Urban Reserves in Manitoba
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) Manitoba Region continues to support dialogue between First Nations and municipal governments to establish urban reserves, which offer opportunities for community, social and economic development that will benefit both First Nations and the municipalities involved.
An urban reserve is land within or adjacent to an urban municipality that has been set apart by the federal Crown for the use and benefit of a First Nation.
There are currently seven urban reserves in Manitoba. They are Opaskwayak Cree Nation (adjacent to the Town of The Pas), Swan Lake First Nation's urban reserve land (within the Rural Municipality of Headingley and adjacent to the City of Winnipeg), Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation's urban reserve land (adjacent to the City of Winnipeg), Sapotaweyak Cree Nation's urban reserve land (within the Town of Swan River), Nisichawaysihk Cree Nation's urban reserve land (within the City of Thompson) and two urban reserve lands belonging to Long Plain First Nation (one adjacent to the City of Portage la Prairie and one within the City of Winnipeg).
There are two types of urban reserve: those created by an urban area growing into an existing First Nation reserve; or an urban First Nation reserve being newly created within or adjacent to existing municipal boundaries.
This second type is a relatively recent occurrence in Canada. In Manitoba several First Nations have expressed interest in urban reserve creation as a way to access larger, urban markets and their economic opportunities.
The process for creating an urban reserve begins with a First Nation acquiring land on a willing-buyer, willing-seller basis. Then a First Nation may ask the federal government to transfer that land to reserve status.
Urban reserves, whether in accordance with a Treaty Land Entitlement agreement or not, can only be created through Canada's Additions to Reserve Policy. This policy dentifies circumstances under which land may be granted reserve status and sets out steps to be followed by the Government of Canada in assessing a First Nation's proposal for reserve lands.
Then the First Nation and municipality typically negotiate a municipal services agreement that addresses issues such as fees for various municipal services, tax-loss compensation, levies, bylaw application and enforcement, and dispute resolution procedures.
INAC's expectation is that issues affecting urban reserve proposals, such as zoning and services agreements, will be addressed through direct bilateral negotiation between First Nations and municipalities. Proposals to set land apart as reserve must include a number of requirements, including the resolution of municipal concerns, before the process can proceed further.
In Manitoba, several First Nations are in the proposal phase of projects which include creating an urban reserve. However, a number of First Nation leaders have expressed concerns over the lengthy process of adding land to reserve and the time required to obtain land through Treaty Land Entitlement.
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