Memorandum of Understanding for a Fiscal Relationship Working Group
On July 13th, at the Annual General Assembly in Niagara Falls, Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Bellegarde and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) Minister Bennett signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the work required to establish a new fiscal relationship.
The AFN’s 2015 “Closing the Gap” priorities document called for lifting the 2% cap on annual funding increases to First Nations and the establishment of a new fiscal relationship with the Government of Canada, including new fiscal transfer arrangements with equitable escalators for ongoing funding. In response to the AFN’s advocacy, the Prime Minister made this an important part of his mandate letters to Ministers Bennett (INAC) and Morneau (Finance). At the AFN Special Chiefs Assembly in December, 2015, the Prime Minister again committed to lifting the 2% cap and stated that, “It’s time for a new fiscal relationship with First Nations that gives your communities sufficient, predictable and sustained funding. This is a promise we made, and a promise we will keep.”
The first step towards this goal is carrying out the necessary technical work. A joint technical working group will be established under the MOU to prepare recommendations and options for the consideration of First Nations leadership and by Canada. The technical working group on fiscal relations is expected to report back to the Minister, the National Chief and Executive by December 31, 2017. A Chiefs Committee on Fiscal Relations also will be established to provide oversight and direction to the AFN representatives on the technical working group.
The recommendations arising from this work will be presented again to Chiefs-in-Assembly for review, discussion and direction before any further steps are taken. As stated in the MOU, it “is not intended to impede or replace any existing initiatives or processes of any First Nation” and “shall not diminish, derogate, abrogate or infringe any existing aboriginal, treaty, legal, inherent or any other rights of First Nations.”
Summary of Oral and Written Contributions Recommendations Received by the Expert Panel
The Expert Panel would like to reiterate their gratitude to all contributors for their outstanding work in this review process. The following recommendations are drawn from the oral and written contributions received by the Expert Panel, and thus the Expert Panel holds no authorship of these recommendations. Please note that for brevity purposes, and given that some recommendations overlap, this is not an exhaustive list of all recommendations received. Similarly, although the sense of frustration with the overall process is present in all contributions, there is some variety on the proposed courses of actions.
What we need is an attitude shift on the part of Canada. A shift from “we have to win this claim” to “we have to resolve this claim.” That attitude shift will have ripple effects. The parties will be able to focus on the real issues engaged in each claim, and hopefully won’t be side-tracked by approaches that try to obfuscate the issues or delay the hearing.
Claims Research and Processing
Eliminate submission of claim and early review process by Specific Claims Branch:
A claim can be commenced in same way as a court action by filing a Declaration of Claim
Upon completion of document production, expert reports, and oral history (if any), the Tribunal can encourage the parties to consider settlement based on a risk assessment prepared by each of the parties – not legal opinion by one party that is viewed as if it were the equivalent of Supreme Court judgment
In the case of litigation, 95% of all civil actions are resolved prior to trial – only 5% are adjudicated
If a mediation body were established, they could offer mediation or facilitation prior to hearing by the Tribunal
Eliminate the Transitional Rules
An independent Specific Claims funding allocation body should be established to more fairly allocate claims research contribution funding, claims negotiation loan funding and SCT funding.
Outstanding Business (as it then was) and now Justice at Last is a program of government. Its funding comes upon allotment of funds based upon the defendant’s (Canada is a defendant in each and every specific claim) own estimation of the needs of the program. This is hardly fair. The legislation should be amended to create an arm’s length funding mechanism through the Tribunal.
A minimum, funding for the research and development of claims should be returned to the 2013/14 levels. If workloads have decreased in some part of the Specific Claims Branch, money could be moved from there to fund First Nations participation in the process.
If the federal government is serious about outstanding historic grievances being resolved through the specific claims and Tribunal process then significant attention needs to be paid to adequate funding of both. Thus, the limited funding available for the submission and negotiation of claims should not be the source of funding for Tribunal proceedings as well, which appears to be the case. The small funding pie set aside for dealing with specific claims under the Policy should not be sliced up to fund proceedings and operations of the Tribunal as well. Separate and adequate funding needs to be provided for both.
