that even though there are several groups, seven in fact that are actually opposing it. So in terms of the duty to consult, the main thing is to understand how Aboriginal rights really function in our law. And I think to understand that, you have to ask a very strange question, which is… The question behind all of Aboriginal law is, “What rights do people have in the territories that they have inhabited for millenia?” And that seems like a very odd question, and that’s because it is. But the bottom line is that, that’s what Aboriginal law, which is part of Canadian law, tries to figure out is, “What rights do people have on their traditional territories that they’ve lived on for many millenia?” And what’s important to understand about that is that when the British Crown, in this case, claimed sovereignty over the land, so once we had some discovery and settlers, so-called discovery and settlement, the British Crown at one point claimed sovereignty over all of what is now Canada, at different time periods of course.

02:15 HC: What happens at that magical moment in Canadian law is that not only does the Crown gained sovereignty, but it also gains the underlying title to all of that land. And I think you may have actually explored this in another podcast that the Crown actually or technically owns all the land in Canada, and that’s the common way we do it in the common law system.

02:33 MS: Yeah, we talked about that with Dean Flanagan a few weeks ago, that the fact that I own a house doesn’t actually mean I own the property. I have rights to the property.

02:41 HC: That’s right. And the problem when it comes to indigenous peoples is that they actually were here first obviously, and they had their own laws, their own ways of organizing property rights before all this happened. And for many of them, they didn’t see a European or a British settler until many, many years after this supposed assertion of sovereignty. But nonetheless, that is the way in which Canadian law views it, is that the Crown has underlying title to all of the land in Canada. And so where does that leave the indigenous peoples who have lived on their traditional territories for so many years? Well, it leaves them in the position of having to prove that they have rights to those territories. And so whether it’s what we call Aboriginal Title which is a property right, very similar to the highest form of property ownership in the common law system, which is fee simple. It has some differences from fee simple but it’s very close to it. Or Aboriginal usage rights such as hunting, fishing, other kinds of rights. These will have to be proven in court.

03:40 HC: No indigenous people can assume that they have these rights, or at least they won’t be recognized in Canadian law until they’ve been proven in court, which is a very strange thing if you think about it that we require people who have lived a particular way and done these things for millenia, we’re now saying, “Well, we’ll recognize your right to do so, but only if you prove it in court.” And so what happens is, it takes a long time and a lot of resources to do that. One of the famous cases that proved Aboriginal Title was the Tsilhqot’in case, which the Supreme Court decision on that came through in 2014. And just to give you an example, in that particular case there were 339 days of trial which lasted over five years. So you can imagine the number of resources that are expended on proving these claims. So, where does this bring in the duty to consult? Well, the question then becomes, well, until these claims are proven, they are not really fully recognized legal claims as far as the governments are concerned.

04:40 HC: So does that mean the government can do anything it wants and just run roughshod over all of these claims? And that question came up specifically in a case called Haida Nation in 2004. And the judgment, which was written by Chief Justice McLachlin at the time, clearly said, “No, that can’t be the way it is, largely because of this thing we call the Honor of the Crown.” And so the Crown is deemed to be honourable, it’s deemed to not do things in a way that is dishonourable. And clearly it would not be honourable for the Crown to simply ignore these very strong claims in many cases that are made to these traditional territories and say, “Well, we know you’re making a claim here but we’re not gonna bother with that because you haven’t proven anything in court yet. So we’re just gonna do whatever we want anyway.” So what then is the situation? Well, then what we have is a duty to consult, which is placed on the Crown. And the Crown in this case has been clarified, it means both the provincial and federal governments depending on what the situation is.

05:39 HC: Most public lands in the province will be owned by the provincial Crown, so in that case, it would be, partly the provincial government would have a duty. But also we know that the federal government has a specific mandate through the Constitution Act 1867 to look after what was termed then “Indians and lands reserved for Indians,” which we know now includes all indigenous peoples in Canada, so all Aboriginal peoples. And so both levels of Crown might have a duty to consult, and the duty to consult… The question then becomes, “Well, what does that mean?” [chuckle]

06:11 MS: Right.

