The Specific Claims Tribunal Act came into force on October 16, 2008. The first appointments of Superior Court Justices as members of the Tribunal took place on November 27, 2009. Justice Johanne Mainville of the Quebec Superior Court, Justice Patrick Smith of the Ontario Superior Court, and Justice Harry Slade of the B.C. Superior Court were appointed to serve as tribunal members for a term of one year. On December 11, 2009, Justice Slade was appointed Chairperson of the Tribunal.
There is much work to be done before the Tribunal can be fully constituted to commence its adjudicative role. The task at present is to lay the foundation for a fully functioning Tribunal.
This foundational work includes the following:
Once this work is completed, the stage will be set for the appointment of the roster of between 6 and 18 justices as members of the Tribunal, as called for by s. 6(2) of the Act. The Superior Court judges who volunteer, and are designated by their respective Chief Justices, will be available for appointment to the Tribunal.
Once the roster is established, the Tribunal will be positioned to schedule pre-hearing procedures and hearings.
The development of the rules of practice and procedure is a matter of high priority for the Tribunal as it is presently constituted.
The Tribunal has received a draft of rules jointly developed by representatives of federal government ministries and the Assembly of First Nations. These will assist the Tribunal in its development of a more comprehensive set of rules. In doing so, the Tribunal will, as directed by s. 13(1)(c) of the Act, take cultural diversity into consideration.
The formulation of rules of practice and procedure is not a simple task. Although there are many precedents from the Superior Courts of Canada, and from tribunals constituted in other jurisdictions with a mandate to address issues unique to indigenous peoples, none are adequate as a template for rules appropriate to the unique history of specific claims, and the requirements of the Act.
A draft set of rules of practice and procedure is being prepared, with the assistance of persons with appropriate expertise. The draft will, once completed, be circulated to all interested stakeholders, and will be posted on this website.
Once comments are collected and reviewed, a further draft will be prepared. The revised draft will be distributed and posted.
Particulars of a consultative process will be provided to stakeholders, and other organizations that have offered assistance, at the time of distribution of the initial draft.
The Tribunal expects that the rules will be in place by the fall of 2010.
The Honorable Harry Slade, QC