Friday, March 8, 2013

Fiduciary duty and aboriginal rights

Manitoba Metis v Canada 2013 SCC 14 is an important decision dealing with fiduciary duty in the context of aboriginal rights:

[47]                          Fiduciary duty is an equitable doctrine originating in trust.  Generally speaking, a fiduciary is required to act in the best interests of the person on whose behalf he is acting, to avoid all conflicts of interest, and to strictly account for all property held or administered on behalf of that person.  See Lac Minerals Ltd. v. International Corona Resources Ltd., [1989] 2 S.C.R. 574, at pp. 646-47.

[48]                          The relationship between the Métis and the Crown, viewed generally, is fiduciary in nature.  However, not all dealings between parties in a fiduciary relationship are governed by fiduciary obligations.

[49]                          In the Aboriginal context, a fiduciary duty may arise as a result of the "Crown [assuming] discretionary control over specific Aboriginal interests":  Haida Nation v. British Columbia (Minister of Forests), 2004 SCC 73, [2004] 3 S.C.R. 511, at para. 18.  The focus is on the particular interest that is the subject matter of the dispute: Wewaykum Indian Band v. Canada, 2002 SCC 79,[2002] 4 S.C.R. 245, at para. 83.  The content of the Crown's fiduciary duty towards Aboriginal peoples varies with the nature and importance of the interest sought to be protected:  Wewaykum, at para. 86.

[50]                          A fiduciary duty may also arise from an undertaking, if the following conditions are met:

(1) an undertaking by the alleged fiduciary to act in the best interests of the alleged beneficiary or beneficiaries; (2) a defined person or class of persons vulnerable to a fiduciary's control (the beneficiary or beneficiaries); and (3) a legal or substantial practical interest of the beneficiary or beneficiaries that stands to be adversely affected by the alleged fiduciary's exercise of discretion or control.


(Alberta v. Elder Advocates of Alberta Society, 2011 SCC 24, [2011] 2 S.C.R. 261, at para. 36)


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