Beyond Charter Applicability: Exploring Challenges and Opportunities for Indigenous Jurisdiction in McCarthy v. Whitefish Lake First Nation


  • Amy Swiffen


The Karen McCarthy and Lorna Jackson-Littlewolfe v. Whitefish Lake First Nation #128 case develops doctrine in two related areas in Aboriginal law. One area is the nature of the relationship between Aboriginal governments and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including the relevance of the question of the source of self-government authority (delegated, constitutional, or inherency) to the application of the Charter. The second area of development flows from the first. It relates to the application of section 25 — specifically, what categories of rights are included in the protection of section 25 and the parameters of its “shielding” function in the context of a challenge to an internal restriction by a member of a self-governing First Nation. The development of doctrine in this area is needed. However, there are concerns about how the courts are moving to apply section 32(1) to Indigenous governments from the perspective of constitutional reconciliation. This concern corresponds to further issues regarding the application of section 25 and the question of the relationship between the Charter and Indigenous jurisdiction more generally. This comment explores these issues in the context of the case.






Case Comments