Mitchell v. Minister of National Revenue, 2001 SCC 33.
The Hutchins Legal team represented Grand Chief Michael Kanentakeron Mitchell, a Mohawk of Akwesasne, in a suit against the Minister of National Revenue for the recognition of the Mohawks of Akwesasne’s right to bring goods across the Canada-US border for the purposes of trade.
At trial, the Federal Court of Canada determined that there was an aboriginal right to trade and bring goods across the Canada-US border without paying duty on those goods. This decision was further upheld by the Federal Court of Appeal.
Despite the vast historical and oral history evidence submitted at trial, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal and concluded that Chief Mitchell had in fact not established an ancestral practice of transporting goods across the St. Lawrence River for the purposes of trade.
In the years following that decision, however, the Mitchell case has become a leading case, cited on numerous occasions at all levels. The Supreme Court upheld the principle of the flexible adaptation of the traditional rules of evidence in aboriginal claims and in particular for the accommodation and admissibility of oral history as evidence, so long as the oral histories in question are both useful, in either providing evidence not otherwise available or in providing the aboriginal perspective on the right claimed and that the evidence is reasonably reliable.