Beattie v Aboriginal Affairs & Northern Development Canada

The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal issued a decision on February 24, 2016 in <a href="" title="Beattie">Beattie v Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada</a>, dismissing three complaints alleging discrimination by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) through its refusal to register certain land documents in the Indian Land Registry System.


Mr. Louie holds Certificates of Possession to two parcels of land in the Okanagan Indian Reserve near Vernon, BC and this allocation was approved by the Minister and registered under the Act. The Okanagan Indian Reserve is administered by Canada and the Okanagan Band does not have any self-government arrangements for land governance. Prior to this specific complaint, Mr. Beattie had initiated several other complaints under the CHRA regarding the refusal of ministerial leases to Mr. Louie’s two parcels of land. As a result of those refusals, the applicants decided to conduct leases privately without the Crown’s involvement. However, the Lands Registrar refused to register these leases stating that because the Crown was not a party and there was no ministerial approval the lands could not be registered based on the explicit requirements of the Act.


The Tribunal dismissed the complaints on the basis that they amount to a direct challenge to the Act that falls outside the Tribunal’s jurisdiction. Relying on its past decision in Murphy v Canada Revenue Agency, the Tribunal reiterated its view that an allegation of discrimination that arises solely as a result of legislative language and does not involve any discretionary actions by the administrative body in question cannot proceed under s 5 of the CHRA. The Federal Court of Appeal upheld the ruling from Murphy and stated that an attack against legislation falls outside the jurisdiction of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal and must instead proceed by way of a Charter challenge before the courts.

The Tribunal also relied on its past decision in Matson v Indian and Northern Affairs Canada in dismissing the complaints. Matson dealt with complaints against the requirements for obtaining “Indian status” under the Act. The Tribunal in that case held that the legislated requirements for entitlement to registration under the Act are distinct from the act of registering a particular individual, which involves some amount of discretionary action by the Crown. The complaints in Matson were dismissed on the basis that the complainants were taking issue with the explicit statutory requirements for entitlement to registration and not any discretionary action by the Crown. The Tribunal held that only the latter could be addressed by way of a complaint under s 5 of the CHRA. The Federal Court upheld the decision in Matson, finding that it was the terms of the Act itself that denied the complainants access to the benefit of registration and not any discretionary action of the government agency applying the Act’s provisions. The Court interpreted s 5 of the CHRA as requiring a discriminatory “practice” in order for a complaint to exist and held that applying non-discretionary provisions of the Act did not amount to a “practice”.

Similarly, the Tribunal in this case engaged in statutory interpretation of the Act and found that the Registrar’s refusal to register the documents was based on mandatory provisions rather than an example of discretionary action on its part. As a result, the Tribunal held that the decision could not amount to discrimination prohibited under s 5 of the CHRA. The Tribunal stated that a legal challenge to the Act’s requirements for registration of the documents would have to be conducted by way of a Charter challenge brought before a court.