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Specific Claims

Ratcliff LLP lawyers have successfully represented First Nation clients before the Specific Claims Tribunal.

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. 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.

Specific Claims cannot assert Aboriginal rights and title and are separate from the Treaty process. The Specific Claims process is governed by the Specific Claims Tribunal Act and by the Specific Claims Policy and Process Guide. The process is an alternative to taking legal disputes through the traditional court process. 

Specific claims require historic and ethnographic research and a legal argument to be presented in the form of a Statement of Claim to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada. 

Once a specific claim is filed with the Minister, Canada has three years to respond to the First Nation and advise if it agrees to negotiate a settlement with the First Nation or if it rejects the claim. If Canada rejects the specific claim a First Nation may present the Claim to the Specific Claims Tribunal. 

Compensation may be negotiated between Canada and a First Nation or ordered by the Specific Claims Tribunal. Under the Policy and the Specific Claims Tribunal Act, compensation must be based on legal principles that would be applied by a court and include the losses a First Nation suffered as a consequence of the breach of the federal government of its lawful obligations.  Compensation includes the lost opportunity to invest revenue or income which should have been received historically.

Ratcliff LLP lawyers have successfully represented First Nation clients before the Specific Claims Tribunal, including in: 

Ratcliff LLP lawyers have negotiated settlements of several 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.

Funding from Canada is available for First Nations at all stages of the Specific Claims process. Ratcliff LLP lawyers and staff have extensive experience with the funding application process and can assist with funding applications.

Ready when you are

Our lawyers offer a broad range of experience and expertise, with a client-first philosophy to help you achieve your goals.

Ready when you are

Our lawyers offer a broad range of experience and expertise, with a client-first philosophy to help you achieve your goals.