Extending Paramountcy to Indigenous Child Welfare Laws Does Not Offend our Constitutional Architecture or Jordan’s Principle

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Aboriginal law, child welfare, Jordan's Principle, constitutional architecture, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families


While a strong decision on many fronts, as noted by Kent McNeil, I, too, have been troubled by the Quebec Court of Appeal’s (QCCA or Court) invalidation of ss 21 and 22(3) of An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families, SC 2019, c 24 (Act) in Renvoi à la Cour d’appel du Québec relatif à la Loi concernant les enfants, les jeunes et les familles des Premières Nations, des Inuits et des Métis, 2022 QCCA 185 (CanLII) (unofficial English translation) (Reference). My greatest concern is that if the QCCA’s decision on ss 21 and 22(3) is upheld, this will serve to perpetuate one of the key problems that lead to the crisis in Indigenous child welfare in the first place—jurisdictional wrangling by the federal and provincial governments and consequential delays and denials—with the effect of stymying the urgent change needed to curb the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in provincial child welfare systems.

I agree with Kerry Wilkins that nothing about the Act offends the doctrinal rules on incorporation by reference. The Court’s striking of these provisions also seems to run afoul of the Supreme Court of Canada’s (SCC) recent ruling in Toronto (City) v Ontario (Attorney General), 2021 SCC 34 (CanLII) that unwritten principles and architecture cannot be used as a bases for invalidating legislation. Here, however, I would like to scrutinize the merits of the QCCA’s reasoning on ss 21 and 22(3). I believe its finding that these provisions run afoul of our constitutional architecture (1) ignores the protective purpose behind s 91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867, (2) overreaches on the implications of the SCC decisions in Tsilhqot’in Nation v British Columbia, 2014 SCC 44 (CanLII) and Grassy Narrows First Nation v Ontario (Natural Resources), 2014 SCC 48 (CanLII), and (3) misconstrues how Jordan’s Principle informs this case.