Harper Announces Plans To Fast-Track Land Claims

Tuesday, June 12, 2007 at 14:39



Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced plans to create an independent land claims tribunal that will have binding powers and speed up the resolution of claims.


The announcement comes just over two weeks before First Nations hold a national day of action to protest a backlog of roughly 800 stalled claims.


Harper says the new tribunal will be staffed with impartial judges who would make final decisions on claims when negotiations fail.


The Tory government also intends to dedicate $250 million a year for 10 years for the settlement of claims.


As well, the Indian Specific Claims Commission will be re-focused to concentrate on dispute resolution.


The changes will be made through legislation that will be co-written with the Assembly of First Nations and introduced in the House of Commons in the fall.


FSIN Vice-Chief Glen Pratt welcomes today’s announcement.


Pratt says this initiative will be beneficial to Saskatchewan First Nations that have had “many negative experiences” in the land claims process.


There are currently 92 unresolved specific claims in Saskatchewan that have been submitted to the federal government, with additional claims being researched.


Another 51 claims have been settled.


Pratt says the independent body being proposed, with the power to make binding decisions, would remove the conflict of interest of having Ottawa judge claims against itself.


However, Pratt is adamant that First Nations must have real input into the legislation that will create this independent body to ensure that the new claims process is fair, efficient, and effective.