Some “Business Associations” materials (LaRue meets Big River First Nation)

At the end of this post, such as it is, you will find a small gathering of resources from my Business Associations class at UVic. One of the challenges in the Business Associations context is how to teach in ways that connect to the broad context in which economic work is situated (ie. not only in corporate boardrooms, but also in small businesses, local cooperative movements, and community-innovations). Another of the challenges for all law schools at this point is how to develop teaching resources that engage with Indigenous law, and Indigenous legal orders. In this point, I offer a few materials at the intersection of these two questions in the context of “LaRue Investments” and “Big River First Nation v Agency Chiefs Tribal Council Inc“. 2020 SKQB 273.

Let me back up to say that, over the years, I have drawn on some of the challenges that have emerged in the context of the family-owned closely-held corporation (LaRue Investments Ltd) that is the owner of the Shuswap lands that have been such an important part of the growing up experience of so many in my extended family.

“The Lake” (as we call it) is at the centre of important identity-forming moments for so many of my siblings and cousins. It has also been at the centre of a series of family conflicts that have resulted in nearly 20 years of litigation, involving schisms between people. And so (given that much of the documentation is public), I have sometimes used moments of family history in the classroom, as a way of walking students through a ‘small-scale-but-story-rich’ case study to explore how the concepts we study in the statutory materials have application in many different locations. It is also a way of making visible that the phrase ‘business is business’, often hides another refrain, which is ‘business is personal’!

By this, I mean that an understanding of the affective and emotional dimensions of economic problems can be really important for solicitors. Indeed, it can be just as important as it is for lawyers doing family law, or wills and estates. But it can be a challenge figuring out how to “teach” emotion and affect in the context of the business associations classroom. Getting personal by using the family business has been one strategy.

For many years, I was also able to have the students think about how to work with a client by bringing my mother to class. She was the corporate memory for LaRue, and had worked with many different lawyers over the years. She was well positioned to talk to the students about challenges that had arisen, and about the things that she had done well, as well as about the mistakes that she had made. Quite a gift! One of the gifts was a mistake. Let’s call this mistake “Removing a Director from the Registry”. The short version would be this: Arta believed that one of the Directors was not eligible to be a Director, so she went and filled out the Notice of Change of Directors form and submitted it to the Corporate Registry. The questions raised by the mistake were:

  • What is the appropriate process for removing a director?
  • What was the legal effect of submitting a form saying a director had been removed?
  • Might this action be called “oppression”?
  • What remedy would fix the harm?

NOTE: There are many longer versions of this event (which happened in 2003). If you want to follow the longer story, you can check out the history section of the LaRue Investments Ltd website. You will find there a set of video interviews in which Arta talks about the longer versions of this story.

In the classroom, I give the students all the background on this saga. It allows us to look at all the ways directors can be replaced, as well as at the relationships between Directors, and Officers. It lets us see that it is actually very simple to fix some mistakes (eg. all you have to do is submit a new Notice of Directors…no big deal). One can also see that the bigger problem might lie in the ongoing relationships between the parties, and not so much in the legal documentation.

So lets’s add in an Indigenous Law piece. It is the case of Big River First Nation and Agency Chiefs Tribal Council Inc. The case comes out of the Non-Profit Sector, but gets at the same question as above: what happens when group A tries to remove someone from group B as a director?

What makes the case doubly interesting is that the Judge here refers not only to Canadian law (working with Saskatchewan law dealing with non-profit corporations), but also to Cree law.

Click on the link below for an 8 minute video I prepared about this case for students in my 2020 version of Law 315: Business Associations

https://echo360.ca/media/e28ce6f9-fbc4-4a5e-9a33-69e6d9e5d7e2/public

If you need a bit more backstory on the legal pieces before jumping into the ‘classrooom link’, here are a few more resources. First, here is a summary of the case from CanLII.

https://canliiconnects.org/fr/r%C3%A9sum%C3%A9/73312

Here is a blogpost about the case by (former law student) Miny Atwal.

https://indigenouseconomies.wixsite.com/main/post/big-river-first-nation-v-agency-of-chiefs-tribal-council-inc-2020-skqb-273

The link below will connect to a PDF version of some of my annotations on the case.

