[JURIST] Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper [official website] unveiled a series of reforms Tuesday designed to address the backlog of claims [press release] by aboriginal tribes over land seized by the Canadian government, saying a system would be created to solve the disputes "once and for all by impartial judges on a new Specific Claims Tribunal." The proposal, titled the Specific Claims Action Plan [backgrounder], would establish a new independent tribunal to permanently resolve existing disputes that have failed dispute resolution negotiations. The plan is designed to make financial compensation more transparent, and would set aside approximately $250 million for 10 years to fund claim settlements.
Harper's proposal, which must be approved by Parliament, would also "speed up processing of small claims and improve flexibility in the handling of large claims" and refocus the Indian Specific Claims Commission [official website] "to concentrate on dispute resolution." Phil Fontaine [official profile], the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations [official website] joined in support of Harper's proposal, saying it was a "positive response." Details of the proposed legislation will be be drafted by the First Nations, and provincial and territorial governments. Last Thursday, Amnesty International accused Harper's government of stalling the discussion and adoption [JURIST report] of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples [text]. Harper has also been criticized for failing to honor the Kelowna Accord [backgrounder] an agreement between Canada and indigenous leaders that committed $5 billion over a period of 10 years to address poverty on Canada's First Nation reserves [backgrounder]. AP has more.