In order to ensure a fair and balanced process of claim development and submission, Canada must either ensure adequate funding is available for research and development, or adopt a more flexible approach to the negotiation of claims that recognizes that the development of claims is a limited process. Further exploration of the facts of the claim and the potential losses will required at the negotiation stage.
Specific Claims Branch (SCB) should have regional offices with the ability to develop regional policies.
There should be a collaborative research process with Canada once a claim has been accepted after preliminary review.
First Nations and their representatives should be aware of who has carriage of their claim at the assessment stage. In addition, there should be an opportunity for the First Nation to engage in a discussion with the officials who are assessing their claim. First Nations should be given the opportunity to clarify any facts or argument made in the submission, prior to a rejection by Canada.
Rather than using minimum standards as a means to reject a claim, Canada needs to just use common sense in how it applies the minimum standards. As the Courts have repeatedly told Canada, the objective of Crown-Aboriginal negotiations is reconciliation. A rigid and narrow approach to the ‘minimum standards’ is directly contrary to the goal of reconciliation.
The development and interpretation of minimum standards in the filing of a claim. The Act requires the Minister to develop the standards but it was left for this development to occur outside of the Act. The Act should be amended to bring oversight to the reform (if necessary) and interpretation of these standards.
The Tribunal should be given the mandate to exercise some supervisory or monitoring role over the determination of whether a reasonable minimum standard has been met for a claim to be filed with the Minister. After all, these are the very claim submissions and supporting documents that might be later brought before them for a determination on the merits of a claim.
The SCTA should be amended to eliminate restrictions on the types of claims — Any historical breaches of the Crown’s lawful obligations to First Nations should be eligible.
Canada no longer discloses its historic report and legal analysis, which hampers the ability of a First Nation to assess Canada’s acceptance or rejection of a claim for negotiation. Canada must make this information available.
Canada should provide additional details about the basis for rejection or partial acceptance. If unwilling to do this in writing, Canada should be prepared to attend a single day meeting to explain its decision to the First Nation. The First Nation has fully disclosed its positions by virtue of the claim submission, it is only fair and reasonable that Canada be equally forthcoming in its rejection and partial acceptances.
Acceptance of a claim should not require relinquishing other associated claims.
The acceptance/partial acceptance of a claim should not be used as a means to devalue claims at the outset. Canada should not impose qualifiers on how an accepted allegation will valued. How an accepted allegation is valued is matter of negotiation between parties.
Any recent letters from the Minister accepting claims for negotiation have a clear focus on potential litigation with an eye on Tribunal proceedings. Letters now come not only “without prejudice” but with clear notice that if negotiations fail the acceptance letter cannot be used before the Tribunal. The explanation is that the letter is protected by settlement privilege. Two of the pre-conditions for filing with the Tribunal are evidence under s.16 of the Act that the Minister has either notified the First Nation in writing that his decision is not to negotiate a claim or three years have elapsed from the time the Minister has notified the First Nation of his decision to negotiate a claim. It should be made clear in the Act that a copy of the Minister’s letter is one of the pre-conditions for filing with the Tribunal.
The three year period or any revised period, particularly on complex claims, should not be the be all and end all of the Department’s consideration. If the Minister is close to a decision on whether or not to accept a claim for negotiation, the parties should be able to agree to extend the time period before consideration of whether to proceed to the Tribunal.
Negotiation, Mediation and Settlement
First Nations require reasonable funding in order for there to be a level playing flied. Canada must reconsider its present funding models in order for First Nations to negotiate their claims properly.
The loan funding for negotiations should be determined based on the work plan agreed to by the First Nation and the Federal negotiator, and that there be no maximum amount but rather funding be based on the complexity of the claim and amount of work required to reach a settlement.
S. 16(c) and (d) [of the SCTA] should be amended to permit the First Nation recourse to the Tribunal, in the course of negotiating the claim, period, without regard to a three year lapse. This time period was never intended to be a finish line or a trigger to terminate negotiations. It was intended to be a bell weather. It’s being interpreted in a punitive way by SCB – for this reason, remove any reference to time. Its impasse during negotiation not time that should drive recourse to the Tribunal – as well, what Canada has accepted for negotiation should continue to bind the Crown – referral during the course of negotiation is not a matter of re-opening the question of liability.
