Land Code

Land Code

The Akisqnuk First Nation is in development of a land code to assume legal authority over its reserve land and put a long-overdue end to Indian Affairs' time as landlord of the First Nation. Pending a successful community referendum (scheduled for September 8 and 9, 2017 and with several advance voting opportunities) the land code will legally replace the land management provisions of the Indian Act.

The 10-Akisqnuknik strong Land Code Creation Committee has completely reviewed the first draft of the land code. It is available for any Akisqnuknik to see, please email Adrian (abergles@akisqnuk.org), or call the band office  (250) 342-6301 to get a copy.

Akisqnuk First Nation is joining over 100 first nations across Canada who have worked toward assuming control of their lands and resources through a land code. The process to reassume control over reserve lands is based in the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management, a government-to-government agreement that outlines how the transfer from Canada to individual first nations will occur.

For a 2014 KPMG paper outlining the benefits of land code for participating first nations click here.

How does it work?

- The Akisqnuk First Nation will develop a land code to replace the land provisions of the Indian Act

- The Akisqnuk First Nation will enter into an individual agreement with Canada that describes the specifics of the transfer from Canada to the First Nation

- Akisqnuknik people will then need to vote at referendum to ratify the land code and Individual Agreement in order to assume legal authority over reserve lands

The benefits of a land code to the Akisqnuk First Nation are more than just symbolic. If adopted by the community at referendum, a land code becomes the foundational land law of the first nation. It will allow the first nation to make timely business and administrative decisions without having to go to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs for approval.

Land code will allow the first nation to develop laws for proper and sound management and protection of environment and cultural resources. It will protect the first nation against any future arbitrary expropriation of reserve lands.

Land code will not affect the Ktunaxa Treaty Process or Aboriginal rights and does not affect taxation. Certificates of possession and any leases currently in place will continue forward after land code is adopted.

Land Management under a land code means Control of the Akisqnuk First Nation lands by the Akisqnuk First Nation and includes:

  • Interests and licences for land and natural resources
  • Environmental assessment
  • Environmental protection
  • land use and development
  • Land Transfers, including wills and estates
  • Matrimonial property
  • Dispute resolution
  • Enforcement
  • Administration and accountability, including conflict of interest rules

Land management under a land code does not apply to:

  • Taxation
  • Any lands except for reserve lands
  • Migratory Birds
  • Endangered Species
  • Fisheries
  • Oil and natural gas
  • Atomic energy

Anyone seeking more information is asked to please contact Lands Manager Adrian Bergles: abergles@akisqnuk.org or Land Code Development Assistant (vacant).

The Council of the Akisqnuk First Nation has set in place a committee of 10 interested and concerned Akisqnuknik to develop the land code that will be the fundamental law of administration of lands and resources of the Akisqnuk First Nation. The committee members are:

Marguerite Cooper, Emilia Danyluck, Mary Jimmy, Glynda Joseph (on leave), Anna Hudson, Leona Kains, Gayle Michel, Jason Nicholas, and Beatrice Stevens.

After the land code is finalized, Akisqnuknik will be asked to vote to approve or disapprove the land code and land management for the Akisqnuk First Nation. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on this important matter. For more information on land code and the land management process, visit the First Nations Land Management Resource Centre website. www.labrc.com.

Akisqnuk Land code timeline

November 24, 2009: Council of the day signs the original Band Council Resolution (BCR) in support of the First Nation being added to the Framework Agreement on First Nations Land  Management — the foundational document for development of a Land Code and reserve land self-management

February 14, 2013: Council at that time signs a second BCR reaffirming Akisqnuk’s desire to sign onto the Framework Agreement

Spring, 2013: Akisqnuk staff, based on the BCRs signed by Council, completes the self assessment questionnaire and submits it to the First Nations Land Management Resource Centre — this document outlines community capacity and interest in self-management of its reserve lands

September 19, 2013: Akisqnuk, along with 28 other First Nations, is invited by Aboriginal Affairs as a new entrant in the First Nations Land Management Regime.

September 21, 2013: This news is communicated to membership for the first time at the Akisqnuk AGA. Several news articles follow in the many months thereafter in the Akisqnuk Community Newsletter.

July 7, 2014: Akisqnuk First Nation, Aboriginal Affairs, and the First Nations Land Management Resource Centre sign the Implementation Document to formally begin work toward a Land Code — implementation of which is to be decided at referendum by community members within the next two years.

Spring 2015 to present: Land Code Development Committee continues to meet on a regular basis. Land Code Development Committee meetings are open to Akisqnuknik people. For more information and the date and times for upcoming meetings, contact Adrian Bergles abergles@akisqnuk.org or Nevada Nicholas nnicholas@akisqnuk.org

June, 2016: First draft of land code completely reviewed by the Akisqnuknik Land Code Development Committee.

Pros and Cons of a Land Code

Pros:  First Nation is recognized as the Government and real decision maker over their lands and resources; Removal of reserve lands from the Indian Act; Community control over First Nation land management and any development; Inclusion of both off-reserve and on-reserve members in important decisions; increased accountability to members of the First Nation; More efficient management of First Nation land; Recognition of First Nation’s legal capacity to acquire and hold property, to borrow, to contract, to expend and invest money, to be a party to legal proceedings, to exercise its powers and to perform its duties; Transfer by Canada of previous land revenues to First Nation; Recognition of the right to receive revenue from interests in First Nation land; Protection against arbitrary expropriation of First Nation land; Protection against loss of First Nation land through surrender for sale; Ability of First Nation to protect the environment; Recognition of significant law-making powers respecting First Nation land; Removal of the need to obtain Ministerial approval for First Nation laws; Recognition in Canadian courts of First Nation laws; Recognition of right to create modern offences for breach of First Nation laws; Ability to appoint Justices of the Peace; Ability to create a local dispute resolution processes; Establishment of a legal registry system; Establishment of an Akisqnuk First Nation-run Lands Board to provide technical assistance in Lands Management.

As well as the long list of pros there may be some cons to developing a land code:

Cons: Akisqnuk First Nation will take full responsibility for all future decision making and cannot blame anyone else if any future mistakes are made. Training will be a priority, thus staff and financial resources will have to be made available (Aboriginal Affairs will continue to fund land Management under a Land Code); There is no turning back to the Indian Act to get Aboriginal Affairs to take back land decision making; Community readiness – Is the community ready for its own full decision making?; Council/staff experience – Does Council and staff feel up to the task to be full decision makers?; Typical growing pains of any government related to sufficient resources, staff, space, policy and procedural development, law making.

For any questions related to land code, please contact Adrian Bergles, Lands Manager, abergles@akisqnuk.org, or Nevada Nicholas, Land Code Development Assistant, nnicholas@ktunaxa.org

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