IACHR Case 12.929
Loni Edmonds vs. Canada

IACHR Admits Petition Loni Edmonds 879-07
Like most indigenous nations in BC, the Lil’wat do not have a treaty with Canada, and
have consistently asserted their right to self-determination as a free and independent

unilaterally imposed its jurisdiction upon the Lil’wat through Canadian legislation (The
Indian Act) as well as a system of band councils which it recognized as indigenous
governing authorities instead of the traditional leadership. Via this instrumentation,
Canada has exercised de facto jurisdiction over indigenous children and families,
leading to its intensive scrutinization of indigenous parents, disproportionate child
seizure and (largely unscrutinized) foster care placement --  to strikingly deleterious

In this context, in 2007, the IHRAAM International Legal Clinic submitted a Petition to
the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on behalf of Lil'wat mother,
Loni Edmonds, in relation to the seizure of her children by the BC Ministry of Children
and Family Development (MCFD) and their placement in foster care.

IACHR is a principal and autonomous organ of the Organization of American States
(“OAS”) whose mission is to promote and protect human rights in the American
hemisphere. It is composed of seven independent members who serve in a personal
capacity. Created by the OAS in 1959, the Commission has its headquarters in
Washington, D.C. Together with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (“the Court”
or “the I/A Court H.R.), installed in 1979, the Commission is one of the institutions
within the inter-American system for the protection of human rights (“IAHRS”).

In its Petition to the IACHR, IHRAAM argued that because it was impossible to raise in
Canadian courts the jurisdictional issue of whether Canada had lawful jurisdiction
over Lil’wat families and children, and the right to make the policy, laws and
enforcement resulting therefrom, Ms. Edmonds could not get a fair trial in Canadian
courts. Not only could the jurisdiction issue not be raised due to the legal principle of
Nemo Potest Esse Simul Actor et Judex, but also the inability to do so had been
empirically proved over a history of actual attempts to raise it.   

In 2011 the IACHR advised that it had submitted the Edmonds Petition (Loni Edmonds
879-07) to Canada for its response.  When Canada responded several months later,
the IACHR requested, received and submitted IHRAAM’s Observations on the Canada
Response back to Canada;  Canada then again responded (twice), and on June 21,
2012, IHRAAM again submitted its Observations 2 to Canada’s second response.  On
July 30, 2012, Canada responded again, and, as requested by the IACHR, IHRAAM
submitted further Observations on the fourth Canada response.  On September 20th,
2012, the IACHR informed IHRAAM that these Observations had again been passed on
to Canada for its response and that Canada had been given one month to respond.
IHRAAM awaits further word of Canada's fifth response. By communication dated
January 23, 2014, the IACHR advised IHRAAM that it has admitted the case, forwarding
to IHRAAM its Report on Admissibility No. 89/13.

As a result of continuing MCFD actions, Loni Edmonds has not only lost her six
children, but also her place of residence, as she was viewed as no longer entitled to
the degree of housing support that she had enjoyed when living with her children.  
She has been effectively homeless since 2007 and living on a monthly stipend of
$235.  There is a waiting list of over 200 persons for single person residence on her
Reserve.  As she has no home, her homelessness remains a barrier in her long
struggle to regain custody of her children.

This case is extremely significant not just in relation to the well being of indigenous
children in Canada, who continue to be placed in Foster Care at nearly three times the
numbers of Residential School placements at their peak. It is germane to the issue of
investment and development in BC, insofar as corporations must decide whether they
will respect indigenous nations’ sovereignty, or continue to follow the practice of
Canada in signing resource-related agreements outside of legitimate treaty
settlements.  While BC and Canada have set in motion a number of processes and
mechanisms to try to resolve what is recognized as the “uncertainty” surrounding
Canada/BC’s legal title to land, resources and jurisdiction in British Columbia, their
success has been minimal. Even the Indian Act-empowered indigenous governments
have been reluctant to accede to the terms offered, which in the guise of “treaties”
appear to require extinguishment of indigenous sovereign rights and title.
An international NGO in consultative status with the United Nations
Tracey Robinson, IACHR Commissioner on
the Rights of Women (center) meets with
IHRAAM-IACHR petition instigator, James
Louie (left) and Loni Edmonds (right) at
the Renaissance Inn, Vancouver on
August 9th, 2013.
Press release: INTERNATIONAL
SPEAKING TOUR:  Petitioners, Loni Edmonds v.
November 19-24, 2014 the Petitioners will visit
five BC cities to speak about the LIl'wat case at the
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  View poster
with places and dates
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