Canada must return to a reasonable process of negotiation, where the timeframe for completion of claim is determined by the complexity of the claim and the issues that arise. A claim negotiation should be completed only when both parties are confident all issues have been addressed and both parties have had the opportunity to present their positions.
Canada must return to a process whereby loses caused by Canada’s breach, are jointly determined on the basis of proper evidence, expert third party advice, and an actual negotiation process.
If the federal government is serious about resolving specific claims through meaningful and good faith negotiations it has to give its federal negotiators flexible mandates, adequate resources to federal and First Nation negotiators to meet at the negotiation table and conditions under which both parties can engage in effective negotiations without an eye on potential litigation.
Negotiations should be modeled on Interest Based Negotiations – meaning that the parties should be looking to address interests, rather than positions. To this end, in the letters to the First Nation responding to the submission, Canada should not be asking the First Nation to accept certain positions by Canada as a precondition to entering negotiations.
First Nations must be provided an opportunity to fully explore the losses they have suffered and to retain independent expert advice on the losses suffered. Jointly commissioned loss of use studies are integral to this process. Unilateral valuations based on thin evidence are not appropriate in the just and reasonable settlement of claims.
Canada must end the practice of trying to categorize claims based on a value, determined prior to actual negotiations occurring. The ultimate settlement value of a claim should be determined through negotiations, and just because a claim may have a smaller value does not mean it is necessarily less complex.
Adequate resources should be made available so that Federal negotiators can meet on a regular basis with First Nations, to try to achieve negotiated settlements. This may be accomplished by reducing staff within the Specific Claims Branch, and move the savings to operations.
Negotiations must be culturally appropriate and take into consideration the need for dialogue and victim impact reconciliation.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) have set up a roster of mediators or mediation services but this process has not been utilized. When some First Nations actually approached the Department to access this service, there was surprise and uncertainty as to how, if at all, to proceed. Any mediation services, as a valuable claims resolution tool, should be made available but independent from the Department and independently funded.
Mediators should be housed in an independent body or on an arm’s length roster. Access to mediation must include a positive obligation to engage in that process when requested. Perhaps mediation should be mandatory after a certain period of time has passed. Allowing Canada to unilaterally control when mediation is appropriate undermines neutrality of the process, and the value a mediator may bring.
In order to ensure there is no perception of bias, Canada re-engage with the AFN and First Nations’ organizations to develop a centre for mediation that is housed outside of the Government of Canada.
Canada should be exploring ways to streamline their internal processes, from the time an informal settlement has been reached at the negotiation table, to the time the Federal negotiator is given the mandate to make a formal written offer.
Preparation of the Settlement Agreement must be a joint process. The Settlement Agreement must represent the agreement between the parties and is not well suited to a “one size fits all” approach. A negotiated agreement must by its very nature be the result of a give and take process. Thus, it should not be open to either party to impose terms of settlement on the other. Settlement Agreements must reflect the terms agreed by the parties.
First Nations must have the right to invoke SCT intervention without Canada’s consent.
Mandate, Function and Act
Adequate resources should be made available for First Nations and the Tribunal throughout the process.
Claims must well researched and documented in order to reach the Tribunal. Because research and tribunal funding come from the same pot, funding for First Nations to bring their claims to the Tribunal will have a direct, adverse effect on research funding. In fact, First Nations’ Tribunal funding will be at the expense of research and development funding in a cycle of diminishing returns: the more claims that the Tribunal is forced to hear because Canada will not resolve claims through negotiations, the less money there is to conduct the research necessary to advance claims to the Tribunal. Tus, the Tribunal’s and claim research funding MUST come from different adequately funded pots. It is fundamentally unjust to compromise funding at one end of the process “in favour” of another equally important stage.
There should be a continued investment in the Specific Claims Tribunal.
Keep claims in the community. The Tribunal should view the lands at issue in the claim, and hear from the people. This is part of the distinctive task of adjudicating claims in a just manner, and is important not only for the Tribunal, but also for the community.
Ensure claims are heard in a timely way. It’s possible to begin the evidentiary portion of the hearing within a year of filing a declaration of claim.
