Information Sheet - The Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act

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Understanding this Law and being aware of the rights and protections that are coming to you

The Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act received Royal Assent on June 19, 2013. This Act, which was developed in collaboration with First Nation people, communities and groups, ensures that individuals living on reserves have comparable rights and protections as all other Canadians.

What is matrimonial real property (MRP)?

Matrimonial real property (MRP) refers to the immoveable assets owned by one or both spouses, such as a house and the land on which it sits. In 1986, the Supreme Court of Canada confirmed that when a conjugal relationship breaks down, courts cannot apply provincial or territorial family law to deal with the family home or other real property on reserves held by one or both spouses or partners. This is because reserve lands fall under federal jurisdiction.

What does this Act mean to individuals living on-reserve?

Under the legislation, First Nations can either choose to enact their own laws related to matrimonial real property rights and interests - laws they can design to meet their particular needs and respect their particular customs, or choose to follow the federal rules.

Once in force, the Act provides matrimonial real property protections and rights for individuals and families on reserves in two ways:

  • 1)  It creates a mechanism for First Nation communities to enact their own matrimonial real property laws.
  • 2)  It will put in place provisional federal rules regarding matrimonial real property, until a First Nation community decides to establish its own laws.

Is the Act in force?

No, the Act is not yet in force. An Order in Council is required to bring the Act into force. Once the coming into force date has been established, AANDC will provide notice to all First Nations communities in Canada. At that time, First Nations will be able to enact their own matrimonial real property laws - should they choose to do so.

A 12-month transition period will provide time for First Nations to enact their own laws before the provisional federal rules take effect. However, First Nations are not limited to the 12-month transition period and may enact their community-specific laws at any time once the Act comes into force.

What resources are available for First Nation communities?

For more information contact: Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada
Tel.: (toll-free) 1-800-567-9604 or E-mail: