Specific Claims

Specific Claims Policy Reform

Specific claims deal with First Nations 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 Nations funds and assets.

In 2007 Canada introduced Justice at Last: A Specific Claims Action Plan (JAL). A key component of JAL was the Specific Claims Tribunal Act (SCTA) which came into force in October 2008. The Tribunal provides First Nations claimants dissatisfied with Canada’s response to their claims access to an impartial, binding decision making body.

A key component of JAL was a five-year review of the SCTA. The review was unilaterally undertaken by Canada in 2010. Working with the Chiefs Committee on Claims (CCoC), the AFN carried out significant advocacy to ensure First Nation perspectives were represented.  The review was finalized in 2014, but former federal Minister Valcourt refused to release it.

In 2016 the new federal Liberal government made the review public, and tabled a Minister’s report to Parliament acknowledging First Nations’ concerns and committing Canada to work with the AFN to develop recommendations for change.

In fall 2016, following the Minister’s report, the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) released an audit of the specific claims process. The audit found that Canada had failed to adequately implement JAL and included 10 recommendations for change. Canada accepted the OAG recommendations and again committed to working with First Nations and the AFN to address the specific claims process.

These commitments resulted in the development of an AFN-Canada Joint Technical Working Group (JTWG) mandated with examining Canada’s specific claims process and developing recommendations for change. The JTWG began meeting in November 2016, and has met regularly since then. The JTWG is made up of AFN policy staff, First Nations technical experts from across Canada, and INAC officials.

In 2017, the Chiefs-in-Assembly passed AFN Resolution 91-2017, Support for a Fully Independent Specific Claims Process, calling on Canada to work in equal partnership with the AFN and First Nations to develop a ‘fully’ independent process with “the goal of achieving the just resolution of Canada’s outstanding lawful obligations through good faith negotiations.”

The AFN held a series of dialogue sessions with First Nations in the fall of 2019 to seek input on what a fully independent specific claims process should look like. These sessions and the input collected, along with written submissions from several First Nations, helped to inform the development of a Draft Summary Report. Following the release of the Draft Summary Report, the AFN developed a Draft Specific Claims Reform Proposal to guide the reform the specific claims process. For more information on the Draft Specific Claims Reform Proposal, please visit the AFN Specific Claims Policy Reform Page.


Treaty-making processes of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries were undertaken in the spirit of peaceful co-existence and mutual respect by First Nations with the Crown. However, the Crown has failed to fully recognize or respect First Nation rights and title, and instead, with legislation such as the Indian Act, undermined  the Treaty relationship. It is critical that First Nations understandings about the nature of Treaties, the significance of the Treaty-making processes and the spirit and intent of Treaties be respected and placed at the centre of a renewed nation-to-nation relationship.

The AFN has participated in numerous Treaty initiatives over the years to assist First Nations Treaty rights holders define shared Treaty implementation priorities and strategies. The AFN national strategy on Treaties is guided by resolution 07/2010, “Sacred Treaties – Sacred Trust: Working Together for Treaty Implementation and Advancing our Sovereignty as Nations”. This resolution calls on AFN to support Treaty First Nations by coordinating the necessary dialogue and facilitating advocacy efforts led by each Treaty region.

The last attempt at the national level to move Treaty implementation efforts forward occurred in 2013 with the AFN – Canada Senior Oversite Committee (SOC) process.

While initially promising, the Chiefs-in-Assembly ultimately chose to withdraw from the SOC process due to a lack of clear federal mandates.

In 2016, the Chiefs-in-Assembly passed resolution 12/2016 which calls on Canada to work with First Nations to develop a comprehensive consultation process that clearly defines the nation-to-nation relationship and includes the full implementation of Treaty rights.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has stated that no relationship is more important than the one with Indigenous peoples, and has committed to seeking reconciliation through a renewed nation-to-nation relationship based on the recognition of rights. For many First Nations the nation-to-nation relationship finds meaning, and is defined, by Treaties.

The AFN will continue to look for opportunities to support Treaty implementation initiatives that are defined and driven by Treaty rights holders and Treaty regions, and guided by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Comprehensive Claims

Comprehensive land claims, sometimes referred to as modern Treaties, arise when First Nations rights and title have not been dealt with by Treaty or through other legal means. In areas where this has occurred, comprehensive land claim and self-government agreements can be jointly negotiated between a First Nation and Canada and, where applicable, provincial and territorial governments.

The reform of Canada’s Comprehensive Claims Policy (CCP) has been a long-standing focal point for AFN advocacy. The policy is completely out of step with significant advancements in the courts (e.g., the Tsilhqot’in Nation decision).

From 2014 to 2016, Canada chose not to engage the AFN on any CCP policy reform initiatives and, instead, led a one-sided federal engagement process focused on “renewing” the CCP. This process failed to reference relevant jurisprudence, developments in international human rights law, or even Canada’s own endorsement of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

With the election of the federal government in 2015, broad commitments have been made to move forward with First Nations on a nation-to-nation basis, and to fully implement the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This is a positive signal that suggests a willingness to work with First Nations to develop a new approach to addressing Indigenous title and rights issues. AFN will look for opportunities to carry out advocacy to advance an effective CCP reform agenda.

Additions to Reserve

When land is added to an existing reserve or when a new reserve is created, it is called an Addition to Reserve. The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is advocating for reform to the current federal Additions to Reserve (ATR) policy and process, which are hindered by persistent delays and a growing backlog of applications.

The AFN is currently advocating for an overhaul to the existing ATR policy/process consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The process of adding lands to reserve needs to be driven by First Nations and their priorities.

For more information about the current reform process, please visit the AFN ATR Microsite.

ATR website

Lands and Claims Staff

William David
Director of Lands and Territories

Aaron Asselstine
Associate Director

Christine Shawana
Policy Analyst

Dan Sarazin
Senior Policy Analyst

Jesse Donovan
Policy Analyst

Tash Cote
Administrative Support

Angie TurnerLands and Claims