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Land Claims & Research

Since 1987 The CMM has investigated Aboriginal land claims for our six of our member First Nations communities. The Specific Claims Research Department currently conducts research on Specific Land Claims. Comprehensive Land Claims within Nova Scotia are currently not part of our mandate and are being addressed through the Made-in-Nova Scotia Process.. 

What is a Specific Claim?

A Specific Claim is a legal claim against the Federal Government of Canada by a First Nation for a breach of fiduciary duty resulting in the loss of Reserve land or other in the and assets such as timber. The Specific Claim is governed by the Specific Claims Tribunal Act proclaimed in 2008. Prior to 2008, Canada would entertain claims under a published policy called Outstanding Business.

Once a Specific Claim is filed, INAC has 3 months to respond whether the claim meets minimum standards. If the claim meets minimum standards, INAC has 3 years to respond as to whether it will negotiate a settlement or deny the claim. If INAC responds that it has rejected the claim, the First Nation may choose to file the claim with the tribunal for final adjudication.

Updates to the Specific Claims Process

The recent changes with the legislation is that within The Specific Claims Tribunal Act is mandated that if the Specific Claim has been rejected for negotiation by INAC, the First Nation may submit the claim to a tribunal hosted by an impartial judge to hear the First Nation’s argument for the Specific Claim.

The Specific Claims Tribunal, established on October 16, 2008, is part of the Federal Government’s Justice at Last policy and joint initiative with the Assembly of First Nations aimed at accelerating the resolution of specific claims in order to provide justice for First Nations claimants and certainty for government, industry and all Canadians.

For the first time in Canadian history First Nations will now have a choice to file a claim with the Tribunal – an independent adjudicative body comprised of up to 6 full time Federal judges appointed from Provincial Superior Courts across the country. Their website is www.sct-trp.ca if interested you can check the status of claims submitted to the Tribunal.

Grounds for a Specific Claim under the Act

Specific claims are not the same as comprehensive claims, in which aboriginal peoples assert their claim of title to land according to historic use and occupation. Unlike specific claims, comprehensive claims do not necessarily involve allegations of Crown misconduct.

Specific Claims are founded on the following grounds:

  1. A failure to fulfill a legal obligation of the Crown to protect lands or other assets under a treaty or another agreement between the First Nation and the Crown;
  2. A breach of a legal obligation of the Crown under the Indian Act or any other legislation pertaining to Indians or lands reserved for Indians of Canada or of a colony of Great Britain of which at least some portion now forms part of Canada;
  3. A breach of a legal obligation arising from the Crown’s provision or no-provision of reserve lands, including unilateral undertakings that give rise to fiduciary obligation at law, or its administration of reserve lands, Indian moneys or other assets of the First Nation;
  4. An illegal lease or disposition by the Crown of reserve lands;
  5. A failure to provide adequate compensation for reserve lands taken or damaged by the Crown or any of its agencies under legal authority;
  6. Fraud by employees or agents of the Crown in connection with acquisition, leasing or disposition of reserve lands.

The CMM Research Unit has currently over 80 identified claims for our member First Nations which are in different stages of research.

The CMM research unit contributed to the supporting documentations used as the basis for the Donald Marshall case that reinstates the Mi’kmaq right to the commercial fishery.


The Research Department has an exceptional collection of Mi’kmaq historical documents. Our collection is known as one of the best resources for Mi’kmaq research. All materials are located at The CMM’s main office in Millbrook. The database is accessible to interested parties for a nominal fee.

If you have any inquiries concerning Land Claims or any of the above materials, please contact The CMM’s Research Manager at (902) 895-6385.