7.3: Summary Judgment (Application and decision)

Case Summary

This was an Application brought pursuant to Rule 7.3 by the Defendants, Alberta and Canada, for Summary Dismissal of a wide-ranging Action concerning alleged Indigenous rights and land. The Defendants’ Application, which followed significant pre-Trial discovery and litigation, was argued on the basis of defences under the Limitations Act, RSA 2000, c L-12 and the equitable doctrine of laches. In response, the Plaintiffs argued that the Action was for declaratory relief and, therefore, statutory time bars did not apply. Additionally, the Plaintiffs raised constitutional and related arguments.

In deciding the Application, the Court cited governing case law for the proposition that Summary Dismissal may be granted where it is procedurally fair to do so in light of factual and legal questions before the Court, having regard to the four-part test articulated in Weir-Jones Technical Services Incorporated v Purolator Courier Ltd, 2019 ABCA 49.

Considering the undisputed facts and law in issue, the Court went on to conclude that some, but not all, of the Action could be summarily dismissed. In particular, claims for remedial relief and declarations of breach of fiduciary duty and trust obligations, which were found to be necessarily remedial, were dismissed. Other requests for relief were left intact. In severing those parts of the Action that should not be dismissed, the Court noted, among other things, the value of declaratory relief as a mechanism for clarifying the rights and entitlements of Indigenous people and informing actions required to maintain the honor of the Crown, the time and expenses already poured into the litigation, and uncertainty in the law regarding application of limitations and laches to claims for declarations of Indigenous rights and title. The Court also noted the desirability of reserving matters of treaty interpretation to determination in the context of a properly pleaded and litigated civil Trial.

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