Frequently Asked Questions - Treaty Land Entitlement

Q. What is Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE)?

A. Treaty land entitlement claims are intended to settle the land debt owed to those First Nations who did not receive all the land they were entitled to under historical treaties signed by the Crown and First Nations.

Once an agreement has been negotiated, a specified amount of Crown lands 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.

Canada remains committed to balancing legitimate interests of First Nations with equally legitimate interests of non-Aboriginal parties. Private property will not be affected by claims settlements - land sales will be strictly on a willing-seller/willing-buyer basis.

Q. When were TLE claims in Saskatchewan and Manitoba negotiated?

A. The Saskatchewan Treaty Land Entitlement Framework Agreement was signed in 1992 by the Government of Canada, the Province of Saskatchewan and 25 First Nations. Subsequent Treaty Land Entitlement settlements were reached with eight other First Nations following the principles set out in the Framework Agreement.

Seven individual agreements were signed between 1994 and 1996 in Manitoba. The Manitoba Treaty Land Entitlement Framework was signed in 1997 by the Government of Canada, the Province of Manitoba and representatives of 19 First Nations.

Q. What is an Addition to Reserve?

A. A reserve, as defined in the Indian Act, is a tract of land (the legal title to which is vested in Her Majesty) that has been set apart for the use and benefit of an Indian band.

An Addition to Reserve is a parcel of land that has been added to an existing reserve. Upon being added, the legal title also becomes vested in Her Majesty and is set apart by Her Majesty for the use and benefit of the Indian band that made the application.

As well as providing funding to First Nations for the acquisition of lands, TLE settlements provide First Nations with the option of asking the Government of Canada to transfer lands they have acquired into reserve status, thus creating an Addition to Reserve. TLE agreements have specific provisions that may allow the First Nation to purchase lands located in an urban or rural setting or select Crown lands.

Q. Does land automatically become reserve when purchased by a First Nation?

A. No. Approval of reserve status is not automatic. Both the TLE framework agreements and the federal Additions to Reserve (ATR) policy require that a step-by-step approach be taken when creating either rural or urban reserves. This process essentially begins with a First Nation submitting a proposal for the new reserve and results, if all steps in the process are successfully completed, with land(s) being added to reserve.

The ATR process is an intensive, due diligence-based process that takes time but ensures that all affected parties are appropriately involved. Treaty Land Entitlement additions are viewed as legal obligations within the ATR policy.

Q. Who has the responsibility of processing an Addition to Reserve?

A. There are three phases to the Additions to Reserves process in which various parties have responsibilities. Generally speaking, responsibilities between the applying First Nation and the Government of Canada vary according to the process phase:

Phase One, the "planning" phase, is predominantly the responsibility of the applying First Nation. In Phase I, the First Nation brings together documentation such as a legal description of the land parcel, and conducts research into what, if any, outstanding obligations are on the parcel. This phase ends with a Band Council Resolution and appropriate supporting documentation for the ATR proposal being submitted to Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.

Phase Two is predominantly the responsibility of the Government of Canada. This phase involves surveying the land, conducting an environmental review, consulting with the province, neighbouring municipalities and other First Nations, and ensuring that all existing third-party interests on the parcel (including negotiating servicing agreements with the local municipality, if required) have been addressed.

Phase Three, the final phase, is the responsibility of the Government of Canada and includes processing the final package for review and approval/recommendation by the Minister and/or Governor in Council. Approved submissions are registered into the Indian Lands Registry in Ottawa.

Q. Why does it take the Department so long to process Treaty Land Entitlement-related ATRs?

A. It is a complex, due diligence-based process dependent on the active participation and agreement of a number of parties, including the Government of Canada, First Nations, the provinces, municipalities, and other affected interests. The target that Indian and Northern Affairs has set to process an average Addition to Reserve is two years. However, the actual time has ranged from less than one year to well over five years, depending on the issues involved.

Many variables affect the length of time, for example:

  • land acquisition and subsequent negotiations are based on the principle of willing-seller/willing-buyer, at times making the length of time needed dramatically different from one instance to the next;

  • in instances where remote tracts of provincial crown lands are selected, land surveys are completed as seasonal conditions permit, often requiring multiple seasons to complete, depending on the size of the parcel being surveyed;

  • environmental assessments of the condition of the land are required before lands are transferred to Canada and then set apart as reserves.