Opportunities are being created across Canada as First Nations
take action to unlock the potential of their lands.
Historically, numerous impediments to the development of First
Nations land have existed, many associated with restrictions
imposed under the Indian Act (Canada), a
situation made worse by the paternal role that act established for
the federal government as owner and trustee of First Nations
The result? Among other things, much First Nations land
has not come close to realizing its full economic potential.
Over the past couple of decades, a number of legislative
initiatives have been implemented that are helping First Nations
change this picture, including:
the First Nations Land Management Act (Canada), under
which First Nations are able to take back responsibility for
administering their lands;
the First Nations Fiscal Management Act (Canada),
which provides First Nations with the ability to assess and levy
taxes on their lands and activities on those lands;
the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development
Act (Canada), which permits commercially useful provincial
laws, such as those governing environmental protection, strata
development, builders liens and land title registration, to be
incorporated as federal law applicable to First Nations land;
in some provinces, the establishment of modern treaties
providing First Nations with a wide range of powers over their
lands, including outright ownership.
Additional initiatives, including the proposed federal First
Nations Property Ownership Act, may be implemented in the
future, further augmenting the property rights First Nations are
beginning to enjoy under the above regimes.
The potential value of First Nations land will obviously depend
on its location, specific characteristics and the goals of the
First Nation since, clearly, not everyone will view the
"potential" of particular land through the same lens.
But in economic terms, the above initiatives are already
beginning to have significant effect. In fact, in some areas
First Nations are becoming major development players in their own
right, creating opportunities not only for themselves, but also for
their partners and surrounding communities. That, combined
with the measure of control over their own lands and affairs such
regimes afford First Nations, is worth celebrating – and
paying attention to.
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