Federal Court

Constitutional Law

Nursing station fell under federal jurisdiction using functional test

Applicant was First Nation that operated its own nursing station. Respondent began working for applicant as clinic nurse at nursing station. Respondent’s contract was renewed multiple times but she was told that her contract would not be renewed when it expired. Respondent brought claim for unjust dismissal against applicant pursuant to Canada Labour Code. Adjudicator found that he had jurisdiction to hear respondent’s claim and awarded damages to respondent. Applicant applied for judicial review. Application dismissed. This was true question of jurisdiction to be reviewed on standard of correctness. Adjudicator’s decision that respondent’s complaint fell under federal jurisdiction and that he had jurisdiction to assess complaint merits was correct. Code applied in respect of employees who were employed on or in connection with operation of any federal work, undertaking or business. Canadian courts recognized that labour relations were presumptively provincial matter. Pursuant to s. 91(24) of Constitutions Act, 1867 (Can.), Parliament had exclusive jurisdiction over Indians and lands reserved for Indians. Question before adjudicator was whether nursing station was part of Band’s operations in respect of Indians and lands reserved for Indians or whether it was separate undertaking. Adjudicator correctly found that nursing station came under federal jurisdiction either directly or derivatively. Nursing Station was part of or integrally connected to Band and therefore subject to federal jurisdiction. Nursing Station was way in which applicant executed its mandate to provide healthcare services to residents and it was exercising power delegated to it by Parliament pursuant to Indian Act (Can.), which directly fell under federal jurisdiction. Adjudicator was correct in finding that he had jurisdiction to hear matter given that nursing station fell under federal jurisdiction using functional test. Nursing station was one of ways, if not most important way, in which applicant, federally regulated entity, fulfilled its mandate to provide healthcare to residents. Only provincial involvement was that nurses were provincially licensed and provincial government had no operational involvement with nursing station. Nursing station was part of applicant because it did not operate separate, distinct or autonomous unit and it fell directly under federal jurisdiction. Alternatively, nursing station was integral part of core federal undertaking that was applicant and fell derivatively under federal jurisdiction. Choice of law clause included by parties in employment contract confirmed that federal jurisdiction applied.

Berens River First Nation v. Gibson-Peron (May. 8, 2015, F.C., Cecily Y. Strickland J., File No. T-1933-14) 255 A.C.W.S. (3d) 471.   

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