First Nation Land Management: Policy and legislation
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On February 12, 1996, Canada and 13 First Nations signed the historic nation-to-nation Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management (Framework Agreement). The Framework Agreement supports First Nations transitioning away from the 44 lands-related sections of the Indian Act, and resuming the authority to govern their First Nation lands and environment through a community approved land code. To ratify the Framework Agreement, the now replaced, First Nations Land Management Act was brought into force on June 17, 1999. On December 15, 2022, the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management Act came into force to repeal and replace the First Nations Land Management Act.
First Nation Land Management is jointly supported by the departments of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC). CIRNAC holds legislative authority over the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management Act. The Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations is responsible for implementing broad policy initiatives, legislative and regulatory changes and implementing aspects of First Nation Land Management that mark significant milestones in the Crown-Indigenous relationship. The Minister of Indigenous Services has been delegated the operational responsibility for First Nation Land Management and provides funding and technical support to First Nations transitioning away from the application of the lands related sections of the Indian Act.
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Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management
In the early 1990's, a group of First Nations chiefs approached the federal government with a proposal to transition away from the application of certain sections of the Indian Act that related to the management of land, environment and natural resources. Canada and these First Nations negotiated the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management, which was signed on February 12, 1996.
The Framework Agreement lays out the process through which a First Nation resumes the authority to govern their lands according to a community approved land code, through which First Nation land laws derive. Land codes are unique to each First Nation and designed to meet a community's specific needs, rather than the one-size-fits-all approach of the Indian Act. As a First Nation-led process, First Nation Land Management has seen considerable growth since the signing of the Framework Agreement. The Framework Agreement has more than 200 signatories, with more than 100 First Nations managing their lands through a land code.
Upon implementation of a land code, affected reserve lands become known as First Nations lands, but remain defined within the meaning of s.91(24) of the Constitution Act, 1867.
Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management Act
Beginning in 2020, the Government of Canada worked with the First Nation organization, the Lands Advisory Board, and its technical arm, the First Nations Land Management Resource Centre, to co-develop legislative changes that resituate the Framework Agreement as the central authority on First Nation Land Management.
On December 15, 2022, the Framework Agreement on First Nations Land Management Act came into force to repeal and replace the First Nations Land Management Act. This more concise legislation was co-developed with the Lands Advisory Board and First Nations Land Management Resource Centre to recognize First Nation Land Management as a First Nation-led process.
The Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management Act aligns with articles 26, 29 and 32 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples related to land management and Indigenous-led processes.
New changes in effect
- The Framework Agreement is provided with the force of law.
- Repetition of Framework Agreement provisions have been removed in the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management Act.
- The Framework Agreement is clearly recognized as the central authority on First Nation Land Management.
- The amendment process is streamlined as legislative amendments are no longer required for every amendment to the Framework Agreement.
- Schedules to the federal ratifying legislation have been removed.
The Lands Advisory Board
The Lands Advisory Board is the First Nation-led organization that represents First Nation signatories to the Framework Agreement. The Lands Advisory Board supports the collective interests of First Nation signatories during negotiated amendments to the Framework Agreement with Canada, and advocates politically on behalf of First Nations that are signatories to the Framework Agreement.
The First Nations Land Management Resource Centre directly supports First Nations in developing their land codes. The Resource Centre also works directly with federal government officials towards the development of policy initiatives, funding negotiations, and legislative and regulatory amendments.
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