Evidence of meeting #4 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was tribunal.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Anik Dupont  Director General, Specific Claims Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Kevin McNeil  Senior Counsel, Specific Claims Section, Department of Justice
Kathy Green  Director, Research and Policy Directorate, Specific Claims Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

You're finished.

Mr. Bevington, for five minutes.

October 4th, 2011 / 11:45 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to get back to my colleague's point. At the beginning of the three-year process for many of these claims, was what was going to happen after three years clearly laid out, that the government would be referring these to it?

11:50 a.m.

Director General, Specific Claims Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Anik Dupont

We cannot refer any claim to the tribunal. It is always the first nation's choice to leave the specific claims process and go to the tribunal. They have four different areas where they can do that. Three years after their claim has been filed with the minister, if they haven't received a response they can bring their claim to the tribunal for a decision.

If after three years of negotiations where we have not reached a settlement, the first nation can leave the specific claims process, the negotiation process, and go to the tribunal. If during the three years of negotiations both parties agree that we cannot come to a negotiated agreement, they can ask the minister to bring their file to the tribunal, or in the case where the minister has not accepted the claim to negotiate, the first nation can bring their claim to the tribunal.

The government cannot activate the act. It is always the first nation's decision to bring the file to the tribunal.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

So with the 80 cases that would be in a position to go to the tribunal on October 16, have you any indication of the desire of the first nations involved with those 80 cases to take them to a tribunal?

11:50 a.m.

Director General, Specific Claims Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Anik Dupont

They don't tell us what their plans are. We're trying to reach a settlement. If they avail themselves of that offer....

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

And if they don't avail themselves of that option?

11:50 a.m.

Director General, Specific Claims Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Anik Dupont

We continue towards the settlement.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

So you continue to negotiate.

11:50 a.m.

Director General, Specific Claims Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Anik Dupont

Absolutely.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Okay. I'm glad we understand that: the first nations have a right to continue the process for as long as they see fit.

11:50 a.m.

Director General, Specific Claims Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Anik Dupont

Well, it's not necessarily for as long as they see fit, though. We have to understand that the negotiations are being managed, and the reason why there was reform was that the first nations thought we were taking too long at the negotiating table to reach a settlement. This whole process was set into place to try to ensure that the negotiations are more structured and focused, to get the first nation in front of a settlement sooner rather than later. That is why we've done all these reforms, so--

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

You have 80 claims that are ending the three-year period, so by now you must realize that these are complex and difficult negotiations.

11:50 a.m.

Director General, Specific Claims Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Is this three-year term appropriate? Is it something that by going to a tribunal and losing the right to continue negotiations...? You've obviously seen that many of these claims must be very difficult to negotiate.

11:50 a.m.

Director General, Specific Claims Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Anik Dupont

Some of them are difficult to negotiate. As well, a lot of it is getting the parties used to the idea of doing this in a more effective way: getting the mindset around that idea that we can achieve these settlements sooner rather than later and that we need to focus our efforts more.

In some cases, yes, they are complex. Three years might be challenging, but that's not an impossibility, and as I said, our focus is always on negotiations, so we work with the first nation to try to achieve those settlements. If we go beyond the three--

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

That sounds very good, but the government also has the ability not to negotiate and to force something to a tribunal. That's quite obviously the case as well. You control the pace of negotiation as much as the first nations do.

11:50 a.m.

Director General, Specific Claims Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Anik Dupont

Well, it's a joint effort, the negotiations. As I said, our focus is to work towards the settlement, and negotiation is always our preference. It's not to force the files over to the tribunal. That would totally go against what we were trying to achieve. We would end up causing yet another backlog at the tribunal, which is what we want to avoid.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Okay.

Have many claims have gone to the tribunal?

11:50 a.m.

Director General, Specific Claims Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Anik Dupont

There have been five to date.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Five to date? Can you give us an idea of where they fit in comparison to the settlement that was being negotiated prior to those claims? Was there an offer on the table from the federal government in those five claims when the band went to the tribunal? Were they able to achieve more through the tribunal or less? What are the results of those five claims?

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Mr. Bevington, your time is up, but we'll give them an opportunity for just a short answer, if that's possible.

11:55 a.m.

Director General, Specific Claims Branch, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Anik Dupont

As I indicated, some of the claims at the tribunal have not necessarily left negotiations to go there. They're claims that either have not been accepted by the department...so they never made it to the negotiation process at all.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

But they were--

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Thank you.

Mr. Bevington, if you have a follow-up question, I think we'll have time.

Mr. Clarke, for five minutes.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to thank the witnesses for coming in on such short notice and for trying to be as well prepared as they can be with this information. Having sat on the committee when we first brought forward this process, I saw the backlog that was taking place. I have quite a few questions here, but I'll try to get into that later in the course of my questioning.

First, how does the department decide to end the negotiations?