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The IBA Welcomes The Supreme Court of Canada’s Decision in Dickson v Vuntut Gwitchin

April 8, 2024

NationTalk: OTTAWA, ONT – The Indigenous Bar Association in Canada (the “IBA”) welcomes the recent decision by the Supreme Court of Canada (the “Court”) in Dickson v Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, 2024 SCC 10 (“Dickson”). In particular, the IBA applauds the Court’s affirmation that the residency requirement section of Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation’s (“VGFN’s”) Constitution is protected under section 25 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the “Charter”).

This case was the first opportunity for Canada’s highest court to consider the question of whether the Charter applies to a self-governing Indigenous government operating outside of the Indian Act, and the role of section 25 of the Charter, which provides that Aboriginal, treaty, and other rights and freedoms of Indigenous peoples will not be abrogated or derogated by application of the Charter. The case arose in the context of Ms. Dickon’s Charter challenge to the residency provision in VGFN’s Constitution that required their Chief and Councilors reside within their community of OldCrow (“on settlement lands”) once elected to office. Ms. Dickson, a VGFN Citizen, wanted to serve on Council but was not able to relocate to Old Crow. She argued that the residency requirement breached her equality rights under section 15(1) of the Charter.

A majority of the Court concluded that:

  1. the Charter applied to VGFN on the basis that it was “by its very nature” a government;
  2. the residency requirement breached Ms. Dickson’s s. 15(1) Charter rights; and
  3. the residency requirement was “shielded” by section 25 of the Charter, which protected it on the basis of it being a right associated with “Indigenous difference.”

IBA President Drew Lafond stated that: “The SCC’s interpretation and application of Section 25 respects and preserves space for Indigenous self determination and self government, and the IBA is hopeful that this will strengthen Indigenous law making and enforcement within their traditional territories.”

The IBA appreciates the Court’s emphasis on the importance of considering Indigenous perspectives as a part of balancing Ms. Dickson’s s. 15(1) equality rights and VGFN’s collective rights pertaining to their Indigenous difference under s. 25. We recognizes the complexity of these issues and the importance of ongoing dialogue and engagement between Indigenous governments, their citizens, and the broader Canadian legal system. True reconciliation requires a commitment to respecting Indigenous laws and legal traditions within the broader multi-juridical legal landscape of Canada.

The IBA is the national association of Indigenous (First Nation, Métis, and Inuit) lawyers (practicing and non-practicing), legal academics and scholars, articling clerks and law students, including graduate and post-graduate law students and paralegals in Canada. The IBA’s mandate includes, inter alia, advocating for the recognition of Indigenous laws, legal traditions, protocols and processes; promoting the reform of policies and laws affecting Indigenous peoples in Canada; and fostering public awareness within the legal community in respect of legal and social issues of concern to Indigenous peoples in Canada. For more information visit: