The Alberta Court of Appeal released a decision on November 3, 2014 in Gauchier v. Alberta (Metis Settlements Land Registry), dismissing an appeal from the Registrar of the Metis Settlements Land Registry (the "Registry") against a chambers judge decision that held the Register "must act to keep the [Registry] membership list up to date by seeking out and obtaining information".
Alberta's Metis Settlement Act (the "Act") requires a metis settlement member's membership to be terminated if they voluntarily become registered for "Indian status" under the federal Indian Act or register as an Inuk under a land claims agreement, unless a policy provides otherwise. The Act also requires that a membership list is kept up to date and that the names of members are removed from this list when they lose their membership in a settlement. The Registrar maintains this list and has historically interpreted its obligation as being limited to striking a member's name only once they hear from a Metis settlement council that the membership in question has been terminated.
The chambers judge order at issue came out of a dispute over settlement membership related to eligibility for voting and candidacy in a settlement council election, with the chambers judge finding that the Registrar did have an obligation to take proactive steps to fulfill their duty to keep the membership lists up to date. The Registrar argued on appeal that it was the settlement council's duty to investigate membership status within the community and not the duty of the Registrar, with this interpretation being more in keeping with the Act's objective to extend self-governance to Métis under Albertan law. The Registrar did not want to be thrust into the community as "an unwanted meddler and roving investigator" with respect to issues of membership validity. This argument was rejected, however, since the Act left no discretion as to whether or not membership in a settlement was terminated or not, and therefore self-governance was not at issue. The Court of Appeal also noted that allowing for dual membership of Métis as Inuk or status Indians could undercut the goals of preserving and enhancing distinctive Métis culture, identity and self-governance as distinct from "Indian" identity. The Court of Appeal read the chambers judge's words as meaning that the Registrar could receive information from more than just the settlement council as to the dual registration of any individual and would consequently be required to take proactive steps to verify the individual's dual membership and remove their name from the membership list as applicable.