Assembly of First Nations Welcomes Decision by Federal Court of Appeal Re-Affirming Kitselas First Nation (BC) Land Rights: Calls on Canada to Stop Challenging Decisions of its Own Specific Claims Tribunal

OTTAWA, June 6, 2014 /CNW/ - The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Executive Committee today welcomed the unanimous judgment by the Federal Court of Appeal dismissing Canada's challenge of a decision by the Specific Claims Tribunal that the Kitselas First Nation had validly established that the Crown breached its legal obligation to Kitselas First Nation as a result of the non-inclusion of a 10.5 acre parcel of land in a reserve initially identified in 1891.

"We congratulate the Kitselas First Nation for their persistence in standing up for their rights and, in so doing, ensuring Canada respects and upholds the rights of all First Nations," said AFN Regional Chief for British Columbia Jody Wilson-Raybould.  "This ruling once again affirms that decisions by the Specific Claims Tribunal are fair and transparent and for that reason I urge Canada to stop pursuing judicial reviews of Specific Claims Tribunal decisions and immediately implement the Tribunal's decision so as to not further deny the Kitselas First Nation the justice and restitution that they deserve.  The approach to resolving specific claims must be guided by the spirit of reconciliation as set out in Canada's Justice at Last claims policy."

The Government of Canada applied for the judicial review on March 21, 2013 when the Tribunal issued a decision in favour of the Kitselas First Nation.  The Federal Court of Appeal held the hearings April 7-8, 2014 and on June 5 the Federal Court of Appeal dismissed the Crown's judicial review.  Canada has twice now called for judicial reviews of decisions by the Specific Claims Tribunal.  On March 28, 2014, the Government of Canada applied for a judicial review of the Williams Lake Band Tribunal decision.  A judicial review undermines the role of the Specific Claims Tribunal and puts First Nations at a disadvantage as there is no funding to reply to a judicial review or the lengthy court process that can result.

The Specific Claims Tribunal was established as a part of the work carried out by AFN and Canada under the federal Justice at Last initiative announced in 2007.  The Tribunal is an adjudicative body mandated to address specific claims valued up to $150 million each.  It was created to resolve historical claims, which may ordinarily be statute barred if brought in a court.  The Tribunal has jurisdiction to hear claims based on the unlawful disposition of First Nation lands and determine the legal obligations of the Crown in relation to those dispositions.  Canada committed to impartiality, fairness and transparency under its Justice at Last policy.

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.

SOURCE: Assembly of First Nations

For further information:

Alain Garon AFN Bilingual Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 382; 613-292-0857 or agaron@afn.ca

Jenna Young AFN Communications Officer 613-241-6789, ext 401; 613-314-8157 or jyoung@afn.ca


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