Frequently Asked Questions
What are specific claims?
Specific claims deal with the past grievances of First Nations. These grievances relate to Canada's obligations under historic treaties or the way it managed First Nation funds or assets. For example, a specific claim could involve the failure to provide enough reserve land as promised in a historic treaty or the improper handling of First Nation money by the Crown.
How are these claims dealt with?
The Government of Canada has a policy and process in place for resolving specific claims through negotiations. It is important to note that this process is optional for First Nations. It provides First Nations with an alternative to going to court to resolve their claims. Read the Specific Claims Policy.
What are the general steps in this process?
The first step is for the First Nation to submit its claim to Canada. The claim is accepted into the process if it meets the Minimum Standard for claim submissions and falls within the scope of the Specific Claims Policy. Canada then assesses the historical and legal facts of the claim to determine whether or not to accept a claim for negotiation. If an outstanding lawful obligation is found and damages are owed, Canada offers to negotiate a settlement with the First Nation. Negotiations take place to determine what compensation would be fair to resolve the claim. The parties work together to reach a final settlement. Read the key definitions for more information about the specific claims process. Review a graph that shows the different steps in the process.
What are the key steps in the assessment stage?
When a claim is being assessed, this means that Canada is completing a historical and legal review of the facts of the claim to determine whether it owes a lawful obligation to the First Nation. This phase of the process has three steps:
- Step 1 – Research: The First Nation has submitted its claim to Canada and the claim meets the Minimum Standard for claim submissions. Canada is reviewing the historical research submitted by the First Nation to support its claim.
- Step 2 – Department of Justice preparing legal opinion: At this stage, the claim is with the Department of Justice where a legal analysis is conducted to determine whether there is an outstanding lawful obligation to the First Nation.
- Step 3 – Legal opinion signed: The Department of Justice has completed its legal analysis of the claim, which is being reviewed by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada; a decision is pending from Canada on whether to accept the claim for negotiation.
What is the difference between active and inactive negotiations?
Within the negotiation phase of the process, a claim is either actively in negotiation or it is inactive:
- Active: Canada and the First Nation are currently working together through negotiations to determine what compensation would be fair to resolve the claim.
- Inactive: This usually means that Canada is awaiting a response from the First Nation on the federal offer to negotiate the claim.
What does the term "file closure" mean?
Files can be closed and removed from the claims inventory for a variety of reasons:
- the claim did not fall within the scope of the Specific Claims Policy
- the First Nation decided to withdraw its claim
- the First Nation did not accept or respond to a settlement offer to resolve the claim.
- the claim was referred for administrative remedy (for example, it could have been dealt with through the Additions to Reserves Process).
What is the difference between "settled" and "concluded" claims?
Settled claims have been resolved through a negotiated settlement between the First Nation and Canada, and where applicable, the relevant provincial or territorial government. Once the settlement is signed by the parties, implementation proceeds, including the payment of compensation.
Concluded claims consist of settled claims as well as claims that have been dealt with in ways other than a negotiated settlement. Claims also fall into this category when Canada has not accepted a claim for negotiation and the First Nation has taken no further action on the claim, or in the case of file closures.
What is the government’s approval process for specific claim settlements?
Once negotiators for Canada and a First Nation have concluded talks on a proposed settlement, the next step in the process is ratification by the First Nation. The proposed settlement must also be approved by the Government of Canada before it can be finalized.
The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development can now finalize negotiated financial settlements valued at up to $50 million.
Negotiated specific claim settlements valued at between $50 million and $150 million require approval by Treasury Board before they can be signed by the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
Regardless of their size, all land-related claim settlements require approval by the Governor-in-Council before they can be finalized.
Where have claims been settled in Canada since 1973?
Explore this interactive map.
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