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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

11:55 a.m.

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

Anik Dupont

Do you mean to conclude negotiations or...?

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Yes.

11:55 a.m.

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

Anik Dupont

Well, in the course of the negotiations, once we've established that we have an understanding of what the claim looks like and how we're going to be compensating, and once we put a value to what the claim is, we come in to get a mandate to settle these claims.

Then, once an offer is made to the first nation and they make the decision whether or not to accept the claim, if they accept it we finalize. They may have a ratification vote, depending; there are thresholds for ratification. If the first nation votes in favour and they agree to the settlement and to the trust, we seek approval to ratify the agreement. Then we make payment to the first nation.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Do the first nations want to continue with negotiations past the three years?

11:55 a.m.

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

Anik Dupont

I guess from the first nations' point of view, it's getting used to the concept that we come in and this will take three years. It's been a difficult adaptation for everyone when it comes to the pace and how we need to focus more at the tables.

The first nations sometimes feel that, yes, they are being pushed and shoved through the process, but we have a lot of discussions with them, and they understand that the ultimate goal is for us to get them in front of a settlement sooner rather than later.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Okay.

I'm looking at pages 10 and 11 of the specific claims policy and process guide, and it's a very in-depth process. Step one is submission and step two is early review.

Step three is research and assessment:

In the event the First Nation does not receive a response as to whether its claim has been accepted for negotiation within the three-year time period, the First Nation has the option of either waiting for the results of the federal government’s assessment or filing the claim with the Tribunal for a determination on its validity and compensation.

Step four is negotiation and settlement:

Although the three-year time frame for negotiations begins on the date the Minister notifies the First Nation in writing that the claim has been accepted for negotiation, the negotiation process itself will not begin until the Minister has received evidence, such as a Band Council Resolution, stating that the First Nation is prepared to enter into negotiations on the basis set out in the notification of acceptance.

So the three-year timeframe starts when the minister gives approval.

11:55 a.m.

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

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Can they negotiate with the first nations beyond 2011?

11:55 a.m.

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

Anik Dupont

Of course they can.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Thank you.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Mr. Rafferty, for five minutes.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I have a couple of quick questions here, and perhaps it will allow a little more time for....

Dr. Bennett is going last, correct, after me?

Noon

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

We're going to work her in.

Noon

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

You're going to work her in. Okay.

There has been much talk recently, certainly a lot in the media, about how the land claims negotiations go. I don't know if this is the case in the specific land claims category, but we've seen the “take it or leave it” attitude talked about. Is that something, in terms of specific claims, that's talked about in this process at all now?

Noon

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

Anik Dupont

From what we've seen in the press, when they talk about “take it or leave it” offers on the table...I guess our negotiation process differs a bit from other negotiation processes in that we have worked with the first nation to arrive at what we believe could be the value, or how the claim will be valued. When we come back to the table with an offer, we explain to the first nation what our offer is. We try to make our best offer, what we consider to be a fair and equitable settlement of that claim.

Do we spend a lot of time back and forth with the first nation discussing what the amounts are? To a certain extent we do. We try to explain to them how we came to the amounts. But we always put our best offer forward. First nations could interpret that as us saying, “Well, it's a take it or leave it offer”, but we put forward to them what we believe is a fair and equitable settlement.

Noon

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Does it mean that after that point you're not willing to talk any more about your best offer that you've now put on the table?

Noon

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

Anik Dupont

For most cases, we present the fullest offer we can make to them, so we leave ourselves very little room to manoeuvre. That's because we want to get to the settlement sooner rather than later with the first nation.

Noon

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

So when that offer is on the table, if it's not acceptable, they can then go to the tribunal?

Noon

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

Anik Dupont

After the three years of negotiations, they can go to the tribunal.

Noon

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

So there might still be some remedy then for them in that particular case?

Noon

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

October 4th, 2011 / noon

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

The second question I have might be for Mr. McNeil.

Sometimes specific land claims have unintended consequences. One of them is that the cash that is received is often used for ATR lands attached to reserve lands. In other words, lands are purchased to increase the size of the reserve, or for investment, or for any other reason. I have some experience with that. I'm sure that Mr. Rickford has also had some concerns from municipalities in his riding. Keep in mind that municipalities are very large in northern Ontario. The town of Emo and the town of Fort Frances have both approached me to say that a strip mall has now been bought using this specific land claim money and they now no longer have that tax base. That's what I mean by unintended consequences. I have been told that the provincial government is responsible now for paying the municipality back for that lost tax revenue.

I wonder if any of you could shed some light on that for me. When I am approached by municipalities and they ask where their tax base is now, it's gone, particularly around the town of Emo, where farm land is being bought up and is disappearing, what is the answer for me to give?

Noon

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

Anik Dupont

As part of our negotiation process, we do extensive consultations, especially when there's a land component, or an ATR component, to that. Our teams often have town meetings. They go and brief, meet with the officials, the municipalities, the mayors. They have town meetings to make sure that information is totally made available throughout the process. Also it's not just the government that does that. We do it either with the first nation, or the first nation has discussions. So we do try to involve the municipalities to ensure that everybody is made aware. Any purchase of land is always done using a willing buyer or willing seller approach. So we don't displace--

Noon

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

I'm not concerned about the willing buyer or willing seller part. As I say, municipalities are concerned that their tax base begins to erode. Also keep in mind that in northern Ontario, those tax bases are very fragile. It's not as if you have enough room to manoeuvre. All it takes is a collapsed culvert on a bridge and suddenly your budget is gone for the next five years as you try to repair that. They are understandably very concerned.

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Chris Warkentin

Mr. Rafferty, sorry to jump in. Your time is long gone, but we hope to get back to you if you can negotiate with--