Frequently Asked Questions - First Nations Land Management Regime

Q.1. What is the First Nations Land Management Act   (FNLMA)?

The FNLMA enables participating First Nations to opt out of the 34 land-related sections of the Indian Act and develop their own land codes to govern their lands and resources. This opens up a host of new economic opportunities for First Nations and Canadian businesses.

Under the FNLMA, all administration of land is transferred to the First Nation, including the authority to enact laws with respect to land, the environment and resources (except oil and gas, uranium and radioactive minerals, fisheries, endangered species and migratory birds).

The FNLMA is the formal legislation ratifying the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management (Framework Agreement). The Framework Agreement was initiated by a group of First Nation Chiefs who had a vision of a government-to-government arrangement with Canada that would enable signatory First Nations to opt out of parts of the Indian Act in order to assume jurisdiction over their reserve lands and respond to economic development opportunities for their communities at the speed of business. The resulting Framework Agreement was signed by the Federal Government and 14 First Nations in 1996, with the Act receiving Royal Assent in 1999. Since that time, the signatories to the Framework Agreement have grown from the original group of 14 to a total of 84 First Nations. Of these, 37 have ratified their own land codes and two of these communities have included their land codes under broader self-government arrangements with Canada.

The FNLMA is a priority for the Government of Canada under the Federal Framework for Aboriginal Economic Development (FFAED), which aims to increase economic development opportunities for Aboriginal entrepreneurs and communities by enhancing the value of Aboriginal assets. The FFAED takes a "whole-of-government" approach to Aboriginal economic development that focuses the role of the federal government.

Q.2. Does the FNLMA have an impact on other self-government arrangements?

No. The provisions of the FNLMA are sufficiently flexible and progressive to fit harmoniously with other self-government initiatives.

Q.3. Is the Indian Act still relevant to a First Nation with a land code in force?

Yes. Approximately two-thirds of the provisions of the Indian Act, which do not deal with land matters, continue to apply to First Nations with land codes in force.

Q.4. Who assists First Nations in developing their land codes?

The Lands Advisory Board (LAB)  , established in 1996, under the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management, assists and supports First Nations with the development and implementation of their land codes and in the negotiation of their Individual Agreements with the Government of Canada. The LAB is composed of regionally elected First Nation representatives from across Canada.

In 2001, the LAB assigned its technical and administrative functions to the FNLM Resource Centre which now handles the development of model land codes, laws, land management systems; model agreements for use between the First Nations in the Regime and other authorities and institutions; and curricula and training programs.

In addition, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada's (AANDC) regional offices are available to assist First Nations.

Q.5. Is funding provided to First Nations under the Framework Agreement and FNLMA?

Yes. Canada provides two phases of funding:

  • Developmental funding – assists with the community approval process, development of the land code and negotiation of the individual agreement.
  • Operational funding – assists with land management activities and is determined through an operational funding formula. The level of funding is set out in the individual agreement.

Q.6. What does the Budget 2013 announcement of additional investments into First Nations land management mean to First Nations?

Interest from First Nation leaders who want to participate in the Regime has continued to grow. In Economic Action Plan 2013, the Government committed $9 million over two years for the expansion of the First Nations Land Management Regime to create further opportunities for economic development on reserve.

Over the next month, work will be undertaken in partnership with the Lands Advisory Board Resource Centre   to identify the next communities to enter the Regime. A self-assessment questionnaire has been developed to help First Nations determine their readiness to enter the Regime, based on four criteria: economic development potential, land management experience, governance stability, and land title issues.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada’s regional offices will work with First Nations to review their submissions.

The Lands Advisory Board and Resource Centre is available to assist First Nations interested in entering the First Nations Land Management Regime. The Lands Advisory Board is mandated: to develop model land codes, laws and systems; establish a resource centre for training programs and other learning materials relevant to land codes; and propose regulations for First Nation land registration.

Q.7. How will the new Operational Funding Formula be more sustainable?

Under the previous transaction-based formula, the Government of Canada's contributions for operational funding to the FNLM Regime continued to increase each year, even as operational First Nations developed economically and were better able to pay for transaction costs themselves. The new operational funding formula is not based on the number of transactions but rather the staff necessary to perform core First Nation Land Management functions. In addition, the formula addresses an identified gap in federal legislation by providing funds to First Nations for environmental management. With these changes, the new operational funding formula will improve predictability, stability and accountability in the FNLM Regime.

Q.8. Has the FNLM Regime been a successful vehicle for economic development?

A 2009 KPMG study shows that First Nations with direct control over their reserve lands and resources under the Framework Agreement and the FNLMA are making decisions at the speed of business and that economic development is much greater in comparison to those whose lands which are administered by the Government under the Indian Act.

Many of the operational First Nations reported a 40 per cent increase in new business overall by band members and a 45 per cent increase into different types of businesses, including supplier and spin-off businesses. These First Nations attracted approximately $53 million in internal investment and close to $100 million in external investment.

More than 2,000 employment opportunities had been generated for band members and more than 10,000 jobs for non-members. In addition, many of those surveyed reported a shift in the quality of jobs available on reserve, and that these had higher education requirements. This has significantly reduced dependence on social programs and pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into local economies.

Q.9. Why did the First Nations Land Management Act need to be amended in 2012?

A.9. The amendments to the FNLMA were a First Nation-led initiative prompted by those First Nations operating under the Regime who saw a need for improvement. The LAB consulted with its membership and developed a set of proposed amendments to the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management. AANDC, in turn, proposed legislative amendments to the FNLMA.

This new legislation aligns with Canada's Federal Framework for Aboriginal Economic Development under which the Government of Canada is working with Aboriginal people and communities to enhance the value of Aboriginal assets and maximize their economic development potential.

Q.10. What were the key amendments to the First Nations Land Management Act and how will they improve the Regime?

A.10. The amendments to the FNLMA will further unlock the economic development potential of First Nation reserve lands by removing impediments for First Nations interested in using this Act to capitalize on their lands and resources. Specifically, the four amendments:

  • expedite the enactment of environmental protection laws by removing the existing requirement for an Environmental Management Agreement;
  • prevent undue delays to the ratification of new land codes by enabling First Nations with reserve land boundary or title issues to exclude these lands from their land codes;
  • clearly state that a land code cannot come into force until the Minister and the First Nation sign the individual agreement; and,
  • clearly identify those First Nations that have ratified the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management and are now governing their reserve lands and resources under their own land codes.

Q.11. Who do I contact for more information?

For further information on the FNLM Regime, please contact your AANDC regional office or the Lands Advisory Board   613-591-6649.