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Increasingly, First Nations across Canada are developing plans for complex commercial and industrial development projects. A lack of adequate regulations for such development on reserve land leads to regulatory uncertainty that can discourage investment in such large projects and hinder economic development.
The First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act (FNCIDA) was introduced in the House of Commons on November 2, 2005, and came into force on April 1, 2006. This legislation was needed to close the regulatory gap on reserves and allow complex commercial and industrial projects to proceed.
FNCIDA allows the federal government to produce regulations for complex commercial and industrial development projects on reserves. The Act essentially provides for the adoption of regulations on reserve that are compatible with those off reserve. This compatibility with existing provincial regulations increases certainty for the public and developers while minimizing costs.
Federal regulations are only made under FNCIDA at the request of participating First Nations. The regulations are project-specific, developed in cooperation with the First Nation and the relevant province, and are limited to the particular lands described in the project.
These regulations allow the government to delegate monitoring and enforcement of the new regulatory regime to the province via an agreement between the federal government, the First Nation and the province.
This First Nation-led legislative initiative was developed in cooperation with five partnering First Nations: Squamish Nation of British Columbia; Fort McKay First Nation and Tsuu T'ina Nation of Alberta; Carry the Kettle First Nation of Saskatchewan and Fort William First Nation of Ontario. All five partnering First Nations passed Band Council Resolutions in support of the legislative initiative, and some have advanced plans for various commercial or industrial projects using FNCIDA, including a wood fibre optimization plant in Fort William and a land title and strata property regulatory regime project in Squamish.
In 2010, FNCIDA was amended by Bill C-24, the First Nations Certainty of Land Title Act. The amendments to FNCIDA allow on-reserve commercial real estate projects to benefit from greater certainty of title. The amendments will allow First Nations to request that their on-reserve commercial real estate projects benefit from a property rights regime, including a land title system and title assurance fund, identical to the provincial regime off the reserve. The certainty of land title granted by such a regime would increase investor confidence, making the value of the property comparable with similar developments off the reserve. The Squamish Nation, a strong supporter of the legislation, is already taking advantage of the changes, with plans to build condominium units on reserve land in West Vancouver.
FNCIDA opens up many opportunities for economic development projects that will generate prosperity for First Nations and create much needed jobs.
Investors will have greater certainty about the regulations involved in developing major commercial or industrial projects on reserve, improving First Nations' prospects for attracting major capital investment. First Nations will benefit from a greater potential rate of return from their investments and from increased employment and business opportunities on their reserves. Provinces benefit from uniformity of regulations concerning major commercial and industrial development within their borders. Major commercial and industrial projects on reserve will be appropriately regulated to address health, safety and environmental considerations.
By providing for regulatory certainty, FNCIDA is helping to more effectively balance economic development with environmental protection and social policy goals, promoting the sustainable use of reserve lands and resources for future generations. Also, major commercial and industrial projects contribute to the economy of the surrounding region, increasing employment, generating tax revenue and benefitting all Canadians.
If you are interested in FNCIDA and would like further information, please contact the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada regional office closest to you or call 1-800-567-9604.