Frequently Asked Questions About the Specific Claims Tribunal Act
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This document provides an overview of frequently asked questions from First Nation claimants about the Specific Claims Tribunal Act (the Act). Jointly developed with the Assembly of First Nations, the Act created an independent Tribunal with the power to make binding decisions on specific claims. Read more about Canada's overall action plan to speed up the resolution of specific claims.
Under what circumstances can a First Nation file a claim with the Tribunal? Subject to the conditions set out in the Specific Claims Tribunal Act, there are four scenarios in which a First Nation may opt to file a claim with the Tribunal:
if a claim has not been accepted for negotiation by Canada;
if Canada fails to advise the First Nation within three years of its claim having been filed with the Minister whether the claim will be accepted for negotiation;
at any stage in the negotiation process if all parties agree; or
if a settlement agreement has not been concluded after three years of negotiations.
Are there any restrictions on Tribunal decisions regarding compensation? Yes. The Tribunal cannot award compensation over $150 million per individual claim, nor can it award punitive damages, compensation for cultural or spiritual losses or non-financial compensation.
Do provinces have to participate? Participation in Tribunal proceedings by a province or territory is voluntary in all cases. If a province chooses not to participate, the Tribunal's decision can only deal with federal liability. However, if the province or territory chooses to participate in the Tribunal process, then it must become a party to the proceedings and certify in writing that it has taken the necessary steps to be bound by the Tribunal decision.
Can the Tribunal deal with claims related to land? Yes. The Tribunal can hear all varieties of specific claims, including land-related ones, but cannot award land as compensation. However, as with the approach in negotiations, First Nations could still use their compensation to purchase land on the open market on a willing-buyer/willing-seller basis.
What changes to the specific claims process did the Act bring about? The Act includes a requirement for all claim submissions to meet a Minimum Standard of information to process the claim. The Minimum Standard came into effect on October 16, 2008.
The Act also includes provisions to speed up the resolution of specific claims by setting time limits for the assessment and negotiation of claims. For example, if the Minister has not notified a First Nation whether its claim has been accepted for negotiation within three years of the claim having been filed with the Minister, the First Nation can either wait for the results of the assessment or go to the Tribunal for a binding decision on validity and compensation. Likewise, a First Nation can go to the Tribunal for a binding decision if three years of negotiations have not resulted in a final settlement.
How is the Tribunal independent from government? The Tribunal is a stand alone arms' length adjudicative body. Staffed by impartial judges, it has the power to make binding decisions on the government and First Nations on the validity of and compensation for specific claims. The Tribunal's decisions are made independently from the government. The Tribunal has developed its own Rules of Practice and Procedure.
The Tribunal has its own budget and is fully accountable to Parliament for its expenditures as well as its operations. The Tribunal is also responsible for preparing its own annual reports to keep the government and all Canadians up-to-date on its activities.
Does the Tribunal have its own time limits? The Specific Claims Tribunal Act does not include time limits regarding the Tribunal process. However, the Act says that the Tribunal shall conduct hearings with regard to achieving an expeditious resolution.
Have judges been appointed to the Tribunal? Yes. Tribunal judges are in place. The Tribunal is made up of judges who come from the existing bench of experienced superior court judges in the provinces. These individuals were appointed in accordance with the current process for judicial appointments to tribunals, which requires the consent of the judge in question, as well as his or her Chief Justice.
The Minimum Standard
What is the Minimum Standard for claim submissions? When was it developed? In simple terms, the new Minimum Standard sets out what information is required in a claim submission and how it must be presented. Discussions on this Minimum Standard took place with the Assembly of First Nations in the summer of 2008. Copies can also be obtained through the following toll-free numbers: 1-800-567-9604 or (TTY) 1-866-553-0554. Canada's Specific Claims Policy and Process Guide is also available.