06:13 HC: And we’re not quite sure what it means, but it means different things in different contexts. The court was very clear in Haida Nation and in subsequent case law that there’s a spectrum. On one end of the spectrum you would have a situation where an indigenous group has a claim, but it’s not particularly strong, for whatever reason, maybe there’s conflicting claims, maybe another group has a claim to the same area, maybe this group hasn’t occupied that area for a long time, and that’s a known fact. For whatever reason, the claim isn’t very strong. And at that point then you would have a lower duty than you would, for example, if… So in the Haida case for example, the Haida have inhabited the islands that used to be known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, they’re now called Haida Gwaii, and they’ve lived there without any opposing or conflicting claim for millenia. It’s a very strong claim that they have to that area. And so, in that particular case, then it would require a much higher level of consultation and possibly accommodation of their interests.

07:15 HC: The other factor on the sliding scale is the government, the proposed action that would interfere with the rights. At one end of the spectrum, you’d have something that’s gonna have a very minor impact on the rights and that would require less consultation, but on the other end you might have something, for example, in the Haida Nation case, you had a permit to clear cut some areas of the forest there. So that would obviously have a great impact on the rights involved or the rights claimed at least. And so that would then result in a higher level of consultation needed. And so the key in a lot of the cases that have been coming through is whether, what level of consultation is required and how do we determine whether it’s been adequate or not? The other important element is that, and this is tricky again, but the duty is always on the Crown, so it’s always the Crown that has a duty to consult. Nobody else has a duty to consult, but while the ultimate responsibility is always with the Crown, the duty itself can actually be delegated for procedural purposes, which means that in other words, other parties can engage in negotiations that will fulfill the duty. It doesn’t mean that the government has to be at the table at all times.

08:23 MS: So the Crown could appoint an arbitrator?

08:25 HC: That’s right, it could. Even a third party could be part of the negotiation as it has been the case in the past, and as was the case here with Kinder Morgan being part of the negotiations. The Crown doesn’t have to be itself at the table, but ultimately if there’s inadequate consultation then it is the Crown’s duty so the Crown will have to answer for that.

08:45 MS: So that raises a couple of questions. The first one was, 72 hours ago, I would have been asking you, “So how does that apply to a private company like Kinder Morgan that’s establishing a pipeline?” Now the federal government’s taking that question off the table.

09:00 HC: That’s right.

09:00 MS: The first thing, they’re gonna buy the whole thing outright. But had they not done that would the federal government be just saying, “Okay, Kinder Morgan, we authorize you to carry out these consultations”?

09:13 HC: Yeah, in a way. I mean, it doesn’t even have to be formal, it can just be assumed that Kinder Morgan will be negotiating. The ultimate best outcome of course, is agreement. So, it’s where you obtain the consent of the group involved to the activity that you’re proposing. And in that case of course, there won’t be any review of whether the duty to consult was met. Where it becomes an issue is where you have that third party, for example, Kinder Morgan engaging in negotiations, and then there’s a question as to the adequacy of that consultation because, again, the duty remains with the Crown. So ultimately, it’s the Crown that has to answer for that and has to ultimately ensure that the consultation happens, and happens in an adequate manner.

09:54 HC: For example, in this case as well, one of the questions that came up in a case that was released late last year, which was known as Clyde River and a companion case involving the Enbridge pipeline was whether the process of the National Energy Board, so the hearings that the National Energy Board conducts before they can grant a permit for the pipeline, whether those were sufficient to involve adequate consultation of First Nations groups. And the courts have said, “Yes, provided there is a meaningful opportunity for the Aboriginal group involved to present their point of view and the process there is adequate, that will satisfy the duty to consult.” It can be a regulatory agency, such as the NEB which is involved in this case, which is actually carrying out the consultation, even though the duty remains on the Crown at all times.

10:44 MS: Right. And this duty to consult, obviously, it’s incumbent on the Crown, but that has to be done with each community individually.

10:53 HC: That’s right, yes.

10:54 MS: Off the top, you mentioned that there is a large number of indigenous communities that are on board, they’ve been consulted and they’ve reached in a point of agreement, but there’s still a smaller group, but still substantial of communities that have issues and these are all individual sets of consultations.

11:12 HC: That’s right. Now, some of them may have common issues, and so they may be dealt with together. Certainly the lawsuits have been joined by other First Nations, so they’ve grouped together. But it’s important, again, to clarify that it’s not just… So when we talk about First Nations and communities, it’s important to clarify that it’s not just the reserves. Reserve land is obviously encompassed within that, but it’s much broader than that because it involves traditional territories, so territories which may now be either Crown land or under private ownership that were traditional territories of these nations and which they have a claim to. And so, those are the territories that are involved, so it can actually be much wider in scope than just the immediate vicinity of the First Nations community itself. And that’s part of the complexity of this as well.

