By Law or In Justice
240 pages, 6 x 9
Release Date:15 Apr 2018
Release Date:15 Apr 2018
Release Date:15 Apr 2018
Release Date:27 Apr 2018

By Law or In Justice

The Indian Specific Claims Commission and the Struggle for Indigenous Justice

UBC Press, Purich Books

The Indian Specific Claims Commission (ICC) was formed in 1991 in response to the Oka crisis. Its purpose was to resolve and expedite specific claims arising out of promises made to Indigenous nations in treaties, the Indian Act, and the larger set of legal and ethical obligations flowing from the Crown to those nations. Had those promises been kept, these claims would not exist.

By Law or In Justice traces the history of Indigenous claims in Canada and the work of the ICC from 1991 until it was decommissioned by the Harper government in 2009. An insider’s account, it is written by long-standing ICC commissioner Jane Dickson who looks critically at the development and implementation of Canada’s specific claims policy. Drawing upon the records of the commission and a wealth of research and experience with Indigenous claims and communities, she provides an unflinching look at the inquiry process and the parties involved as they struggled to achieve just resolution of specific claims.

By Law or In Justice provides a balanced, careful analysis of Canada’s claims policy, the challenges faced by Indigenous claimants, and the legacy of the commission. By documenting the promises made and broken to Indigenous nations, this book also makes a passionate plea for greater claims justice so that true reconciliation can be achieved.

The book is intended for the wide range of readers who want or need to know more about how the claims process works and how the state met, or failed to meet, its promises to Indigenous peoples through this process. This includes scholars, particularly in law, political science, anthropology, and sociology; government policy makers; and lawyers and negotiators working in this area.More generally it will be of interest to Canadians concerned about the just resolution of land claims, reconciliation, and Indigenous rights in Canada.

Jane Dickson’s remarkable book is a case study of administrative evil masquerading as rule of law. It reveals how the same consciousness that unleashed systemic injustices in the federal administration for Indians in the past has persisted and controlled the specific claims process that was intended to resolve broken treaty promises – once again fading First Nations hopes for justice in Canada. Sákéj Henderson, research fellow, Native Law Centre of Canada, University of Saskatchewan
Canadians still do not understand the need for real and transformative justice in dealing with Indigenous claims and disputes. In this thoughtful and provocative work on the Indian Claims Commission, Jane Dickson combines an insider’s perspective on the work of the ICC with a legal scholar’s understanding of what is possible and necessary. Canada can do better. Dickson provides a road map to legal reconciliation. Ken Coates, co-author of From Treaty Peoples to Treaty Nation: A Road Map for All Canadians
Jane Dickson has a long and well-respected history of research, teaching, and grassroots activism in the furtherance of social, legal, and cultural justice for Indigenous peoples within Canada. She has served as an advisor to the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake on traditional justice and has two decades of service as an advisor to the Department of Justice and Corrections of the Cree Nation Government. Currently an associate professor of law and legal studies at Carleton University, Jane Dickson served as an Indian Claims Commissioner from 2002 to 2009.


1 Specific Claims in Canada: A Brief History and Policy Roadmap

2 Dependent on the Good Will of the Sovereign: Background to the Indian Specific Claims Commission

3 The Indian Specific Claims Commission: Second Sober Thought

4 Challenges to the Process: Applications for Inquiries and Constructive Rejections

5 On the Road Again: Planning Conferences, Community Sessions, and the Integrity of the Process

6 By Law or In Justice: Legal Arguments, Panel Deliberations, and the Murky Waters of the Mediation Unit

7 Beyond Lawful Obligation: The Closure of the ICC and the Rise of the Specific Claims Tribunal

8 The Legacy of the ICC and Lessons for the Future of Specific Claims

Notes; Index

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