The Tribunal should not be restricted regarding damages to those claimed in the original specific claim.
Canada should not be defending on the basis that First Nations in the “wards of the state” era should have sued private third parties.
The Tribunal should not be a forum for Canada to in effect advance third party claims against absent provinces.
Canada should not be attempting to fix a general onus of proof burden on First Nations before the Tribunal.
The Tribunal should not be led to presume that a “no costs” regime is appropriate because funding is available to First Nations.
The no compensation for “loss of a cultural or spiritual nature” provision in s. 20(1)(e) of the Act should be addressed.
Don’t throw away all the work that has come before, use it, like Williams Lake did. For example, documents that were provided to the Minister when a claim is first submitted, that were collected by the Specific Claims Branch, and that were before the Indian Specific Claims Commission should be put before the Tribunal as well.
The Tribunal’s jurisdiction to hear claims should line up with Canada’s long-standing specific claims policy, and should not be narrower.
Parties should be encouraged to keep the goal of reconciliation in mind throughout the Tribunal’s processes. We should look for opportunities to come together, to negotiate in good faith, not take paths that pull us further and further apart.
The Tribunal should be empowered to develop a body of law that will help with the resolution of all claims.
The SCTA should have the authority to hear claims before three years have elapsed if Canada has been stalling or impeding negotiations.
Tribunal is intended to and must be used to inform the negotiation tables. Tribunal decisions need to be respected and implemented. They need to be binding on Canada. Canada should not be arguing that factual differences between claims mean that the legal principles articulated have no application.
Building on the work of the Tribunal, First Nations should be able to request that their closed or rejected files be re-viewed in light of Tribunal decisions. When asked, Canada should be compelled to engage in this second review that does not force First Nations to enter the claims review process from the beginning.
It should be made clear in the Act that the mandate of the Tribunal is to only hear claims rejected for negotiation or where negotiations have broken down on compensation or settlement issues. For the Crown to bring forward, directly or indirectly, the merits of allegations previously accepted for negotiation is not only bad faith but increases the time and costs of the Tribunal process. The Tribunal should have the mandate to review the question of whether a claim is properly before them based on whether it is rejected or not.
The fact that the Tribunal is to rule on the breaches of legal obligation and apply the compensation principles developed by the courts means that the Tribunal is applying the common law and general legal and equitable principles − that is, the same law that the Supreme Court of Canada has developed over years (Guerin, Wewaykum, Ross River, Manitoba Metis). There must be, and there is, consistency in adjudications by the Tribunal and the courts on matters dealing with the fiduciary relationship between the Crown and First Nations, and what that fiduciary duty entails.
The Tribunal’s decisions should serve as a precedent, not only to aid negotiations, but also to assist in resolving other claims before the Tribunal.
Appoint more judges to the Tribunal through a joint appointment process to ensure that the Tribunal is seen as fair and impartial by First Nations.
Have the Tribunal function under an independent administrative oversight committee and report to the House of Commons rather than the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.
If the jurisdiction and mandate of the Tribunal is to be expanded, then no question personnel and financial resources of the Tribunal will have to be increased. There is no point in considering the expansion of the Tribunal’s mandate if existing resources are insufficient for the Tribunal to even manage its current case load and administrative functions.
Proceedings before the Tribunal could be improved, by permitting a Tribunal member through Case Management, prior to any Hearing, to consider alternative ways of resolving the claim without further time and costs. This should be a required step in the process once, perhaps, the Common Book of Documents, Agreed Statement of Facts and Agreed Statement of Issues have been filed, preliminary motions have been completed and any Elders’ testimony has been disclosed, but before Arguments are presented and a Hearing is held. By this time the Case Management Judge would have a good handle on the evidence and issues at stake. All of this is subject to the willingness of the parties, particularly the Crown, to consider alternative ways of resolving the claim before a Hearing.
There appears to be no need to amend the legislation to bifurcate the two steps since the parties may agree it makes sense to deal with both the validation and compensation phases of the Hearing at the same time.
