Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada legal fees

On August 28, 2017, the Prime Minister announced the dissolution of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) and the creation of two new departments: Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC).

The Government of Canada is working to right historical wrongs and rebuild our relationship with First Nations, Inuit and Métis based on affirmation of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. We remain committed to negotiating resolutions outside of the courts, as we believe that negotiation is always preferable to litigation.

Litigation costs are not solely incurred by court proceedings. Many of these costs are incurred for out-of-court resolution activities such as recent settlements with regard to Indigenous Childhood Claims Litigation (for example: Sixties Scoop, Residential Day Schools) as well as specific claims settlements, which seek to address historical claims in order to provide justice for Indigenous communities.

Legal fees amounts also vary from year to year based on the volume of transactional business requiring legal advice, the pace of negotiations and adjudications, and the nature and magnitude of litigation brought before the courts. Not all of CIRNAC's legal costs are related to defending litigation. Costs include legal advisory services, exploratory discussions, negotiations and settlement agreement implementation. In the majority of litigation files, Canada is a defendant – while the preferred approach to resolving outstanding grievances is negotiations, Canada continues to recognize that Indigenous peoples are entitled to choose their preferred forum to resolve outstanding claims, which may include litigation. Canada remains open to alternative forms of resolution, such as mediation and negotiation.

The total amount of legal fees paid by CIRNAC in 2019-20 was $58.5 million.

CIRNAC continues to ensure that its legal costs are managed in a transparent and accountable manner for the mutual benefit of all Canadians. These costs are submitted annually to the Receiver General and the most recent costs are detailed in the 2020 Public Accounts.

CIRNAC believes that the best way to address issues with respect to Indigenous peoples is through collaboration and not through litigation. Negotiated settlements and outcomes are preferred whenever possible.

2019-2020 legal fees ($58.5M)
2019-2020 legal fees ($58.5M)
Text alternative for 2019-2020 legal fees pie chart

The graphic above is a pie chart representation of the total $58.5 million in legal fees paid by CIRNAC in 2019-20. The legal services expenditures include two components:

  • $57.0 million for legal services received from the Department of Justice Canada. This includes costs for both advisory ($20.7 million) and litigation services ($36.3 million).
  • $1.5 million for legal services from contracted lawyers or legal agents outside of the Department of Justice Canada.
Annual Comparison Costs of Legal Services (in millions)
  CIRNAC INAC
  2019-2020 2018-2019 2017-2018 2016-2017 2015-2016
Department of Justice Canada
Advisory services $20.7 $24.2 $25.8 $32.4 $32.9
Litigation services $36.3 $31.3 $33.3 $33.1 $29.5
Total cost paid to the Department of
Justice Canada
$57.0 $55.5 $59.1 $65.5 $62.4
Contracted lawyers and agents
External legal contracted servicesFootnote 1 $1.5 $6.5 $4.1 $3.3 $3.6
Total cost paid for contracted lawyers and agents $1.5 $6.5 $4.1 $3.3 $3.6
Total legal costs $58.5 $62.0 $63.2 $68.8 $66.0

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