July 4, 2019
Dear Mr. Matiation,
The BC Specific Claims Working Group (BCSCWG) writes today to present its follow-up report Canada’s Conduct at the Specific Claims Tribunal and the Need for Reform which analyzes First Nations’ feedback on Canada’s behaviour at the Tribunal and argues that the challenges with Canada’s conduct at this body are a result of institutionalized and systemic bias that exists across specific claims processes as a whole.
In September 2017, then Director General of the Specific Claims Branch (SCB), Stephen Gagnon, asked the BCSCWG to study Canada’s conduct at the Tribunal and make recommendations aimed at rebuilding and improving the relationship between Canada and Indigenous Nations. The BCSCWG agreed to undertake the study on the understanding that the results would directly lead to and inform discussions between the BCSCWG and SCB on reforming Canada’s conduct to align with its commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples as well as the standards articulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. While the BCSCWG received feedback from the Tribunal, SCB provided no response at all to the report’s findings or recommendations.
The 2018 report identified a very clear pattern of behaviour by Canada at the Tribunal: an adversarial legal approach by Canada’s legal counsel, a lack of resources, and lengthy delays that increase costs and uncertainties for Indigenous Nations. We concluded our study with six discussion questions and associated potential next steps aimed at initiating an active dialogue between Canada, Indigenous Nations and the Specific Claims Tribunal to address our findings.
Following the first study, we were asked to examine the experiences of Indigenous Nations across Canada using the same framework of questions and analysis. The evidence we gathered strongly supports the findings of the 2018 report. Reports of the three challenges identified by representatives of BC Nations were widely echoed nationally. Canada’s conduct, as one survey respondent says, “burdens and complicates” the claims resolution process.
At our June 2019 meeting in Vancouver, we communicated our disappointment with Canada’s silence following the submission of our first report, and you gave us your assurance that you would review the follow-up study and initiate a substantive dialogue with us. It is in the spirit and expectation of good faith that we invite you to read the BCSCWG’s latest report and encourage you to contact us thereafter to initiate a dialogue on the issues and recommendations we have outlined.
On behalf of the BC Specific Claims Working Group
Kukpi7 Judy Wilson
BC Specific Claims Working Group
Union of BC Indian Chiefs Council
Minister Carolyn Bennett, CIRNAC
AFN Chiefs Committee on Lands, Territories and Resources
Specific Claims Tribunal