Kuujjuaq, February 16, 2022 – The Quebec Court of Appeal judgment released last week represents a major victory for Nunavik Inuit and all Indigenous peoples in Canada. The reference case was brought by the Attorney General of Québec challenging the constitutionality of the federal Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families (also referred to as Bill C-92). Makivik Corporation intervened in these proceedings to protect the Aboriginal right of self-government over child and family services, which is recognized in the Act.
“We are very pleased with this unanimous decision from the Quebec Court of Appeal. This is the first time any court in Canada has recognized a general right of self-government held by all Indigenous peoples. Although this right has already been recognized through international declarations and federal legislation, having the Courts confirm it is an important milestone in the evolution of the inherent right of self-government. That the right is over youth protection is extremely encouraging, as it is one of my top concerns and priorities,” said President Pita Aatami.
The Court recognized that there is a general Aboriginal right of self-government over youth protection. The Court stated that Indigenous peoples have always maintained a form of self-government that flows from their original sovereignty over the territory. The Constitution Act, 1867, which divides jurisdictional powers between the Canada and the provinces, did not give Parliament and the provincial legislatures exclusive jurisdiction over the entirety of the laws applicable in Canada. Moreover, this division of powers did not extinguish the right of Aboriginal peoples to govern themselves.
The Court declared that, because the right of self-government is an Aboriginal right, it is protected under s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, through which existing Aboriginal rights were recognized and affirmed. The right of self-government over child and family services was recognized as a general right that extends to all Aboriginal peoples because it is intimately tied to their cultural continuity and survival.
The Quebec Court of Appeal determined that in the case of a conflict between Indigenous youth protection regulations and federal or provincial regulations, the Indigenous regulations prevail. To find otherwise would render the protection of Aboriginal rights in the Constitution meaningless. Just as with other Aboriginal rights, the federal or provincial governments would have the burden of proving to the Courts that an infringement of an Indigenous law is justified.
Makivik will continue to dedicate the time necessary to analyze this judgment.
Director of Communications
Makivik is the land claims organization mandated to manage the heritage funds of the Inuit of Nunavik provided for under the James Bay and Northern Québec Agreement. Makivik’s role includes the administration and investment of these funds and the promotion of economic growth by providing assistance for the creation of Inuit-operated businesses in Nunavik. Makivik promotes the preservation of Inuit culture and language as well as the health, welfare, relief of poverty, and education of Inuit in the communities.