11:55 MS: So does the transition, if the government follows through with the purchase of the pipeline from Kinder Morgan, will that simplify the overall portrait here?

12:04 HC: Well, it could or it could have little effects. On one hand, it simplifies things in that it takes a player out of the issue, the third party, Kinder Morgan. So that now it becomes clear that this is really between the federal government or the federal Crown and also still keeping in mind that the provincial Crown has some responsibilities here, but it really becomes between the Crown and the First Nations groups. On the other hand, the real question now is whether the process that’s already been gone through with the National Energy Board and negotiation with Kinder Morgan, whether it’s adequate.

12:33 HC: And there’s a lawsuit currently pending in the Federal Court of Appeal that is reviewing that largely because of new information that came to light that, apparently according to some sources, there were officials in the federal government who at the same time as they were telling the First Nations, “Well, we haven’t made a decision yet, this is an ongoing negotiation,” were telling their officials who were working on this to find a way to approve it. So it seems, if those allegations are proven that the Crown wasn’t negotiating in good faith, which is always part of the… For consultation to be adequate, it would seem that it would have to be in good faith. And so if the court accepts that version of things, then the whole process would be deemed inadequate and we might be back to square one in terms of consultations.

13:22 MS: So is there an outcome here, where if the duty to consult is not met, the pipeline can stop? Period.

13:29 HC: Yeah, if the court finds that the duty to consult was not adequately engaged in, then absolutely, the court can stop the process because this is a constitutional right, so the duty to consult is part of the Section 35 rights of Aboriginal peoples of Canada. And so it would be essentially acting unconstitutionally on behalf of the Crown. So yes, it would absolutely stop things.

13:51 MS: So this is an absolutely vital part of the pipeline process?

13:53 HC: It is, yes. And so, obviously at this point, it’s unclear whether the court will agree or not. There have been other challenges that have been rejected. And reading the jurisprudence, looking at the Enbridge case for example, that came out, it seems like the courts are willing, in many cases, to give some leeway to regulatory agencies like the National Energy Board. And the courts tend to focus on the process more so than the results, and the process would involve things like, “Were the groups given a fair opportunity to present their views? Was there an attempt to respond to some of the concerns? Was there a hearing held that allowed them to air their views?” Those kinds of procedural things are more at the heart of the duty than the actual outcome. The courts tend to shy away from expressing their views on the particular outcome.

14:46 MS: Right.

14:47 HC: But in this case, there’s a huge, obviously, huge importance to this so I think the courts will take the time to really review what happened and whether there was good faith consultation here.

14:57 MS: And I imagine the issues on the indigenous end are fairly uniform in terms of what their concerns are.

15:04 HC: Yes, and in fact one of the very interesting things about this is that the one nation that’s leading the lawsuit currently in the Federal Court of Appeal, the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, they have actually carried out their own environmental assessment, an assessment of the project using the principles of their indigenous law, and they’ve actually put that out as part of their report. So, this is fascinating because it means that they are using their own law to assess the project and really making the argument that this is their land and they are situated right on Burrard Inlet, so they are right at the outlet point of the pipeline. And they’re arguing that this should be decided in accordance with their laws just as much as with Canadian law. And so that’s really an interesting assertion of sovereignty, if you will, over their territory, and to pursue that in that way is something we haven’t really seen a lot of before.

15:55 MS: Yeah. No, that is fascinating.

15:57 HC: Yeah.

15:58 MS: So obviously, it’s a developing situation. We may be discussing it again.

16:02 HC: We may be, yeah. [chuckle]

16:02 MS: In the short term or medium term.

16:04 HC: That’s right.

16:04 MS: But yeah, is there anything else you’d like to bring up in the context?

16:08 HC: No, I think, again, it’s a very interesting issue and it goes at the heart of a lot of what we look at in Aboriginal law, it’s a very fundamental issue, so I think it’s a fascinating issue for that reason.

16:20 MS: Great. Well, thanks so much, Hugo.

16:22 HC: Thank you, Matt.

