Federal Court

Aboriginal Peoples

Nothing federal about work of negotiations office

Respondent was employed as member of First Nation’s negotiations office until his employment was terminated. Respondent filed complaint under Canada Labour Code. Minister of Labour appointed adjudicator and referee pursuant to Code to determine claims made by respondent for unjust dismissal and recovery for unpaid overtime and vacation pay. Adjudicator determined he had jurisdiction over claims because employment relationship between parties was federally and not provincially regulated. First Nation applied for judicial review of adjudicator’s decision. Application granted. Adjudicator’s finding that First Nation was employer was reasonable. Whether respondent’s employment fell under federal or provincial jurisdiction rested on whether operations of negotiations office was properly characterized as federal work, undertaking or business within meaning of s. 2 of Code. Operations and habitual activities of negotiations office specifically had to be considered. Adjudicator erred in characterization of normal and habitual activities of negotiations office. Central purpose of negotiations office was negotiation of sophisticated commercial arrangements with other parties and adjudicator erred in focusing on fact that beneficiaries of activities of negotiations office were members of Indian band. Habitual activities of negotiations office were to negotiate with provincial Crown corporation with respect to development of new hydro-electric projects situated in province. There was nothing federal about work of negotiations office. Fact employer was Indian Band was not relevant to functional test. Negotiations of Indian rights and status did not form exclusive or principal part of activities of negotiations office. Labour relations was within provincial jurisdiction.

Fox Lake Cree Nation v. Anderson (Dec. 20, 2013, F.C., Russel W. Zinn J., File No. T-2141-12) 236 A.C.W.S. (3d) 739.

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