Feds spending record-breaking dollars on litigating Onkwehon:we land claims

A new article from the Law Times revealed that by far the largest spending on legal battles by the Canadian government is taking place in what most people still know as “Indian Affairs”.

Legal expenses for the fiscal year covering 2012-2013 tallied up to $106 million for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, with the Canada Revenue Agency a distant second with $66 million, followed by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada at $37 million and the RCMP at $21 million.

Comprehensive land claims make up a significant amount of the total legal expenses, with Canada caught up in some 81 comprehensive land claims in negotiation or under review.

Comprehensive land claims, or “Modern Treaties”, can often take a decade or more to negotiate. While the Federal government can throw virtually endless sums of public funds at the legal battles, Indigenous communities at negotiating tables come under intense pressure to conclude negotiations as quickly as possible given the legal expenses that get docked from final settlements.; and quick bargaining with a bad faith negotiator guarantees a bad bargain.

Russel Diabo, Editor of First Nations Strategic Bulletin, has written extensively on comprehensive land claims as amount to a “termination plan” for the Indigenous rights enshrined in Section 35 of Canada’s constitution. With Canadian governments anxious to prop up its economy through resource extraction, the need to settle land claims and secure property rights to Onkwehon:we lands becomes all the more urgent.

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