First Nation Powers

What is the legal status of a First Nation?

FA First Nation with a Land Code will have all the legal status and powers needed to manage and govern their lands and resources. The First Nation will have the same legal status as a natural person for purposes related to land.


Can a First Nation make laws?

Yes. A First Nation council, managing its lands under a Land Code, will have the power to make laws in respect of the development, conservation, protection, management, use and possession of First Nation land. This includes laws on zoning, environment, services and dispute resolution.

The First Nation council can continue to make by-laws under sections 81 and 85.1 of the Indian Act. For the most part, these by-laws relate to matters other than land.


How will First Nation laws be enforced?

A First Nation will have full power to enforce its land and environmental laws. A First Nation may incorporate the summary conviction procedures of the Criminal Code for offences under First Nation laws. Those procedures are the ones used for minor criminal offences. They are also used in some provinces for offences under provincial laws, e.g. offences under provincial environmental legislation.

A First Nation can appoint its own justice of the peace to try offences created under First Nation laws and can appoint its own prosecutor. First Nation laws may make provision for search and seizure, fines, imprisonment, restitution, community service or alternate means for achieving compliance.

The provincial court system will also be available to enforce First Nation laws.


What other powers will a First Nation have?

The Framework Agreement provides the First Nation with all the powers of an owner in relation to its First Nation Land, except for control over title or the power to sell it. The First Nation’s council can manage land and resources, as well as revenues from the land and resources, in accordance with its Land Code.

While First Nations will not be able to sell their land, they will be able to lease or develop their lands and resources, subject to any limits imposed by their own laws and Land Codes.