JFK Court Report: Recent Cases from Ontario

Kassian Estate v. Canada (Attorney General), 2015 ONCA 544

This case arises from an incident in which two people were killed on Mohawk land when their car was struck by a driver being pursued in a high-speed chase by the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service. The Plaintiffs, the estate and family members of the deceased, argued that an agreement between the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, Ontario, Quebec and Canada for the funding of the police service created a partnership that made Ontario and Quebec vicariously liable for the accident. Vicarious liability is the legal responsibility of one party for the actions of another, usually an employer’s responsibility for the actions of an employee in the course of her employment. The Ontario Court of Appeal found that the relationship in this case was not sufficiently close to ground a claim of vicarious liability, and the case against Ontario and Quebec was dismissed. The action will continue against the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne and Canada. This case is important as it suggests that liability will not be split between First Nations and provincial governments for the actions of First Nations police forces if they are run independently, even when funded in partnership with provincial governments. A funding agreement, without more, does not create a close enough relationship to attribute liability to provincial governments.