The specific claims process is the federal government’s approach to dealing with historical wrongs related to illegal alienations of Indigenous lands, mismanagement of Indigenous assets held “in trust” by government, and the non-fulfillment of treaties.
But this approach to addressing historical wrongs is not working for BC Nations. Since the specific claims program began in the 1970s, BC claims have constituted 40 to 50 percent of all claims in progress. Throughout its work, the BCSCWG emphasizes the historical uniqueness of colonization in BC and the need for a process that addresses the distinctive challenges of claims resolution in this province.
In short, Indigenous Nations in BC are disproportionately affected by the inequities and delays in the current specific claims system. Finding a process that works for the claims of BC Nations is essential, as unresolved claims have real, ongoing impacts on communities and cause delays in the system overall.
Why are there so many specific claims in BC?
The high proportion of claims in BC is the result of many complex factors. A primary factor, however, is that – unlike in the rest of Canada – most Indigenous Nations in BC never signed treaties. Instead, in colonial times and after BC joined Confederation in 1871, governments established many orders, laws, processes, and commissions for the creation of reserves. This piecemeal approach to reserve creation resulted in over 1700 Indian reserves in BC, many of which have been subject to unlawful alienations and cut-offs, as well as numerous instances of governments failing to protect villages or sacred sites from encroachment and destruction.
Reforming the specific claims process
BC Nations and organizations have been at the forefront of claims reform for decades and have experience and insight that are essential to developing just processes for claims resolution. The BCSCWG is committed to working with Indigenous Nations, partner organizations, and government to advance the just and timely resolution of specific claims, particularly in BC.
The BCSCWG is now advocating for reforms that BC Indigenous Nations have clearly said are needed. The bias and conflict of interest that have plagued the specific claims process since its inception must be addressed. We advocate for the creation of a fully independent specific claims process that recognizes and integrates Indigenous laws.
For more information on the BCSCWG’s advocacy work, see our reports and updates.
Resolutions from the UBCIC
The work of the BCSCWG is driven by resolutions passed by Chiefs at the Union of BC Indian Chiefs meetings.
- Resolution 2013-25: The BCSCWG is created.
- Resolution 2017-44: The BCSCWG is tasked with calling for the creation of a truly independent specific claims process.
- Resolution 2020-11: The UBCIC is tasked with calling for an independent specific claims process that includes the recognition and integration of Indigenous laws, in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.