[music]

16:25 Speaker 3: Thanks to Cherie Metcalf and Hugo Choquette. If you’re interested in constitutional law, Cherie is the instructor for our constitutional law module of Law 201/701, Introduction to Canadian Law, at takelaw.ca. We also go deep in an entire course on Public and Constitutional Law, Law 205/705. And if Aboriginal law is of interest to you, Hugo Choquette has designed and teaches an entire undergraduate course on the subject, Law 202/702, again at takelaw.ca. Fundamentals of Canadian Law is recorded at Queen’s University, situated on traditional Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee Territory. Our theme music is by Megan Hamilton. You can find out more about her music at meganhamiltonmusic.wordpress.com. If you liked this podcast don’t forget to rate and review us on iTunes. Thanks for listening.

[music]

What protects workers in Ontario? Oh — it’s OHSA!

From Employers to Employees – OHSA Defines Safety in Ontario

Occupational Health and Safety

Employees in Ontario are protected by the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

If you’re at work or own a business in Ontario, odds are the Occupational Health and Safety Act is relevant to you. OHSA applies to almost every worker, supervisor, employer and workplace in the province. Under the Act, employees, supervisors, and employers have certain rights and responsibilities to ensure that employees are not hurt at work or subject to violence.
Let’s break it down by category – from bosses, to supervisors, to employees.

Employer Responsibilities

Employer responsibilities are in section 25 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Some of these include:

  1. Take Reasonable Precautions: Employers must take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect workers.
  2. Equipment, Materials and Protective Devices: Employers must provide the required equipment, materials and protective devices, to ensure that they are in good condition, and to ensure that they are being used properly by workers.
  3. Appointing Competent Supervisors: Employers are also under a duty to make sure that site supervisors know enough and have enough experience and training to keep workers safe and healthy while they work.
  4. Create Health and Safety Policies and Procedures: Employers are also required prepare and review a written occupational health and safety policy and develop and maintain a program to implement that policy.
  5. Cooperate with the Health and Safety Committee: Employers have a duty to cooperate and assist the health and safety committee representatives.
  6. Health and Safety Training: The Ministry of Labour says that what you don’t known can hurt you. Employers are required to ensure that their employees complete a health and safety awareness training program before they start work—you have probably completed one of these programs if you have ever been employed. This training should tell the employee about both their and their employer’s duties and rights under the Act, common workplace hazards and occupational illnesses that they could be exposed to, WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System), and the roles of health and safety representatives, joint health and safety committees, and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

Supervisor Responsibilities

The main duties of supervisors are listed under section 27 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. These include:

  1. Take Reasonable Precautions: Like the employer, supervisors also have a duty to take every reasonable precaution for the protection of a worker.
  2. Ensure Safe Work: Supervisors have a duty to ensure that workers are working in a safe manner with protective devices, measures and procedures required by the Act and are using or wearing required equipment, protective devices or clothing.
  3. Provide Information and Instructions: Supervisors are also required to advise workers of potential or actual dangers to their health and safety and to provide them with written instructions respecting the protection measures and procedures.

Worker’s Rights and Responsibilities

Workers have the right under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, all of which relate to the right to be safe at work. The three main rights of workers are:

  1. The Right to Participate: Workers have the right to report workplace hazards and to participate in resolving health and safety concerns with their employers and their workplace’s health and safety committee.
  2. The Right to Know: Workers have the right to know about any hazards in their workplace and to receive training before beginning work on the types of hazards they may be exposed to and how to respond to those hazards.
  3. The Right to Refuse Unsafe Work: Under Part V of the Act, workers have the right to refuse or stop work where their health or safety is in danger.

Workers not only have rights under the Act, they also have responsibilities. This is to ensure that neither they, nor their co-workers are subject to hazards or violence at work. These responsibilities are listed under section 28. Some of these responsibilities include:

  1. Reporting Workplace Hazards: Under the Act, workers have a responsibility to report hazards they know of to the supervisor or employer as soon as possible so that the hazards can be investigated and remedied.
  2. Wearing Protective Equipment: Workers have a responsibility to wear or use the protective equipment that is required by the Act or by their employer. This includes a duty not to disable any protective elements on machines that the worker will be using.

This is just some of what the OHSA covers. If you’re a worker – or business owner – in Ontario, you should know what’s in it and how it applies to you! And if you’re interested in workplace issues, consider the Workplace Law course in the Queen’s Certificate in Law.

