The long-awaited Specific Claims Tribunal has officially opened its doors and is now accepting specific claims. A specific claim is a claim filed by a First Nation for compensation for its losses arising from the Crown’s failure to fulfill, or breach of, a legal obligation. Section 14 of the The Specific Claims Tribunal Act (the Act) provides an enumerated list of grounds that would trigger the Crown’s obligations to warrant a specific claim. The Act was passed by Parliament in June 2008, and replaces the former Indian Claims Commission process. The Rules committee finalized its submissions and the Tribunal is now fully operational.
The tribunal has jurisdiction in relation to claims submitted to the Minister where either (a) the claim is outstanding after at least three years since it was filed and the Minister has not provided notification to the First Nation whether or not the claim will be negotiated; or (b) where the claim has been filed with the Minister and the First Nation is notified that the claim will not be negotiated or (c) in the course of negotiating a claim the Minister consents to filing the claim with the Tribunal.
First Nations seeking to file a specific claim can do so by filing a declaration of claim. All First Nations filing a claim must be represented by legal counsel. The Rules do provide, however, that permission may be given in "special circumstances" by the Tribunal for a claimant to be represented by someone who is not legal counsel.
Compensation for claims under this new process is capped at $150 million. Once a declaration is filed with the tribunal, First Nations have 30 days to serve a declaration on the Crown. The Crown then has 30 days to serve a response. The Registrar then notifies the Parties of a schedule for a case conference. Section 49 of the new Rules requires strict adherence to a list of matters that must be discussed by the Parties at the first scheduled case management conference. Mediation is available to the Parties at any time in the proceedings
The agenda for case management conferences and the timing of submission of declarations and responses is intended to expedite the claims process.