(Ottawa, ON) – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo expressed concern regarding the Government of Canada’s decision to apply for a judicial review of another decision by the Specific Claims Tribunal, in this case the Williams Lake Indian Band village sites claim. This is the second time Canada has applied for judicial review of a decision by the Tribunal, an adjudicative body mandated to resolve specific claims in a fair and impartial manner.
“Despite its public promises that Specific Claims Tribunal decisions would be final and would represent a lasting resolution of specific claims, First Nations are deeply disappointed and concerned about Canada’s commitment to the fair and just resolution of First Nations claims and the principles of its own Justice at Last policy aimed at resolving claims,” said AFN National Chief Atleo. “A judicial review puts First Nations at a disadvantage as there is no funding to reply to a judicial review or the lengthy court process that can result. It is regrettable that the spirit of reconciliation facilitated by an impartial body like the Specific Claims Tribunal is being undermined.”
The Government of Canada applied for the first judicial review on March 21, 2013 when the Tribunal issued a decision in favour of the Kitselas First Nation. The Federal Court of Appeal will be holding the hearing April 7-8. It is expected that the outcome of this judicial review will profoundly impact all First Nations, whatever stage their specific claim may be at, and will shape the role of the Tribunal and the future of specific claims. On March 28, 2014, the Government of Canada applied for a judicial review of the Williams Lake Band Tribunal decision, which arguably and regrettably signals Canada’s intention to continue to challenge the Tribunal’s mandate.
National Chief Atleo stated: “The legitimate claims of First Nations are longstanding, unfinished business for Canada. First Nations worked in partnership and good faith with the federal government to create a new approach to specific claims. These actions by the federal government undermine that spirit and serve to undermine the Tribunal itself. We call on the federal government to review its approach to the resolution of specific claims and to work with First Nations in the spirit of Justice at Last to resolve these claims in an open, fair, transparent and non-adversarial manner.”
The Specific Claims Tribunal was established as a part of the work carried out by AFN and Canada under the federal Justice at Last initiative announced in 2007. It is an adjudicative body mandated to address specific claims valued up to $150 million each. It was created to resolve historical claims, which may ordinarily be statute barred if brought in a court. The Tribunal has jurisdiction to hear claims based on the unlawful disposition of First Nation lands and determine the legal obligations of the Crown in relation to those dispositions. Canada committed to impartiality, fairness and transparency under its Justice at Last policy.
The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada.