Cindy Dickson says she greeted the news with shock. But I know how important this issue is. She believes the case should strengthen First Nations self-governance.

Cindy Dickson is challenging her First Nation’s bylaw that an elected band councilor must move to the landlocked village of Old Crow within 14 days of being elected.

Cindy Dickson.

Cindy Dickson argues that the residency requirement violates the right to equality granted by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Photo: Photo sent by Cindy Dickson

The Complainant argues that this requirement violates Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms for First Nations Citizens, while the First Nation is of the view that Section 25 protects its bylaws.

Two articles in question

The case between Cindy Dickson and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation is based on two sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The article 15 affirm that the law is no respect of person and applies equally to all and all are entitled to equal protection and equal benefit of the law, regardless of any discrimination.

The article 25 assures Indigenous peoples that the provisions of the Charter do not infringe on their rights or freedoms, whether aboriginal, treaty or other.

Source: Government of Canada

As a citizen [des Vuntut Gwitchin, NDLR], no matter where I live in Canada or the Yukon, for that matter, I will always be a member of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. I grew up there, I know the culture, I know the people. It is really important that citizens, everywhere, are treated equally and fairly and that they are represented. »

A quote from Cindy Dickson, member of the Vuntut Gwitchin

A very important question

Aboriginal lawyer Ryan Beaton, who works for the firm Legal Power of Vancouver, is not surprised that the Supreme Court is interested in the case, since it asks a fundamental question.

At the heart of the case is the question of whether the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to First Nations governments and laws themselves. So this is a very important question for Canadian law, for self-governance, [pour] First Nations self-determination.

Ryan Beaton.

Lawyer Ryan Beaton is not surprised that the case involving Cindy Dickson and the primacy of Indigenous laws or the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms ends up before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Photo: Photo sent by Ryan Beaton

For its part, the Vuntut Gwitchin government says it has applied for leave to cross-appeal in the event that the Supreme Court accepts that the case be presented to it, but says that no hearing date has been decided. at this stage.

The potential implications of this case are far reaching. They will not only affect the Vuntut Gwitchin people, but also all Indigenous nations with modern treaties in this country.recalls chef Dana Tizya-Tramm.

To this, Ryan Beaton adds that the case will have an impact on the First Nations whose claims to self-determination have not yet been sealed in treaties.

What the Supreme Court will say will provide a framework for understanding the place of Aboriginal powers and jurisdictions in Canadian law, which will be very important.

A case that dates back to 2018

Cindy Dickson wanted to run for the Vuntut Gwitchin council in 2018, while residing in Whitehorse. Unable to move for personal reasons, she eventually dropped out of the race and filed a petition in the Yukon Supreme Court.

In a 2020 ruling, Justice Ron Veale ruled that the residency requirement did not violate Ms. Dickson’s equality rights and that even if it did, Section 25 protected the First Nation. .

Geographical map showing the location of the village.

Cindy Dickson wanted to run for the Old Crow Band Council election in 2018 while residing in Whitehorse.

Photo: Radio-Canada

Even if he had agreed with the Vuntut Gwitchin, he had also decreed that the 14 day delay was unconstitutional and he had given 18 months to the First Nation to change this rule.

This decision not having convinced any of the parties, they appealed. The Court then agreed with the First Nation.

Dissatisfied, Cindy Dickson decided to go to the Supreme Court of Canada last October.

She says no court date has yet been announced, but she believes it should be within the next six months.

With information from Jackie Hong

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