(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, B.C. – December 1, 2016) This week the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) tabled its much anticipated report on its audit of the specific claims process.
Canada is failing in its duty to adequately manage the resolution of specific claims, the report concludes. UBCIC worked with claims research units from across Canada to prepare a submission to the audit and is now calling for Canada to immediately restore funding to enable Indigenous Nations’ full and equal participation in the specific claims process.
The OAG report, First Nations Specific Claims—Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), documents how Canada has repeatedly misrepresented progress on specific claims, underfunded essential aspects of the process, failed to incorporate feedback from Indigenous Nations, refused to engage in real negotiation for most claims and created significant barriers to the successful resolution of specific claims.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip observed: “This report shows what First Nations have been saying for years: Canada has deliberately stalled and blocked specific claims, demonstrated a consistent and pervasive lack of commitment to resolving land claims, and gravely undermined the honour of the Crown. Canada has clearly been treating specific claims as a discretionary program,” Phillip continued, “when in fact it is absolutely essential to Canada’s fulfillment of its lawful obligations. Canada’s entrenched behaviours sabotaged the initiative it established to bring about peaceful resolution and certainty for all Canadians.”
The audit reveals that recent changes in the program systematically weakened Indigenous Nations’ position in the specific claims process. For example, INAC’s internal expenditures (2013– 16) stayed constant while the average annual funding for First Nations participation fell by over 35 percent in the same period. These changes unfairly undermined Indigenous Nations’ ability to participate equitably in research and negotiation.
The OAG’s recommendations provide for a comprehensive review of systems and practices and the allocation of adequate funding to support the research and development of claims. UBCIC is partnering with claims research units from across Canada to prepare a full response to the OAG report, highlighting the need for a fair and transparent process with joint oversight by Canada and Indigenous Nations. Despite a recent announcement by the Minister of a one-time top-up to current-year funding, UBCIC is calling for the immediate and sustained restoration of ongoing funding for research and development of claims as concrete evidence of Canada’s willingness to address bias in the process and move toward a more just and equitable working relationship.
Chief Maureen Chapman, co-chair of the BC Specific Claims Working Group, said, “The Liberals’ response to the OAG audit on specific claims will be a critical test of this government’s willingness to make real change and engage with Indigenous Nations in meaningful approaches to restitution and reconciliation.”
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Phone: (604) 684-0231