I will be so very interested to hear what others make of the case, and how these two stories together might facilitate some of the important conversations we need as we begin struggling towards ways of working through the complicated business of problem solving!

“Where Happiness Dwells: A History of the Dane-Zaa First Nations” (a video summary)

For the last several years, UVic Law has run a summer intensive course in Indigenous Law Research, Method and Practice. Each year, the course has been situated in the context of a different legal order. In past summers, different cohorts have engaged with Tsilqot’in, Secwepemc, Cree, and Gitxsan law. This summer, the students are engaging with Dane-zaa Law, and are reading the book Where Happiness Dwells as a primer and introduction.

Written by embedded anthropologists Robin Ridington & Gillian Riddington in collaboration with Elders of the Dane-zaa First Nations, this book is, as promised, “A History of the Dane-zaa First Nation.” The book draws on multiple voices, sources, resources, modes of engagement and forms of encounter.

I first saw this book when it was published in 2013 (when Val Napoleon suggested that I read it). At the time, I recall a set of mixed feelings in response. I was very impressed, but also a bit overwhelmed. It was, in many ways, my first exposure to a book of this sort.

By ‘of this sort’, I mean a truly comprehensive engagement with a specific Indigenous legal order, written from within that legal order, and with attention to language, gender, kinship, cosmology, spirituality, economy, politics, dispute resolution, conflicts, inter-societal engagement and more

By 2017, two more books of this kind had been published: Neil Sterritt’s, Mapping My Way Home: A Gitxsan History, and Ron Ignace and Marianne Ignace’s, Secwépemc People, Land and Laws. All three of these books belong of the bookshelf of every person living in British Columbia.

But back in 2013, with Where Happiness Dwells, I was having my first exposure to such a rich and layered text. Just about everything in the book carried some level of unfamiliarity to me (not surprising since histories such as these were certainly not part of Canadian history as taught in the educational curriculum of my secondary schooling). As I said, it felt a bit overwhelming.

Really great books are, I sometimes think, a bit like places: the more you visit with them, the more you come to see and love in them. And this book is a great book! I should thus not have been surprised at how much I have enjoyed returning to this book eight years later for a second engagement.

Now, it may simply be the case that when one has to teach with a book, one reads it with quite different eyes. Certainly, knowing that I was slotted to teach this course (with Val Napoleon and Hadley Friedland) did incentivize the reading.

Certainly, I can affirm that when reading it the second time, my pens were marking and highlighting up the text in ways that might give a librarian a stomach ache.

But there is more. I found myself appreciating how the book encourages one to think about the business of teaching and learning and Indigenous Laws, and the place of stories and storytelling in that teaching. It also invited reflection on the work of both telling and listening to stories.

I appreciated, for example, how the book not only provided multiple versions of the same origin story by Charlie Yahey, but also shared his insights about how to work with and understand such stories.

I also loved the opportunity to look more closely at stories themselves, and different genres of story telling. So too, a gift to be able to read about intersociety collaborations and conflicts through from the early days of the fur trade through to the present. It was also a gift to have men, women and children all appear in the stories and story telling.

These extensive interactions with story, song, dream and conflict also left me wondering about not only about the work I might do in the classroom, but also about my engagements with my young ‘niblings’ (Gillian Calder’s gender neutral term for ‘nieces and nephews). It got me thinking about the ways all of us (at home, with friends, in our social networks) talk to each other about laws and their place in our lives and conversations.

In the clip below, I share (with students from the summer course) some ideas about the structure of the book, and the gift of each chapter.

Rebecca gives a summary of the book