What is the Specific Claims Research Centre?

The Specific Claims Research Centre (SCRC) is a research organization established to assist First Nations in researching and submitting their specific claims. The SCRC receives funding from the Government of Canada to pay for research and legal costs related to specific claims.

The SCRC is not about politics. Our goal is to ensure that First Nations' specific claims are fully researched, written, and submitted in a timely and cost-effective manner.

The just resolution of specific claims can't change history, but can contribute to a solid foundation of hope and prosperity for First Nations.

The SCRC: where justice meets history.

Manitoba Métis Federation v Canada and its Implications for Specific Claims

In 1871, facing armed resistance by the Red River Métis settlers, the government of Canada agreed to take a diplomatic approach to the division of territory. The Red River settlers agreed to be part of Canada, and in return, Canada agreed to grant 1.4 million acres of land to the Métis children, as well as to recognize existing landholdings (set out in the Manitoba Act). However, a series of errors and delays interfered with this division of land—during this period of confusion, speculators began to acquire the land that had not yet been granted to the Métis children. Ultimately, due to the mistakes that had been made, land was parcelled out unevenly amongst the Métis children, and white settlers soon constituted the majority in the territory while the Métis community unravelled.

Recently, in 2013, over 100 years after the Manitoba Act, the Supreme Court of Canada recognized that Canada’s conduct in this matter had been dishonourable. In addition to being a significant historic decision, Bruce McIvor (of First Peoples Law) argues that the resolution of Manitoba Métis Federation v Canada has important implications for aboriginal law, and for how specific claims can be understood and resolved. McIvor points out that while the Supreme Court rejected the Métis’ argument that Canada breached a fiduciary duty to the Métis children, it did declare that Canada had not fulfilled a constitutional obligation to provide land to the Métis children. This constitutional obligation was a solemn promise to the Métis, and the Supreme Court stated that by failing to fulfil this promise, Canada had not acted honourably. The importance for specific claims lies in the fact that the Court held that Manitoba and Canada could not rely on limitations statutes to stop the Court from declaring that Canada’s conduct had been dishonourable—constitutional promises cannot be “muzzled by mere legislation”. McIvor argues that the Court’s declaration has created a “new legal remedy” that can be used in situations where the Crown fails to act appropriately in order to fulfil constitutional promises, including promises tied to historical treaties.

 This new legal remedy that has come about as a result of the Supreme Court’s declaration offers an illustration of the progress being made in improving First Nations’ rights in Canada—progress that will continue to improve the process of negotiating specific claims.

To read Bruce McIvor's comment on the Supreme Court's decision, please visit: http://www.firstpeopleslaw.com/index/articles/133.php

Types of Specific Claims

Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) claims - These are claims that result from the failure of the Government of Canada to provide the reserve land promised under treaty.

Land surrender claims - These are claims for reserve land unlawfully taken from a First Nation.

Trust fund claims - Canada holds funds in trust for each First Nation These funds often come from on-reserve transactions ( e.g. forestry or gravel extraction fees, land lease rentals ). If Canada failed to deposit money into the band's account, or made unauthorized deductions, or accidentally deposited it into an account for another First Nation, this would be the basis for a Specific Claim.

Lease claims - When the Government of Canada enters into a lease agreement on behalf of a First Nation, but fails to meet its lawful obligations with respect to a lease, this is a basis for a Specific Claim.

Right-of-way claims - These claims arise when the Government of Canada breached its fiduciary obligation by failing to take the necessary steps to protect and preserve a First Nation's interest in its reserve lands.

Pre-Confederation claims - A pre-confederation claim, in the B.C. context, is a claim with its origins in the conduct of Colonial administration prior to the Colony of British Columbia entering into Confederation in 1871. The most common type of Colonial specific claim relates to the setting apart of Indian Reserves by the Colonial administration of Governor James Douglas , only to be followed by the later elimination or reduction of these reserves by a subsequent Colonial administration or by Canada post-confederation.

Survey Claims - After a reserve is set apart by the reserve commissioner, there eventually has to be a formal survey that marks out the exact boundaries of the reserve. If the surveyor makes a mistake and doesn't include a part of what should be in the reserve, this is the foundation of a Survey Claim.