An Alternate Path to Righting Wrongs
Specific Claims are legal claims by First Nations against Canada for failing to fulfill promises in historic treaties, failing to comply with the Indian Act or breaches of fiduciary duty relating to reserve land or other assets of a First Nation. Specific Claims cannot assert Aboriginal rights and title and are separate from the Treaty process. The Specific Claims method is an alternative to taking legal disputes through the traditional court pathways.
Our lawyers have years of experience working in this nuanced area of law, and hold specialized knowledge for developing the historic, ethnographic, and legal argument necessary to file a Specific Claim. In 2014, we proudly acted for a First Nation in the first Specific Claims Tribunal decision to award compensation and to address current compensation for historic losses.
Common specific claims include:
- Use of Indian reserve land for infrastructure such as railways, roads or municipal services, without a surrender or permit under the Indian Act;
- Harvesting of timber from Indian reserve land without a licence or in contravention of the Indian Timber Regulations;
- Use of Indian reserve land or timber harvesting on Indian reserve land without compensation or adequate compensation;
- Failing to set aside Indian reserve land at an important village or traditional use site; and
- Failing to protect an important village or traditional use site from pre-emption or Crown land application.
As part of the Specific Claims process, we assist clients in the negotiation of a settlement and/or compensation which can include the losses a First Nation suffered as a consequence of the breach of the federal government of its lawful obligations and the lost opportunity to invest revenue or income which should have been received historically.
Funding from Canada is available for First Nations at all stages of the Specific Claims process. Our lawyers and staff have extensive experience with the funding application process and can assist with funding applications.
Our lawyers have negotiated settlements of many significant Specific Claims on behalf of First Nation clients, including with respect to:
- Cut-Off Reserve Lands;
- West Coast Trail;
- Telegraph Lines and Trails;
- Drainage Ditch;
- Mismanagement of Gravel on Reserve;
- Mismanagement of Timber Harvesting;
- Treaty Agricultural Benefits, and
- Railway Lines.
We have also successfully represented First Nation clients before the Specific Claims Tribunal, including in:
- Huu-Ay-Aht First Nations v. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada 2014 SCTC 7
- Huu-ay-aht First Nations v. Canada, 2016 SCTC 14
- Doig River First Nation and Blueberry River First Nations v. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada 2015 SCTC 6
- Doig River First Nation and Blueberry River First Nations v. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada 2018 SCTC 5, and
- Huu-Ay-Aht First Nations v. Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada 2020 SCTC 4