A large portion of the Act relates to the “opting-in process” for First Nations. It repeats many of the clauses of the Framework Agreement on what a land code must contain, how a land code is approved by the community, the role of the independent Verifier and so on.
First Nation Lands
The Act states that title to First Nation Lands will not be affected by the Act and that these lands will continue to be reserves and to be constitutionally protected. First Nation lands are also protected against surrender for sale. If land is ever voluntarily exchanged by a First Nation for other land, the new land received by the First Nation would be protected in the same way.
The clauses of the Framework Agreement on the legal effect of the Land Code are implemented by the Act. The Land Code will have the effect of law and will be recognized by the courts.
First Nation Powers
The powers of a First Nation to manage its reserve lands and resources, receive and use land revenues, and its legal capacity for land purposes are included in the Act. These powers are to be exercised for the use and benefit of the First Nation.
Transfer of Revenue
The Act provides that revenue moneys of the First Nation previously collected and held by Canada will be transferred to the First Nation when its land code comes into effect.
First Nation Laws
The law-making powers of a First Nation under its land code are set out in the Act. The laws may cover any matter related to First Nation land, including the granting of interests in land, land use, environment, and possession of matrimonial home. Provisions relating to the enforcement of First Nation laws, prosecutions and evidence are also included.
Register for First Nation Land
The Act authorizes Canada to setup a separate register to record interests granted by First Nations under their Land Codes.
First Nation Expropriation
The Act recognizes the right of a First Nation to expropriate interests in its own First Nation land for community works or other First Nation community purposes. The basic principles of this are included in the Act, e.g. fair compensation. The First Nation in its Land Code and laws would set out the details of how any community expropriation would work.
No Provincial Expropriation
First Nation land is immune from any expropriation by a provincial or municipal government or by provincial agencies.
Limited Federal Expropriation
The protections against the expropriation of First Nation land by the federal government, which were negotiated in the Framework Agreement, are set out in the Act. These include provisions on limiting expropriation to cases where it is justifiable and necessary for a federal public purpose that serves the national interest. The Act also requires Canada to provide alternate land to the First Nation, which would become First Nation land, in order to protect the land base of the First Nation. The Legislation contains provisions on compensation and the resolution of disputes over expropriation.
Canada will remain liable for actions taken before the Land Code takes effect. The First Nation will assume responsibility for its land management actions after that date.
Application to other First Nations
The Act only applies to the 14 First Nation signatories set out in the Schedule. If other First Nations become signatories to the Framework Agreement, the Governor in Council may add them to the Schedule. The Agreement may be opened up to other First Nations after a review of the Agreement.