The Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management
The Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management is a government-to-government agreement signed on February 12, 1996 by 13 First Nations and Canada. One other First Nation was added as a Party as of December 10, 1996.
The Framework Agreement is an initiative by these original signatory First Nations to opt out of the land management sections of the Indian Act and take over responsibility for the management and control of their reserve lands and resources. The Framework Agreement sets out the principal components of this new land management process.
The Framework Agreement provides signatory First Nations with the option to manage their reserve lands under their own Land Codes. Until each of these First Nation communities develops and approves a Land Code to take control of its reserve lands and resources, federal administration of their reserve lands continues under the Indian Act.
Canada enacted the First Nations Land Management Act (FNLMA), as part of its obligation to ratify the Framework Agreement. It was given royal assent on June 17, 1999. The FNLMA brought into effect the terms and conditions agreed to in the Framework Agreement. It is the Framework Agreement that is actively being implemented by First Nations and Canada.
First Nations sign the Framework Agreement, ratify the Framework Agreement with a vote and implement the Framework Agreement through their land codes.
The purpose of the land code is to establish rules for mandatory community participation in the proposal, development and approval of laws over reserve lands and resources.
The land code must be agreed to by eligible voters on and off reserve in a ratification vote before it can be implemented.
The Framework Agreement is not a treaty and does not affect treaty rights or other constitutional rights of the First Nations.
Under the Framework Agreement, First Nation Lands continue to retain the same protections as “Lands Reserved for Indians” under the constitution section 91.24.
The Framework Agreement is one sectoral component of self-government by First Nations and deals only with their reserve lands and resources. Matters related to other topics, e.g. elections, governance and education, would be dealt with in the context of other agreements.
The Framework Agreement is not intended to define or prejudice inherent rights, or any other rights, of First Nations to control their lands or resources, e.g. rights under s. 35 of the Constitution. The Framework Agreement also does not preclude other negotiations in respect of those rights.
The Framework Agreement does not directly impact other self-government arrangements. The provisions of the Framework Agreement are sufficiently flexible and progressive that other self-government initiatives are able to fit harmoniously with the First Nation land regimes established under the Framework Agreement.
At the close of the 2014-2015 fiscal year, 54 First Nations across Canada have approved and implemented their own land codes. Some First Nations have been operational for more than 15 years. Statistics are freely available on our website at www.labrc.com, and those websites of most Operational First Nations.
Benefits of the Framework Agreement
There are a number of major benefits to First Nation signatories who ratify and begin working under their Land Code. Some of these benefits include:
- First real recognition of First Nation right to manage its reserve lands and resources
- Removal of reserve lands from the Indian Act
- Community control over First Nation land management and development
- Inclusion of both off-reserve and on-reserve members in important decisions
- increased accountability to members of the First Nation
- More efficient governance of First Nation land
- Recognition of First Nation legal capacity to acquire and hold property, to borrow, to contract, to expend and invest money, to be a party to legal proceedings, to exercise its powers and to perform its duties
- Transfer by Canada of land revenues to First Nation
- Recognition of the right to directly receive revenue from interests in First Nation land
- Protection against arbitrary expropriation of First Nation land
- Protection against loss of First Nation land through surrender for sale
- Ability of a First Nation to pass environmental laws
- Recognition of significant law-making powers respecting First Nation land
- Removal of the need to obtain Ministerial approval for First Nation decisions
- Recognition in Canadian courts of First Nation laws
- Recognition of right to create modern offences for breach of First Nation laws
- Ability to appoint Justices of the Peace
- Ability to create a local dispute resolution processes
- Establishment of land registry regulations and an electronic land registry system
- Establishment of a First Nation Lands Board and Resource Centre to provide technical assistance to First Nation