– Isabelle Crew

You Don’t Really Own “Your” Land – Fundamentals of Canadian Law 10

Bayeux tapestry - Norman invasion of England

What does William the Conqueror have to do with property law in Canada? A lot! Find out more in this podcast.

Property law is complex — fee simple, escheats, and William the Conqueror all come into play when we’re talking about ownership of property in Canada. Fortunately, the Dean of Queen’s Law, Bill Flanagan, took some time out of a busy schedule to drop by and shed some light on both the laws governing land, and the “finders keepers” principle of personal property.

Join us for a fascinating conversation about history, the Crown, property ownership, playground rhymes, and more!

What Kind of Property Rights Can I Hold?

Property as a legal concept is best understood not as an object, but as a bundle of rights that a legal person possesses. The pertinent legal question isn’t what you “own” but what you have the right to do with it. We are going to focus on “real property”, which is a type of property that is associated with land and things that are attached to it (e.g. a house). The law on this is different from “personal property”, which is property not attached to land—like your laptop.

You can have many different types of interest in real property. They are different not because the type of property is different (e.g. house versus farm), but because of what the person who holds the property has the legal right to do. There are many different rights that attach to real property interests—they are wide ranging and will vary depending on the nature of the proprietary interest.

Fee Simple

The most basic kind of proprietary interest is an interest in fee simple—this is what most people are referring to when they say they “own” a house, a cottage, or a farm.

Cottag with for sale sign

“Owning” property in Canada actually means having certain rights over it. Your grandpa’s cottage is governed by the rights your grandpa has over that property…

A fee simple estate is the highest and most complete interest in the land that can be recognized by law. The owner of the fee simple estate can exercise all rights of ownership over the land infinitely.

For example, my great-grandfather owned a cottage on a piece of land up near Algonquin Park. In legal terms, what he had was a fee simple estate.

With the fee simple estate, he had a bundle of rights. For example, he held the right to:

  • Occupy the property;
  • Exclude others from the property;
  • Sell the property;
  • Rent the property (we will discuss leaseholds and residential tenancy in another post);
  • Divide the property into smaller fee simple estates;
  • Destroy the property;
  • Use the property as security, for example, by taking out a second mortgage; and
  • Will the property to his children after he died.

Unless he granted anyone else any rights, he was the only person who held these rights. His rights under fee simple were complete and indefinite.

In 2005, he passed away. What happened to his fee simple interest in that land and cottage after that? A fee simple interest has no end date— it is indefinite, meaning that it survives even after a person dies, which means that it can be willed to another person who will possess all the same rights. Even where a fee simple estate is not willed, it still exists and descends intestate to the owner’s heirs—again, this is because it is indefinite.

My great-grandfather willed the property to my great-uncle, who decided to sell it. When he sold the property, he sold the fee simple—he didn’t just sell the cottage and the land, he sold all the rights that attached to it. Because the fee simple is absolute, it means that he no longer held any rights to the property.

This is just fee simple, we’ll look at other property rights in future posts!

— Isabelle Crew, Queen’s Law’18

The Most Expensive Comma in the World — Fundamentals of Canadian Law

Comma dreams of moneyWhat’s in a comma? A lot of zeroes, sometimes — Law 204/704 developer Peter Kissick joins us to talk about a legendary case involving a comma, utility poles and $2.1 million dollars. That’s a gateway to a broader conversation about contracts: what they are, how they work, and what most of us are getting absolutely wrong.

Comma in question

The comma in question: this piece of punctuation cost a Canadian company over $2 million.

What Did I Agree To? Contracts in our Everyday Lives

Contracts govern many aspects of our day-to-day lives—they are one of the fundamental ways that society is ordered. You likely engage in dozens of activities governed by contract every day, usually without considering the legal relationships you are entering into and engaging in.

At its most fundamental level, a contract is an agreement that will be enforced because it represents the communication of a commitment to engage in a reciprocal measured exchange – in other words, the exchange of valuable promises that in turn create obligations to do or not do something.

Contracts are everywhere!Communication and exchange are central to the formation of a contract. For a contract to be formed there must be offer and acceptance, and there must be consideration (something of value must be exchanged… contracts are not the same as gratuitous promises, where one of the parties receives no benefit of value).

