Specific Claims

Specific claims deal with First Nation grievances against the Crown and arise where Canada is deemed to have failed to meet its obligations under treaties or other agreements, or in how it has managed First Nation funds or assets.

In the modern era, Canada’s approach to specific claims has been widely criticized as being unfair, costly, time-consuming, unresponsive and, ultimately, unjust. In 1984, responding to First Nation concerns, Canada introduced Outstanding Business: A Native Claims Policy – Specific Claims, but this new approach did little to solve the backlog of unresolved claims, or to make the process more efficient for First Nations. In 2007, following recommendations from a number of parties – including the federal Senate, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP), and the AFN – Canada introduced Justice At Last: A Specific Claims Action Plan. The most significant reform under Justice at Last was the establishment of the Specific Claims Tribunal of Canada. This tribunal is now staffed with independent judges who have the power to make binding decisions on specific claims and award compensation up to $150 million.

Despite several key changes on how specific claims were to be handled, Canada’s approach to specific claims remains adversarial. The process continues to be time consuming and costly, and diminishing funding for claims research has made it extremely difficult for these claims to be advanced by First Nations in a fair and balanced manner.  

Finally, the Specific Claims Tribunal passed its five year anniversary in 2013 and the legislation establishing the Tribunal will be subject to a formal five year review in 2014-15. Several favorable rulings seem to suggest that the Tribunal continues to hold potential as an important mechanism for First Nations’ justice in Canada.

As mandated by numerous resolutions (resolutions: 50/2007, 82/2008, 15/2010, 24/2010, 79/2012, 2/2013, 31/2013), the AFN will continue to fulfill its role in this area by advocating for the just reconciliation of First Nation specific claims. The Chiefs Committee on Claims is a body established in the early 1990s that continues to provide the political oversight for this work. 

 

Assembly of First Nations