Forthcoming document expected to outline cost to settle legal claims by Indigenous Peoples

The federal government's forthcoming annual public accounts will release a trove of numbers that will show how much more Ottawa expects to pay to settle billions of dollars in legal claims made by Indigenous Peoples and their communities.

The contingent liabilities section in last year's public accounts estimated Ottawa would eventually have to pay out total of nearly 20 billion dollars to cover 70 outstanding comprehensive Indigenous land claims, 528 smaller specific claims and thousands of other cases of litigation, including those related to the legacy of residential schools.

The total is expected to grow again when the newest documents come out, as it has over the past several years.

The gradual climb of the government's contingent liabilities is raising questions about how the payments could eventually affect the federal bottom line as each claim is settled.

A source with knowledge of the government's deliberations on Indigenous claims says Ottawa has grappled internally with how best to account for the climbing contingent liabilities and how they could ultimately impact the federal books.

In recent years, the federal public accounts have gradually raised the contingent liability estimates for each of these types of claims.

Combined, the public accounts pegged them at a combined 18.4 billion dollars in 2016, 16.6 billion in 2015 and less than 14.5 billion in 2014.