While there are many more rules that relate to when and how contracts are formed this basic definition can help us understand when we might enter into a contract.

In this post we will discuss some everyday activities you likely engage in, and their contractual nature.

We can consider a few examples from my day today:

The first thing I did when I woke up was to check my phone and respond to emails. I have a contract with my phone company—in consideration for me paying a certain fee every month, they provided me with a phone, as well as with access to their cell towers. I accepted this offer when I signed my phone contract and began using their service.

When I checked my email account, I was in a contractual relationship with Google. When I send or receive content through a Google Service I give Google and its affiliates a worldwide license to use that content for certain purposes, per the Google Terms of Service. As consideration for those licences, Google provides me with access to its Services. Google offers these services publicly and I enter into a contract by creating an account and agreeing to the Google Terms of Service.

Dealing with email is hungry work, so I decided to grab breakfast at a campus coffee shop. I ordered a bagel and a large tea. The cashier told me that the total would be $5.05, which I paid in cash. Two minutes later I was handed a bagel and a large tea.

When I handed the cashier the money, I entered into a contract with the coffee shop. As consideration for a bagel and a large tea, I provided $5.05. I communicated my acceptance of their posted offer to provide tea and a bagel for $5.05 by ordering from the cashier and providing money. They fulfilled the terms of the contract by providing me with my food and beverage.

As you’ve seen, contracts have already been a part of just the very beginning of my day. Take a minute to think about your day so far: what have you done that has involved an offer, acceptance, and consideration? How many contracts have been involved with in the past hour? Can you think of one or more contracts that are allowing you to read these worlds right now?

Contracts are central to the ordering, not only of big businesses, but our everyday lives.

– Isabelle Crew

Who cares about constitutional law? — Fundamentals of Canadian Law 008

Canadian ConstitutionFor the average Canadian, the Constitution can seem pretty abstract. How does it affect me, a normal person, in a daily way? The answer is profoundly. For a clearer understanding of why public and constitutional law matters so much, we sat down with Jonathan Shanks, who has developed Law 205/705, Public & Constitutional Law, which launches this summer as part of the Certificate in Law. He breaks down why the constitution and public law matter so much to all of us, every single day.

How do you fit into constitutional law?

Woman and constitution intermixed

Your relationship with the Canadian Constitution may seem abstract, but it’s a document that has a daily effect on your life as a Canadian.

People sometimes think that public and constitutional law is an abstract concept – big ideas that don’t affect our daily lives.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

The rule of law, constitutional rights, judicial review, and federalism—these are central issues in public and constitutional law that affect us in a real and practical way.

At its most fundamental level, to understand public law and constitutional law is to understand power.

Specifically, how governments exercise power, and the relationship between the exercise of that power and the public.

Public and constitutional law establish the institutions and organs of government and grant them powers, but they also limit the exercise of government power. This ensures that power is not exercised arbitrarily, unequally, or absolutely. This defines how the government interacts with you!

Rule of Law

The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized the rule of law as a fundamental aspect of Canada’s Constitution. For example, in British Columbia v Imperial Tobacco, the Supreme Court of Canada stated that the rule of law embraces three interrelated principles:

  1. The law is supreme over all;
  2. Society must be governed by law;
  3. The relationship between the state and the individual must be regulated by law.

These rule of law principles provide stability and predictability in the legal system.

Constitutional Rights

Entrenched in the Constitution Act, 1982, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides constitutional protection for human rights in Canada. The Charter includes provisions ensuring Fundamental Freedoms, Democratic Rights, Mobility Rights, Legal Rights, Equality Rights and Language Rights. The Charter is part of the supreme law of Canada. Laws enacted by Parliament and the legislatures and all government action must be consistent with the Charter. Any limits on Charter rights must be justifiable in a free and democratic society. The Charter also provides that “[a]nyone whose rights or freedoms, as guaranteed by [the] Charter, have been infringed” may apply to a court to have that infringement remedied. Charter rights are another important restraint on government power and how the law can impact us.

