12 June 2007
Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced plans for a decisive new approach that will fundamentally change the way specific claims are handled in Canada.
The Specific Claims Action Plan addresses the huge backlog of unresolved treaty claims that has been the source of division and conflict in communities across the country. "Instead of letting disputes over land and compensation drag on forever, fuelling frustration and uncertainty, they will be solved once and for all by impartial judges on a new Specific Claims Tribunal," Prime Minister Harper said.
The Prime Minister made the historic announcement on Parliament Hill along with Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development Jim Prentice. They were joined by Assembly of First Nations National Chief Phil Fontaine, representatives of provincial and municipal governments, several chiefs representing First Nations communities with outstanding claims, and officials from the transportation and resource industries that have been affected by protests over unresolved claims.
Canada's Specific Claims Action Plan proposes four key initiatives that would:
Create a new tribunal staffed with impartial judges who would make final decisions on claims when negotiations fail;
Make arrangements for financial compensation more transparent through dedicated funding for settlements in the amount of $250 million a year for 10 years;
Speed up processing of small claims and improve flexibility in the handling of large claims; and
Refocus the existing Indian Specific Claims Commission to concentrate on dispute resolution.
"Today's announcement is a positive response to what our people have advocated for decades and is a testament to the perseverance and dedication of our people," said National Chief Phil Fontaine. "The government's commitment to our full engagement in implementing this important initiative will be key to its success."
"For 60 years First Nations have been asking Ottawa to create an independent tribunal to adjudicate historical grievances," said Minister Prentice. "Today, finally, Canada’s New Government is doing just that. It’s a historic day for Canada."
Discussions with First Nations and provincial and territorial governments will take place over the summer with the goal of bringing forward legislation to implement the action plan in the fall.
Specific claim settlements honour Canada’s lawful obligations to First Nations and bring economic benefits to First Nations and local communities as well as certainty for government, industry and non-Aboriginal Canadians.
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This news release and related materials, including a brochure and pamphlet on the action plan and background information on specific claims in general, are also available on the Internet at: www.inac.gc.ca