Canada and First Nations Leaders working toward better land management agreements

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Signing of MOU in Oct 2011THUNDER BAY – Aboriginal Now – The Government of Canada and First Nations Leaders are working toward a more equitable agreement on land management. This process started in 1999, and today, John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, joined Chief Robert Louie, Chair of the First Nations Lands Advisory Board (LAB), and Chief Austin Bear, Chair of the First Nations Land Management Resource Centre Inc., at a special signing ceremony on in Ottawa. The signing of the agreement marks the addition of 18 First Nations from across Canada to the Framework Agreement on First Nations Land Management.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates how our Government is working with First Nations to deliver on the commitments made at the Crown-First Nations Gathering to create the conditions to accelerate economic development opportunities and maximize benefits for all Canadians,” said Minister Duncan. “This important step will allow them to operate at the speed of business, creating economic and job opportunities and leading to more self-sufficient communities.”

The Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management (1996) was ratified by the First Nations Land Management Act (FNLMA) in 1999. The Framework Agreement enables participating First Nations to opt out of the 34 land-related sections of the Indian Act and establish their own regimes to govern their lands, resources and environment.

There will now be over 50 First Nations operating under their own land codes.

The Framework Agreement requires that First Nations develop a land code setting out the basic rules and procedures for the new land governance regime. This in turn, lays the groundwork for expanded economic development on reserves and increased business partnerships with the private sector.

By signing onto the Framework Agreement, these First Nations are beginning a process to opt out of the 34 land-related sections of the Indian Act and assume control over their reserve land, resources and environment.

The Government of Canada committed up to $20 million over two years to respond to the growing interest from First Nation leaders to participate in the First Nations Land Management (FNLM) Regime. On January 23, 2012, the Government announced the names of 18 First Nations selected to join the Regime as part of this commitment. The First Nations include: Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation [AB], Aitchelitz [BC], Beausoleil [ON], Bingwi Neyaashi Anishinaabek [ON], Buffalo Point [MB], Haisla Nation [BC], Long Plain [MB], Mashteuiatsh [QC], Membertou [NS], Miawpukek [NL], One Arrow [SK], Shuswap [BC], Skowkale [BC], St. Mary’s [BC], Stz’uminus [BC], Tsuu T’ina [AB], Williams Lake Indian Band [BC] and Yakweakwioose [BC].

“This is another historic day for the Framework Agreement,” stated Chief Louie. “Eighteen more First Nations now have the opportunity to assume jurisdiction over their reserve lands. This control is a critical step on the path to self-sufficiency.”

“Without the Minister’s dedication to advance the Framework Agreement, we would not be here today in celebration,” added Chief Bear. “The Directors of the Lands Advisory Board and the Resource Centre Board are pleased with the government’s commitment to putting First Nations in more direct control of their economic development.”

As new signatories to the Framework Agreement, these First Nations can now begin developing their own land codes. Once approved by their community members, these land codes will enable the First Nations to better pursue economic opportunities outside the limitations of the Indian Act. Today’s signing ceremony means that almost 60 First Nations are now operating or developing land codes under the FNLM Regime.

Improving economic opportunities for Aboriginal people is a priority for the Government of Canada. In June 2009, the Government of Canada released the Federal Framework for Aboriginal Economic Development (FFAED) which represents a fundamental change to how the federal government supports Aboriginal economic development. The FFAED emphasizes strengthening entrepreneurship, enhancing the value of Aboriginal assets, and forging new and effective partnerships to maximize the economic development potential of Aboriginal Canadians.

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