Inadequate financial resources is the number one barrier for First Nations pursuing their claims.
The average cost for filing and submitting a claim is between $1.8 million and $2.2 million. For large land claims, the costs per application can be as high as $10 million.
There are very few funding alternatives for First Nations other than to use the government’s Specific Claims Loan Facility, or existing savings. When funding runs out mid-process, the claim comes to a stand-still.
Many Nations are then forced to redirect funds earmarked for other community needs, in many cases, risking third-party management. This predatory and excessive billing approach on our people and the taxpayers of Canada has created an industry that is now referred to as “cottage country”. These usury fees, which are stolen from our final settlements, deny our communities the construction of schools, houses, health services, and education, for which these settlements are needed.
The specific claims process is not a quick solution. Canada’s process outline shows the expected timeline facing First Nations is 6 ½ years.
Most First Nations are handicapped in their ability to pursue Specific Claims because they lack the financial and human resources necessary to research, submit, negotiate, and settle a claim. In most cases they do not have ready access to trained experts in research, legal analysis, or negotiation, forcing them to hire outside researchers, lawyers, and negotiators who often do not understand community culture and traditions.
There are currently 448 specific claims under negotiation.
The government has $66 MILLION available for legal fees to argue against specific claims.
But for First Nations, only $4 MILLION has been allocated in to research and develop their specific claims, which is shared across all First Nations’ requirements and requests.
Any money borrowed from the Specific Claims Branch has to be repaid (with interest) regardless of if the claim is accepted. AND, the First Nation is not able to own or keep any research or studies paid for by the government if the negotiation is not successful.
In spite of these funding shortfalls, over $6 Billion has been paid-out by the federal government to First Nations in Canada, representing approximately 467 claims to date. The lowest negotiated settlement was under $10,000 and the largest negotiated settlement exceeded $231 million. The average claim payout was $1.5 million.