Supreme Court of Canada –  S.C.R. 211
Even though it does not mention it, in a way, the St. Ann’s Island Shooting & Fishing Club was the first Supreme Court’s decision to recognize and examine fiduciary relationship between the Crown and Aboriginal (Rotman, 2003: 370). The Crown must act with diligence and care when dealing for the Indians – in this case, an Order in Council authorizing the lease cannot by constructed as giving the Superintendent-General the power to negotiate with the Club for another lease, with new conditions, more than fifty years later. If the need arise for a new lease, a new Order-in-Council on the Governor in Council’s part is needed.
Did Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs have the power to conclude a new lease with the St. Ann’s Shooting and Fishing Club, and was the surrender of the Chippewas and Pottawatomie Indians of Walpole Island total and definitive?
The Superintendent did not have the power to authorize a new lease. The surrender was not total and definitive (unanimous decision – for different reasons).
Between: St. Ann’s Island Shooting and Fishing Club Ltd.
And: The King
In 1880, a resolution was adopted by the Council of the Chippewas and Pottawatomie Indians of Walpole Island, in order to consent to lease part of their reserve lands to the St. Ann’s Shooting and Fishing Club, of St. Ann’s Island. The lease made provisions for the Band to keep their hunting and fishing rights over the leased part.
In 1881, Superintendent General of Indian Affairs executed the lease for a term of five years. It was also renewable on its expiration for a similar length. After the carrying out of the lease, St. Ann’s Shooting and Fishing Club enquired about the validity of the lease and whether this agreement was in fact a surrender of reserve lands on the band council’s part. According to section 51 of the Indian Act, only Indian lands surrendered to the Crown can be leased to a non-Aboriginal.
In 1882, after consulting with the Chippewas, the Superintendent at Sarnia notified the St. Ann’s Shooting and Fishing Club that a formal surrender had been made and that the error had been corrected. The Order in Council P.C. 529 accepted the surrender in April of the same year. In 1884, 1892, 1894, 1906 and 1915, new leases were signed between the same parties, yet only those of 1894, 1906 and 1915 included stipulations for renewal.
In 1925, the Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs agreed to a new lease with the trustees of St. Ann’s Island Shooting and Fishing Club for a term of twenty years, with the possibility to renew for ten more years. For the first time, the lease did not encompass hunting and fishing right for the band members. In 1945, the St. Ann’s Island Shooting and Fishing Club filed a petition in the Exchequer Court of Canada claiming to have the right to renew of the 1925’s lease and to have its rent fixed by arbitration.
St. Ann’s Shooting and Fishing Club: Order-in-Council 529 confirmed the validity of their lease and recognized the surrender of the lands to the Crown; subject to the condition that they were leased by the Club. It allowed the Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs to take part in further negotiations with the Club. They contended that the Crown is “estopped from challenging the lease”.
The Crown: Full surrender of the land was not intended. At most, they agreed to a temporary surrender for the duration. Also, the Governor in Council did not delegate his power to conclude lease to the Superintendent-General of Indian Affairs, meaning that the first agreement in 1881 was invalid.
Exchequer Court of Canada (1949): Section 51 imposed the condition of direction by the Governor in Council prior the valid surrender of Indian lands. In addition, the lack an Order-in-Council rendered the lease non-binding notwithstanding the terms of surrender that may have been considered by the Indians in the lease. Since the lease of 1925 was never confirmed by Order-in-Council, the deed was void. Consequently, the renewal clause was invalid and no final and total surrender had been given in favor of the St. Ann’s Shooting and Fishing Club.
Kerwin, Taschereau, Rand, Estey, Locke
Taschereau (Locke): The purpose of the surrender was to legalize and to ratify the lease previously signed between the Band and the Club. The Order in Council authorizing the lease cannot by constructed as giving the Superintendent-General the power to negotiate with the Club for another lease, with new conditions, more than fifty years later. If the need arise for a new lease, a new Order-in-Council on the Governor in Council’s part was needed, under section 51 of the Indian Act. Since none was given in 1925, the lease signed that year between the Superintendent-General and the Club is void.
Rand (Estey): There was no total and definitive surrender of the lands. The agreement was similar in nature to a permit given to the Club to hunt and fish on Indian lands as long as the Band would hold these rights and privileges. He also confirmed St. Catherine’s Milling’s principles, by making no distinction between when a permanent surrender by a band of a fraction of their rights over a part of their territory, and a surrender of all their rights for a definite term over a part of their territory, like in the case at hand. Concerning the fact the Crown was estopped in challenging the 1925 lease, he found that it did not apply when the Crown attacked an act based on legislation aimed to protect a certain group of the Canadian population, since the Indian Act is aimed at protection Indians who are pupils of the Crown
Thirty-five years later, in the landmark ruling in Guerin, the Supreme Court reaffirmed the existence of this fiduciary relationship and the obligations that fall under the Crown’s responsibility. It is held to the highest standards and must always act in the interests of the First Nation concerned when it decides to surrender its lands.
This duty can be enforceable by the courts in case the Crown fails to act diligently (Guerin v. The Queen).
Guerin v. The Queen,  2 S.C.R. 335.
Rotman Leonard I. 1996. Parallel Paths: Fiduciary Doctrine and the Crown-Native Relationship in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Rotman Leonard I. 2003. Crown-Native Relation as Fiduciary: Reflections Almost Twenty Years After Guerin, in Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice 22: 363-396.