First Nations Land Management Act




Table of Contents




Introduction

The First Nations Land Management Act is a federal law enacted in 1999. It provides signatory First Nations the authority to make laws in relation to reserve lands, resources and the environment.

The First Nations Land Management Act ratifies the Framework Agreement on First Nations Land Management. This agreement was signed by the federal government and the original 14 signatory First Nations in 1996. In 2002, the First Nations Land Management regime was opened to other interested First Nations. Signing the Framework Agreement is the first step for a First Nation to assume control over its reserve lands, resources and the environment. Under the First Nations Land Management Act, the Indian Act provisions relating to land management no longer apply to those First Nations who have ratified land codes.

First Nations under First Nations Land Management Act have the authority to create their own system for making reserve land allotments to individual First Nation members. They also have authority to deal with matrimonial real property interests or rights. The First Nations Land Management Act states that First Nations are responsible for enacting rules and procedures "in cases of breakdown of marriage, respecting the use, occupation and possession of First Nation land and the division of interests in First Nation land."




First Nations Land Management Act and Matrimonial Interests or Rights

The First Nations Land Management Act is currently the only legislation - other than legislation implementing self-government agreements dealing with land management - that requires First Nations to address the legislative gap respecting on-reserve matrimonial real property rights or interests. The First Nations Land Management Act and Framework Agreement require that laws respecting matrimonial real property rights or interests must be gender-neutral. However, First Nations have typically gone well beyond that criterion by developing laws that cover a broad range of conditions, and in many cases, extend beyond marriage breakdown to transfer of matrimonial rights or interests in land during marriage.

First Nations under the First Nations Land Management Act have 12 months from the date their land code takes effect to enact the rules and procedures dealing with matrimonial rights or interests in reserve land into their land code or a First Nation law.

As of April 2013, 35 First Nations are operating under their own land codes, 22 of which have enacted laws to address matrimonial rights and interests. Thirteen operational First Nations are without laws to address matrimonial rights and interests, 11 of which have exceeded the one year limit. Of those 11 mentioned above, 7 have a draft completed, 4 are finalizing their MRP law.

As of April 2013, there were 30 First Nations developing their land codes, negotiating their Individual Agreements with Canada and preparing for community approval processes. Over 60 First Nations have expressed their interest to opt into the First Nation Land Management regime.




Under the Proposed Act

First Nations who are operating under their own land code at the time the proposed Act comes into effect will not be subject to the provisional federal rules regardless of whether those First Nations have laws to address matrimonial real property rights or interests in place.

At the time the proposed Act receives Royal Assent, First Nations who have signed onto the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management, but have not enacted land codes or laws to address matrimonial real property rights or interests, will have a three-year time frame within which to enact either their land codes or laws addressing matrimonial real property rights or interest under the Act or under the First Nations Land Management Act. Following this three-year time frame, the provisional federal rules of the proposed Act will apply to these First Nations unless and until their respective land codes or matrimonial real property laws are in place.

First Nations who sign onto the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management at any point after the proposed Act comes into force will be subject to the provisional federal rules unless and until the respective First Nations have their matrimonial real property laws in place.