Subsection 41(1) of the Specific Claims Tribunal Act provides that the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development shall undertake a review, (the "Five-Year Review"), of the mandate and structure of the Specific Claims Tribunal, of the efficiency and effectiveness of its operation, and of any other matters related to the Act, within one year of the fifth anniversary of the Act's coming into force. Subsections 41(2) and 41(3) of the Act provide that the Minister shall cause to be prepared, and sign, a report which shall be submitted to each House of Parliament.
This report, prepared by the Ministerial Special Representative, reflects the above-noted requirements. Throughout the engagement period for this Five-Year Review, First Nations were given an opportunity to make representations as outlined in subsection 41(1) of the Specific Claims Tribunal Act. The window for accepting submissions closed on May 15, 2015, and included a broad cross-section of First Nations, First Nations organizations, and stakeholders. During the engagement process, interested parties expressed various concerns regarding the Act and the Specific Claims Tribunal itself, as well as the filing, assessment and negotiation of specific claims.
A number of recommendations have been made throughout this report, under four general categories: (1) items for future consideration; (2) joint exploratory discussions; (3) changes to the Specific Claims Tribunal Rules of Practice and Procedure ("Rules of Practice and Procedure");and, (4) other recommendations. The various recommendations contained in this report are summarized on pages 90 to 92.
None of this report's recommendations proposes immediate changes to the Specific Claims Tribunal Act, primarily because nothing raised during the consultation process warranted any pressing change. Secondly, it is not the Act itself that is the issue, as much as the way in which the parties and the Tribunal proceed, pursuant to the Rules of Practice and Procedure. Thirdly, the majority of representations were not about the Act itself, but rather about the Department's internal process. The latter subject is raised in Part Two of this report, entitled Filing, Assessment and Negotiation of Claims at the Specific Claims Branch.
That being said, this report does propose joint exploratory discussions and items for future consideration, which may result in eventual changes to the Act.
Any eventual changes to the Specific Claims Tribunal Act,including those that may be derived from this report, must be undertaken in cooperation with First Nations. Such cooperation is essential to the long-term reconciliation of both parties.
Overall, the report encourages re-engagement between the Government of Canada and First Nations. This would include comprehensive implementation of the principles contained in this report, regarding the fair, effective and efficient resolution of specific claims, in accordance with commitments made in 2007 as part of the Justice At Last initiative.
This report ultimately argues for a renewed and more positive process involving conciliation and engagement between the Government of Canada and First Nations, which has in turn inspired the report's title: Re-Engaging.