Attorney General of Canada drops appeal of Specific Claims Tribunal decision

On September 5 2017, Canada withdrew its application for a judicial review of the Specific Claims Tribunal decision in Attorney General of Canada v Huu-ay-aht First Nation.

While disagreeing with the Tribunal’s formula for awarding compensation, the government acknowledged that Huu-ay-aht Nation has waited far too long for the Government of Canada to make amends for past wrongs. Canada decided to drop the appeal in the interest of advancing reconciliation, and with the acknowledgement of Canada’s responsibility to redress past wrongs.

The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, issued the following joint statement:

“…Canada believes the existing specific claims policy and process, including the question of equitable compensation, are not in keeping with a recognition of rights, or a reconciliation-based approach to addressing issues between the Crown and Indigenous peoples. Canada is working to completely overhaul the policy, in co-operation and collaboration with Indigenous Peoples, including working with the Assembly of First Nations. Some of that work will be done as part of the efforts of the Working Group of Ministers on the Review of Laws and Policies announced by the Prime Minister on February 22, 2017.”

Significance for First Nations

The Crown’s decision to withdraw its application for judicial review of Huu-ay-aht First Nation represents a positive development for First Nations seeking compensation for their own Specific Claims. As the Ministers’ joint statement indicates, this move signals a shift in government policy on the question of equitable compensation. First Nations may expect a more reasonable, rights-based approach to compensation than the 80/20 model, with larger compensation sums. At the same time, it is clear that the compensation policy remains in development stages. We will have to wait to see exactly what kind of approach the government decides to adopt.