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Legal and constitutional experts are calling on the Liberal government to expand the Court Challenges Program to include funding for Indigenous cases under Section 35 of the Constitution.

Groups, including the Canadian Bar Association and the Indigenous Bar Association, have also been advocating for funding under the program to ensure it is consistent with the prime minister’s commitment to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Martha Jackman, a constitutional legal expert based at the University of Ottawa, says the program was expanded under the federal government to include money for cases relating to specific sections of the charter.

She says, however, the mandate did not extend to funding for Section 35 cases addressing Aboriginal and treaty rights.

The Canadian Bar Association says Section 35 cases commonly seek to redress long-standing imbalances that have prejudiced Indigenous peoples and resulted in disparities between them and non-Indigenous society.

In a statement, Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould says the government is proud to have expanded the scope of the program to include sections of the charter, adding courts can order Ottawa to provide interim or advance costs in appropriate cases brought forward under Section 35.

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