Surveys

Land surveys are essential to the effective management and development of lands because they provide an orderly and systematic identification of parcels of land. In a survey, land is divided into sections (parcels) that are measured and mapped. The result is a legal description of land that can be referred to when issuing interests in land.  The organization of land into parcels also helps to plan how infrastructure should be built and where different types of development will occur.

The Indian Act   and the Canada Lands Surveys Act   set out the responsibilities for surveys on reserve lands. The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada plans and authorizes surveys of reserve lands.  The Minister of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) is responsible for carrying out surveys upon the request of any federal department. The Canada Lands Surveys Act further requires the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to approve a plan of survey on reserve lands.

AANDC employees support the registration of legal interests (First Nations and non-First Nations) in the three lands registries administered by AANDC, and ensure that the statutory duties for the survey of reserve lands are carried out in accordance with the Indian Act and the Canada Lands Surveys Act by:

  • ensuring that surveys of First Nation lands match the information about interests in land recorded in the land registries managed by AANDC;
  • setting criteria for survey project funding, with NRCan and individual First Nations;
  • allocating survey funds to regions and tracking funded surveying projects/activities;
  • reviewing legal land descriptions to ensure that they meet registry requirements and are compatible with previously registered interests;
  • reviewing legal land description reports prepared under the First Nations Land Management Act defining the extent of reserve lands;
  • providing advisory and research services to departmental officials and external parties resulting from interpretations of land descriptions and titles found in historical records;
  • providing ministerial approval for official survey plans.

Renewing the Parcel Fabric on First Nations Reserves

On many First Nations reserves, there is a disconnect between the informal parcels being recognized in actual practice and the formal parcels that have been officially surveyed and registered.  The resulting confusion over who has rights to the land can delay or prevent the establishment of utility services or the construction of buildings, and impede economic development.

The Surveyor General of Canada Lands is now examining possible solutions through a pilot project at five First Nation communities. Information will be gathered and creative solutions generated that meet the needs of the pilot communities.  The project will then develop recommendations on how to improve the parcel fabric in a cost-effective and timely way that supports economic development on reserve. The project also links with land use planning initiatives.


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