To set a standard methodology for determining historic losses would compromise the flexibility currently available to the Tribunal in determining those losses and would fail to take into account the variable historical circumstances that gave rise to these losses. Furthermore, determining the appropriate standard methodology to use in calculating historic losses would not likely be mutually agreed upon.
Specific claims cannot be decided from a desk in Ottawa. That was one of the fundamental wrongs of the prior processes. So the idea that we see floated in Canada’s engagement paper for this 5-year review of conducting “paper hearings” is, in our view, the wrong way to go for the vast majority of claims. Furthermore, any proposal to create of “expedited processes” is met with suspicion since these processes have almost always resulted in lack of justice since Justice at Last has been implemented.
Ultimately, the Tribunal must have flexibility so that it can hear from each distinct First Nation, advancing its own distinct specific claim, in a manner that respects their uniqueness and their choices.
The Tribunal should be able to award non-pecuniary damages for breaches of solemn and sacred Treaty promises where the honour of the Crown is at stake.
The use of document disclosure, or expert reports, or last minute theories as tactic to delay having claims heard, must be prohibited.
The SCTA should be amended to explicitly allow the introduction of new evidence not included in the original claim submission that does not substantially change the nature of the claim.
The Tribunal should have the authority to reduce or eliminate outstanding negotiation loans incurred as a result of Federal foot-dragging, policy flip-flops or bad faith during negotiations.
The SCTA should be amended to allow for a process to engage with provinces and municipalities in the settlement of land claims.
The Tribunal should have responsibility over claims submission, processing, funding allocation and negotiation procedures as a neutral third party.
We don’t want to see the Tribunal’s processes come more and more under the purview of the federal government. On review of the Minister’s Engagement paper, we are deeply concerned that Canada is contemplating increasing the administrative duties of the Tribunal (eg SCT administering Research Funding, claims being filed with Tribunal directly) while simultaneously undermining its independence and authority by having those administrative duties managed by the new Umbrella Tribunal Support Service instead of an independent Tribunal registry. Thus, we urge that there be commitments to ensure the Tribunal’s institutional independence and restore an independent registry.
The First Nation should not bear the financial burden of having to address a judicial review application before the Federal Court of Appeal brought by the Crown. The Crown has the financial resources for such an application but the First Nation is faced with finding its own source of funding for proceedings over which it has no choice.
Judicial review applications brought by a First Nation arising from factual or legal errors in a Tribunal decision should also receive funding. There is no reason why a First Nation should not have the financial resources that the Crown does to pursue an application.
General Recommendations and Other Issues
Canada’s Laws and Policies in regard to specific claims have to be brought in line with international human and indigenous rights standards.
Reconciliation will require a considerable demonstration of trustworthiness on the part of Canada and a considerable leap of faith on the part of First Nations. What might help to facilitate this is some sort of oversight mechanism. For example, perhaps we need a watchdog to review how the parties are meeting the goals of reconciliation both in their negotiations and their work before the Tribunal.
Addressing Specific Claims is not a program as it has been characterized by Canada; instead, it is about promoting access to justice and the fair and expeditious resolution of claims.
The resolution of Specific Claims should be supported by government as settlements provide First Nations with compensation for investment into improving the socio-economic conditions of their membership.
We note that the greater the claim the greater the injustice and hence the need to address mega claims in an immediate and wholesome manner.
Canada should re-engage with the AFN and First Nations’ organizations to develop a process to address claims over $150 million, which are currently outside the jurisdiction of the Tribunal.
If the tribunal and the federal government are unable to address our specific claim, the area should immediately be declared Aboriginal Title land since it was set aside for the exclusive use of our people.
Amend the definition of “specific claim”:
Should be broad terminology based on a breach or non-fulfilment of an obligation under statute, common law or equity (ie fiduciary obligation) that permits ongoing development of difficult areas of law
Can expressly eliminate certain classes of claims such as comprehensive claims based on the limited remedies that can be granted by the Tribunal
For example, just because a BC First Nation is asserting a claim for compensation based on a breach of fiduciary duty for the alienation of lands that were part of a village site doesn’t make the claim one based on “unextinguished Aboriginal rights or title” – this language was intended to distinguish specific claims from comprehensive claims which required the negotiation of modern day treaties.
