Frequently Asked Questions - Additions to Reserves
- Q. What is an addition to reserve?
- A. A reserve is a tract of land that has been set apart for the use and benefit of a First Nation.
An addition to reserve (ATR) is a parcel of land that is added to the existing land base of a First Nation. The legal title is set apart for the use and benefit of the band having made the application. Land can be added to reserves in either rural or urban settings.
The federal Additions to Reserves/New Reserves Policy requires that a step by step approach be taken when adding land to reserve.
- Q. Why is land added to reserve?
- A. Land can be added to reserve for any number of reasons. According to the Additions to Reserves/New Reserves Policy, land can be added to reserve to fulfill a legal obligation (such as a treaty land entitlement or a claim settlement agreement), for community growth or for the creation of a new reserve.
There are many reasons why First Nations may want to add land to their reserve, most notably for community expansion and economic development. Adding land to reserve is one way that First Nations are working to build healthier, sustainable communities. These additional reserve lands can also bring economic benefits to surrounding areas and municipalities. Stronger First Nations mean a stronger Canada.
- Q. Who is involved in adding new land to reserve?
- A. A number of different entities and levels of government may be involved in processing an addition to reserve proposal. These include the First Nation proposing the ATR and, potentially, any other First Nation that may have some claim or connection to the land in question; the provincial government (who may need to transfer ownership and jurisdiction of the land to Canada); the municipal government (who may need to resolve issues concerning the ongoing provision of municipal-type services such as road clearing, water and sewer, etc.), and various third parties such as hydro and telephone utilities (who may require ongoing land tenure for their infrastructure situated on the land in question). Each land parcel identified as a potential ATR must be reviewed to determine the specific set of issues that will need to be resolved, and therefore identify the parties that will need to be involved in the process.
- Q. How is new land added to reserve?
- A. The Government of Canada's Additions to Reserves/New Reserves Policy requires that a step-by-step approach be taken for all additions to reserve proposals to address the concerns of everyone involved, including environmental authorities and neighbouring municipalities.
The procedures for additions to reserve or reserve creation vary according to whether the land to be added to reserve is federal land, provincial Crown land or land that is privately owned (fee simple). Depending on who owns the land in question, various different partners will need to be involved in the ATR process.
When reserves are created as a result of a land claim settlement, First Nations are often provided with cash payments that may be used to purchase land. A First Nation may only purchase land on a willing seller/willing buyer basis. The First Nation may then ask the Government of Canada to grant reserve status to the land it has purchased.
This request will be reviewed by regional ATR committees and other officials within Indian and Northern Affairs Canada to ensure the requirements of the ATR Policy have been satisfied. In most cases, the Governor General has the final authority to approve additions to reserve and reserve creation. In the Prairie Provinces, however, the Minister has the authority to approve the creation of a reserve when either of the two federal Claim Settlement Implementation Acts apply and the First Nation chooses to invoke the applicable Act.
- Q. What criteria do ATR proposals need to meet?
- A. Each ATR proposal must be assessed to ensure certain basic criteria are met, including that:
- There are no significant environmental concerns;
- Reasonable attempts have been made to address the concerns of municipal or provincial governments;
- The proposal is cost-effective and the necessary funding has been identified within operational budgets;
- Third party legal interests (i.e., leases, permits and rights of way) have been addressed; and
- Issues of public access and the provision of public utilities have been addressed.
The ATR Policy notes that every effort should be made for the land to be acquired in parcels that are adjoining or separated by a road. In highly populated areas, however, this may not always be possible.
- Q. How do First Nations acquire new land for ATR proposals?
- A. A First Nation can acquire new land through a settlement agreement or by purchasing land on a willing seller-willing buyer basis. The Government of Canada does not expropriate private property to settle land claims, nor is anyone asked to sell their land unwillingly.
- Q. What is Treaty Land Entitlement?
- A. Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) claims are intended to settle the land debt owed to First Nations who did not receive all the land they were entitled to under historical treaties signed by the Crown and First Nations or from whom part or all of that land was illegally taken.
Once an agreement has been negotiated, a specified amount of federal or provincial Crown land is identified and/or a cash settlement is provided so that a First Nation may purchase federal, provincial/territorial or private land to settle the land debt. Currently, approximately 90 per cent of TLE transactions take place in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. In these two provinces, TLE framework agreements have been signed by the federal and provincial governments and a majority of the First Nations with valid TLE claims.
For more information on TLE, please see Treaty Land Entitlement - Frequently Asked Questions.
- Q. What is an urban reserve?
- A. An urban reserve is defined as a reserve within or adjacent to an urban municipality or centre, whether a small town or a major city. Urban reserves offer First Nation businesses the chance to establish themselves and provide employment and training opportunities. There are now more than 120 urban reserves across Canada.
For more information on urban reserves, please see the Backgrounder Urban Reserves: A Quiet Success Story.
- Q. What are the benefits of urban reserves?
- A. Urban reserves offer First Nation members economic opportunities that are generally unavailable in more remote areas. Urban reserves can be a stepping stone for the development of new Aboriginal businesses and a way into the mainstream job market for many First Nation people. With increased economic development comes increased self-sufficiency. Stronger First Nations mean a stronger Canada. The benefits of urban reserves also extend to host municipalities.
- Q. What impact do urban reserves have on host municipalities?
- A. Urban reserves can contribute to the revitalization of a municipality by providing much-needed economic stimulus to urban centres. In addition to the revenue derived from municipal service agreements, urban centres also benefit from job creation and new taxation revenue generated from off-reserve spin-offs of First Nation businesses.
- Q. How are municipal issues addressed?
- A. The ATR Policy requires that a First Nation seeking to add land to its reserve approach the appropriate municipal governments to resolve any issues of concern, such as:
- Measures to compensate for the municipality's net loss of tax revenue once the land receives reserve status;
- Arrangements, including payment, for the provision of any municipal services;
- Application and enforcement of by-laws on reserve (First Nation by-laws affecting neighbouring municipals lands or residents should be consistent with the municipality's by-laws);
- Creation of a joint consultative process for matters of mutual concern (such as land use planning) and a dispute resolution mechanism, where possible.
The First Nation and municipality are expected to negotiate in good faith to address any reasonable concerns.
- Q. How are environmental issues addressed?
- A. The ATR Policy requires an environmental review of all land proposed for reserve status. This review will identify any existing contamination to ensure that future residents will not be exposed to health risks. Based on the findings of the review, remediation of the site may be required before reserve status can be granted.
Any lands that become reserve lands are subject to federal laws and regulations pertaining to environmental protection, including the Canadian Environmental Protection Act , the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act , the Species at Risk Act , the Fisheries Act and the Indian Reserve Waste Disposal Regulations .