Indian Claims Commission

Indian Claims Commission

March 31, 2009 17:32 ET

The Indian Specific Claims Commission Submits its Final Report to the Federal Government

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 31, 2009) - By Order in Council, and due to the creation by legislation of the Specific Claims Tribunal on October 23, 2008, the Indian Specific Claims Commission formally closes its doors today, March 31, 2009, after 18 years of operation, a unique phenomenon in the history of inquiry commissions in Canada.

This last year, the Commission finished 7 inquiries and published 9 inquiry reports. In the area of mediation, the ICC worked on 12 files and released 5 reports. Over its 18 years, the ICC completed 88 inquiries with reports and 17 mediation reports.

Some important principles guided the ICC's work from the beginning. The first principles were independence and impartiality, reflected in each step of the inquiry process. With regard to mediation, there were no more important qualities as the ICC attempted to bring parties together to reach a satisfactory agreement.

The second group of principles covered fairness and natural justice. In some cases, the inquiry process presented the first opportunity for the parties to meet.

Respect was a key factor; respect of tradition and history and of different ways of relating to past events and records. The ICC process was community based. It engaged the parties in planning the inquiries, following which staff visited the First Nation to explain the process and to interview Elders. Panels of Commissioners then held public hearings in the communities. Finally, the Elders'evidence and documentary evidence were the subject of written submissions by counsel for the parties, followed by oral presentations grounded in evidence and in law. Panels subsequently deliberated to produce their reports and recommendations.

Throughout its existence, the Commission stressed the importance of oral history. The ICC meticulously collected oral history relevant to the inquiries, according particular importance to the testimony of Elders. This was a unique contribution; it benefitted both First Nations and Canadians in general. The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized the importance of according equal weight to oral history evidence with other forms of evidence.

Openness and transparency were paramount. Commissioners and staff travelled to communities to ensure that distance was not a barrier to hearing or to being heard. The ICC maintained a Web site, issued newsletters and published inquiry, mediation and annual reports. Commissioners and staff participated in conferences and meetings. Twenty-four Indian Claims Commission Proceedings volumes (ICCPs) were also published and included an index of key words used in reports. In the future, these will serve as a reference tool for First Nations, researchers and educators, the new Tribunal and the general public.

The last two annual reports have been submitted and are still to be tabled in Parliament, as well as a final report giving an overview of the ICC's experience, along with lessons learned. They will be posted on the website of the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada once tabled. (www.ainc-inac.gc.ca)

The ICC saw its role as bridging different perspectives, a concept which will remain critical in the future for specific claims. Commissioners trust that their experience will influence in a positive way the course of specific claims in the future.

The Chief Commissioner and Commissioners are honoured to have had the opportunity to serve on the Indian Specific Claims Commission.

Contact Information

  • Indian Claims Commission
    Manon Garrett
    Communications Coordinator
    613-947-3939