Now that we have an independent Tribunal, there must also be an independent entity to represent the Crown.
Kathleen Lickers, Barrister & Solicitor
Six Nations, Ontario
No presentation available
Jayme Benson, Specific Claims Director
Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN)
The State of Claims newsletter is published twice a year by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN). The newsletter provides a new forum for ongoing information and updates about specific claims related issues across the country, including tribunal decisions, useful resources, expert advice, and planning for the upcoming five-year legislative review.
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Comprehensive land claims, sometimes referred to as modern treaties, arise when First Nation 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.
As a modern policy approach, the federal Comprehensive Claims Policy (CCP) dates back to the 1973 Statement on the Claims of Indian and Inuit People. This Policy was drafted in response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Calder. The Calder decision made it clear that First Nations are the title holders to their traditional territories and that this title is a burden on Crown sovereignty. In 1981/82 Canada divided the claims policy into two separate policies: Outstanding Business(Specific Claims), and In All Fairness (Comprehensive Claims). Several reviews followed, but the last formal policy revision was released by Canada in 1993.
Despite significant advances in Canadian jurisprudence (in particular, the Supreme Court of Canada’s decisions in Delgamuukw, Haidaand Tsilhqot’in) and in international law (the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), Canada has been unwilling to issue an updated policy that meaningfully reflects these substantive and significant changes that have taken place since the early 1990s. In reviewing what has been said by First Nations about the CCP, it is clear that there are significant issues with the current policy.
Some of the more common issues include:
The CCP is Canada’s policy, not a First Nation policy. It has been imposed unilaterally by one partner and does not represent common agreement on objectives or content.
Canada continues to hold extinguishment as it a central policy objective – whether this is expressed explicitly or otherwise. This is in opposition to the recognition and affirmation of Aboriginal and treaty rights in the Constitution Act, 1982.
The CCP encourages division between and among nations with its so-called “results based” approach.
The rights of third-parties and corporations receive more recognition than prior Aboriginal rights and title.
In light of recent resolutions (10-2010, 58/2012, 71/2011) the AFN continues to advocate for substantive reforms to the CCP based on the development of a broad recognition and reconciliation framework.
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.
Resolutions: Specific Claims Tribunal Act (50/2007), Endorsement of the Think Tank Principles for Large Specific Claims (82-2008), Role of Judges and Appointments to the Specific Claims Tribunal (15-2010), Using Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) to Settle Outstanding Specific Claims (24-2010), Implementation of the Specific Claims Political Agreement of 2007 (79-2012), Support for Kitselas First Nation and for the Union of BC Indian Chiefs in their Joint Application to Intervene in the Judicial Review of the Kitselas Specific Claims Tribunal Decision (2-2013), Specific Claims Funding (31-2013)
Additions to Reserves (ATR) refer to the process of converting Crown / fee-simple lands to reserve status. Reserve lands are lands set aside by the federal Crown for the collective use of a respective First Nation. Unique in this regard is that fact that a First Nation (an Indian Band in this case) has the ability to exercise some jurisdiction over lands defined as reserve.
Under the current ATR policy, adding lands to the reserve base is extremely time consuming and inefficient. It often takes decades to complete even a small ATR, and there is currently no guarantee that completing the process will result in a final approval by Canada. This creates an untenable situation for First Nations as they are unable to move at the speed of business and take advantage of needed economic and social development opportunities. Simply put, a new ATR policy, one that is responsive to First Nation needs, is imperative.
Several resolutions (link to resolutions: 69-2007, 09-2010, 14-2011, 70-2011, 26-2012) have been passed by the Chiefs-in-Assembly mandating the AFN to review Canada’s ATR policy.
Accordingly, in 2009 the AFN agreed to work with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern development Canada (AANDC) to jointly review the existing ATR policy and process. A technical Joint Working Group (JWG) was formed and has been exploring policy, process and legislative options to improve the conversion of land to reserve status in all parts of Canada. The CCoC has actively reviewed the work of the JWG and continues to provide critical political direction in this regard.
In 2013 Canada released a draft ATR policy for public comment and review. A final policy is set to be released by the federal government some time in 2014.