Judicial Review

Judicial review generally refers to the process through which the exercise of legal power can be challenged in the courts. The Courts can review both laws and government action for compliance with the Constitution and other legal norms. Courts are not the only bodies that can make legal decisions. Parliament and the legislatures have established a wide range of administrative tribunals.  These are designed to be less cumbersome, less expensive, less formal, and less time-consuming than courts. Tribunals can often resolve disputes in their area of specialization more expeditiously and more accessibly. Examples of tribunals include the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, the Ontario Labour Relations Board, the National Energy Board, and many, many others. Because these bodies are delegated power by legislation, their authority is confined to the bounds of the delegation—another example of the rule of law at work! To avoid arbitrary, unreasonable, and biased, those who are affected by the decisions of these bodies can apply to the courts to have these decisions reviewed.

boot crushing people

The power the government has over us is limited and defined by the Constitution, and explored in public law.

Federalism

Federalism refers to the constitutional division of the power to make laws between the federal Parliament and the provincial legislatures. Federalism is one way that the Constitution recognizes the unity of Canada with the diversity among the provinces. Matters of national importance tend to be within the authority of the Parliament of Canada, while local matters are left to the Provinces. For example, the federal Parliament can make laws in relation to, among other things: trade and commerce, currency, criminal law, banking, and national defence. The provincial legislatures can make laws in relation to, among other things: property and civil rights in the province, municipal institutions, and the administration of justice.

Interpreting the division of powers can be legally complex, but on a day-to-day level it impacts whether you are interacting with the federal or provincial government.

— Isabelle Crew

Be a Court Case Detective – Fundamentals of Canadian Law 007

Detective in a computer

You, too, can be a court sleuth — thanks to CanLII and the expert guidance of professor Mary Jo Maur!

Dive into the amazing world of case research with professor Mary Jo Maur, developer and instructor of Law 201/701 — Introduction to Canadian Law in this edition of the podcast! We plunge into the amazing world of CanLII, a Canadian online database that collects court decisions from across the nation, with a dizzying array of search options and ways to find exactly the information you’re looking for.

It’s pretty amazing! Mary Jo walks us through how to find almost anything related to court outcomes on CanLII, and also some valuable pointers on how to read the cases once you find them. If you’ve ever wanted to know — well, anything — about court cases and outcomes from coast to coast, this is 20-odd minutes you won’t regret spending with us.

What’s in a name? Deciphering the secret world of “Styles of Cause”

Chances are you’ve seen or heard the name of a legal case. Lawyers call this the “style of cause.” Once you’ve cracked the code for a style of cause, there’s a lot of information in one short title!

Format: A v B

Styles of cause are formatted in the same basic form:

Name of Plaintiff v Name of Defendant/ Respondent

The plaintiff is the person bringing the case before the court. The defendant/respondent is the person who must defend the charge or respond to the claim. Where there are multiple plaintiffs and/or defendants, the name of the first plaintiff and defendant, respectively, will be used.

Illustration of styles of cause.

What do names mean?

A natural person (an individual human, rather than a private or public organization) is represented in a style of cause by their last name. Therefore, If Bill Smith is suing Bob Jones, the style of cause will be Smith v Jones.

Corporations are also legal persons. In a style of cause a corporation is represented by its official corporate name. Therefore, if General Motors is suing City National Leasing, the style of cause will be General Motors of Canada Ltd v City National Leasing.

Other types of legal persons can also bring and respond to legal cases and will represented by their official names. These types of legal persons include non-governmental organizations, First Nations, Crown Corporations, etc.

“R” stands for Crime (sort of)

In a criminal case, the person bringing the case is the Crown. In a criminal case the name of the “plaintiff” is represented by the letter R—this is short for Regina (Queen) or Rex (King). Therefore, if John Brown is being charged with a criminal offence, the style of cause will be R v Brown.

…but the government is more than “R”!

R is not the only way to represent a government entity in a style of cause. Cases can also be brought by or against a government entity in the form of challenging the constitutionality of law or a decision made by the government entity. For example, if Terri Jean Bedford is challenging the constitutionality of a federal law, she will bring the claim against Canada, as represented by the Attorney General. The style of cause will be Bedford v Canada (Attorney General). If Grassy Narrows First Nation brings a case challenging the decision of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, the style of cause will be Grassy Narrows First Nation v Ontario (Natural Resources).

Don’t say “vee!”

In Canada, the “v” separating the two parties is not pronounced “vee” when speaking. We just say “and”. Americans say “vee”, and you’ve probably heard this on TV, but avoid a rookie mistake in Canada and say “and” when dividing the names of parties to a proceeding!

– Isabelle Crew (3L, Faculty of Law, Queen’s University)