What information is required by the Minimum Standard? The Minimum Standard sets out the kinds of information that must be included in a specific claim submission. For example, the Minimum Standard says that claim submissions must include:
An historical report and references, outlining the factual circumstances surrounding the claim
A claim document, listing the allegations, the grounds for a claim, legal arguments supporting each allegation and a statement of the facts to support the allegations
Copies of supporting documents referred to in the historical report and claim document.
First Nation claimants are encouraged to review the Minimum Standard for complete details on these requirements.
How must claims be presented to meet the Minimum Standard? The Minimum Standard also establishes how specific claims must be presented. For example, specific claim submissions must be sent by mail or courier to the Director General, Specific Claims Branch at Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada at the following address:
Director General Specific Claims Branch Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada Terrasses de la Chaudière 10 Wellington Street, Room 1660 OTTAWA, ON K1A 0H4
A claim submission cannot be submitted electronically by fax or e-mail.
First Nation claimants are encouraged to review the Minimum Standard for complete details on what is required.
Referring Claims to the Tribunal
Do claims automatically go to the Tribunal if they are not accepted for negotiation or if negotiations do not result in a settlement? No. There is no situation in which a claim would automatically go to the Tribunal. The Tribunal will only consider those claims that have been referred to it by First Nations. The process is entirely voluntary. It is an option for First Nations in certain situations.
How long can a First Nation expect to wait for a response to a new claim submitted under the new process? The claim will undergo a review within six months of the date that it is received by the Specific Claims Branch. The purpose of this review is to determine whether the claim submission meets the Minimum Standard. Only claims that meet the Minimum Standard will be filed with the Minister.
If the claim does not meet the Minimum Standard, it will be returned to the First Nation with an explanation as to why it has not been filed with the Minister.
Once a claim is filed, the Minister will notify the First Nation in writing of the filing date. If the First Nation does not receive a response as to whether the claim has been accepted for negotiation within three years of the date on which the claim was filed, the First Nation will have the option to refer the claim to the Tribunal for a binding decision on validity and compensation.
If a First Nation receives notification from the Minister that its claim has not been accepted for negotiation before the three-year time frame for assessment expires, can the First Nation refer it to the Tribunal? Yes. If a First Nation receives notification from the Minister that the claim has not been accepted for negotiation before the end of the three-year assessment period, the First Nation can refer the claim to the Tribunal if it wishes to do so.
Do First Nations have to file their claims with the Tribunal after three years of negotiations? No. There is never a requirement to file a claim with the Tribunal. However, a First Nation can opt to file a claim with the Tribunal if a settlement agreement has not been reached after three years of negotiations.
What about claims that were already under assessment or in negotiation when the legislation took effect? For claims that were already under assessment or in negotiation when the legislation came into force, the three-year time period began on October 16, 2008. A claim can be filed with the Tribunal once this time period expires. These transitional conditions were clearly set out in the Specific Claims Tribunal Act.
Once a claim has been filed with the Minister, can a First Nation add additional information? No. Once a claim submission has been filed with the Minister and the First Nation has been notified, no further evidence or allegations can be added to the original submission. A First Nation may withdraw its claim and re-submit it with new evidence or allegations but the assessment process will begin from the start.
What about a claim that was not accepted for negotiation before the Act came into force? May a First Nation file it with the Tribunal? No. The transitional provisions in the Act do not allow such claims to be filed with the Tribunal. However, a First Nation may choose to submit its claim again, in which case, it will be treated in the same manner as a new claim submission.
Will funding be available to support First Nations through the Tribunal proceedings? Yes. Funding to participate in the proceedings of the Tribunal will be made available. Once the Tribunal notifies the parties that it has accepted a claim, a First Nation can submit a funding proposal to the department for consideration on a case-by-case basis.
What is the process for submitting a claim to the Tribunal? Information about how to file a claim with the Specific Claims Tribunal is available on the Tribunal's web site. You will have to contact the Tribunal for more information.
How can I find out more about the status of claims in the system? A complete list of the claims at the various stages of the specific claims process is available in the online reporting centre on specific claims on AANDC's website.