BC proposes legislative changes to support First Nations land ownership

The proposed reforms seek to amend the discriminatory practices embedded within existing laws

BC proposes legislative changes to support First Nations land ownership

The Government of British Columbia has presented Bill 13 - Land Title and Property Law Amendment Act, aiming to amend current legislation to facilitate First Nations' acquisition, holding, and registration of fee simple land in the province.

The initiative seeks to address and amend the discriminatory practices embedded within existing laws that have historically impeded First Nations from engaging in land transactions akin to individuals and corporations.

Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, highlighted the colonial legacy within British Columbia's legal framework, stating, "Our policies and laws are often built on past colonial ideas and practices, which have created hurdles and roadblocks for First Nations.” He further added, “With these new provisions, First Nations will have the ability to purchase and hold fee simple land directly, just as individuals and corporations have long been able to do. We are taking action to remove this long-standing and discriminatory barrier.”

Traditionally, First Nations entities, barring exceptions through treaties or specific federal laws, have faced restrictions in directly acquiring, holding or disposing of land in their names. The process typically requires navigating additional administrative hurdles, such as establishing a corporation or employing alternative mechanisms like proxies, federal trusts, or societies.

According to the provincial government, the proposed legislative amendments aim to simplify these processes, granting First Nations, recognized as legal entities under federal law, equivalent legal capacities as individuals and corporations for land registration and ownership in the B.C. land title office. These changes are intended to align the administrative procedures for First Nations with those applicable to corporations and Modern Treaty Nations.

Bill 13 will introduce amendments to the Property Law Act and the Land Title Act, facilitating the land registration process for First Nations and ensuring the legal recognition of such documents by the registrar and third parties acting in good faith with First Nations.

This legislative proposal results from extensive consultations with First Nations, Modern Treaty Nations, the federal government, local governments, and industry and business organizations. The feedback from these consultations has been documented in a "what we heard" report, illustrating the range of perspectives on the proposed legislative amendments.

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