(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, B.C. – June 25, 2018) UBCIC condemns the report on specific claims released on National Indigenous Peoples Day by conservative think tank the Fraser Institute.
In his report, Specific Claims and the Well-Being of First Nations, author Tom Flanagan argues that the federal specific claims program should be discontinued since, he asserts, settlements result in no tangible benefits to First Nations communities. Flanagan's report characterizes specific claims as a never-ending drain on the federal budget and Canadian taxpayers, and contends that Indigenous Nations manipulate facts and exploit case law to validate their claims.
Flanagan’s report is deeply flawed and infused with racist assumptions that have been invalidated by academics of all disciplines and the courts, and publicly condemned by all levels of government and international human rights bodies. Specific claims are not a discretionary program; they result where the Crown failed to uphold its legal obligations to First Nations as it was required to do under its own laws. These claims are historical injustices that include illegally alienating village lands, severing access to resources and territory, and destroying sacred sites, such as gravesites. The magnitude of unresolved claims not only directly reflects the scale of the losses First Nations have endured but also Canada’s consistent failure to establish and adhere to a fair process to resolve these claims.
“We recognize that this fatuous and repugnant report, released on National Indigenous Peoples Day, with its outdated and outworn ideas, is not a serious engagement with the issues involved in specific claims – it is a provocation,” said UBCIC President Grand Chief Stewart Phillip. “Tom Flanagan’s insistence that the federal government give First Nations a time limit to research and submit claims so Canada can clear a finite debt demonstrates a complete ignorance of the nature of historical redress and its importance for First Nations communities. The claims process is not subject to paternalistic ultimatums such as the one Mr. Flanagan advances.”
The UBCIC also calls attention to the deeply flawed methods used in Flanagan's analysis. The Community Well-Being Index, the single metric upon which Flanagan bases his conclusion, has been criticized by the Office of the Auditor General for omitting crucial indicators important to First Nations, such as health, environment, language, and culture. UBCIC Vice-President Chief Bob Chamberlin challenged the application of a single, simplistic index to a complex historical and legal issues: "This report is a kind of cheap-shot analysis based on colonial assumptions and a shallow formula. The author has tried to apply a one-dimensional and limited idea of well-being to the very complex process of addressing the wrongs of the past. Mr. Flanagan’s is a patronizing, willfully simplistic approach that is woefully out of date."
"Redress for past wrongs is a fundamental human right under the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and a requirement for engaging in real processes of reconciliation as outlined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” concluded Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, Chair of the BC Specific Claims Working Group. “The alternative is a return to the violent and racist denial that has characterized so much of Canada's past. Resolving historical injustices through fair, equitable processes is the only ethical way forward, alongside full recognition of our Indigenous title, particularly in BC, where our lands were never ceded and our title never extinguished or lost.”
Chief Bob Chamberlin
Vice-President of Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Phone: (250) 974-8282
Chief Judy Wilson
Secretary-Treasurer of Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Phone: (250) 320 -7738