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Breaking Ground: Alberta’s First Nations Land Code Receives Approval

Breaking Ground: Alberta’s First Nations Land Code Receives Approval

Credit and congratulations are due to the Woodland Cree First Nation in Northern Alberta, who celebrated the approval of their Land Code, making that First Nation the first in Alberta to achieve this important step towards exerting independent control over their own lands. Expect more First Nations to follow their example.

Prior to 1996, all First Nation lands in Canada were administered in accordance with the Indian Act. In practice, this meant that any dealings in reserve lands were subject to departmental policy determined by the federal Crown. Moreover, any such dealings or transactions had to be run through the Crown’s lawyers at the Department of Justice, at the request of a First Nation’s band council or Certificate of Possession holder. Many have argued that these administrative and procedural roadblocks held back economic development of First Nation lands.

However, with the signing of the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management (or just the “Framework Agreement”) and its implementation through two successive federal Acts, those First Nations who choose to sign the Framework Agreement become eligible to create their own land code, their own lands office, and start taking a direct role in the administration of reserve lands. This will become more and more commonplace, as First Nations recognize the economic opportunities before them, and embrace the ability to take control of their own land administration. This is good news not only for First Nations, but also lenders and developers who wish to partner with those Nations to develop on-reserve projects. In becoming the first to successfully develop and approve a Land Code, the Woodland Cree First Nation has set a tremendous example for others to follow.

Should you be interested in or have questions regarding on-reserve development projects, please contact Sean F.J. Curran.

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