A history of the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management
As the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management enters its 25th year of supporting First Nation land governance, we believe it is important to recognize and share the origins of how it came to be.
Near the end of the 1980’s, a national group of dedicated Chiefs, studying the effectiveness of the Indian Act, concluded that:
- The Indian Act did not provide an adequate statutory basis for First Nations to govern their Reserve lands and natural resources, and
- There needed to be recognition and legal capacity for First Nations to exercise their inherent rights to govern their reserve lands and natural resources.
In the early 1990s, these same Chiefs began to focus on the concept of a government-to-government arrangement with Canada which would recognize these inherent rights. The culmination of the work was the creation of the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management (Framework Agreement).
The purpose of the Framework Agreement was to enable First Nations to resume control over their reserve lands, natural resources and environment for the use and benefit of their members without Government interference, by replacing the land provisions of the Indian Act with First Nation made laws.
On February 12, 1996, 13 First Nations Chiefs negotiated and signed the Framework Agreement with Canada. A fourteenth First Nation signed in May 1998. The completion of the Framework Agreement represents the only time in Canada’s history that a group of First Nations have joined together to design, negotiate and sign a government-to-government arrangement with the Federal Government to recognize and resume their inherent right to be self-governing.
The Framework Agreement replaces the 44 lands-related sections of the Indian Act with the First Nation’s own laws, through a community developed and approved land code. Once the First Nation land code is enacted, the First Nation governs its reserve lands, natural resources and environment according to their cultural values and priorities. First Nations communities can now move at the pace of business, process land transactions more quickly and encourage a more attractive climate for business and investment to occur, thus creating more jobs and economic opportunities.
The Framework Agreement has a proven track record, having taken roughly 12.5% of First Nations out of the colonial Indian Act lands system, while enhancing environmental protection and facilitating increased economic development through modern systems of governance, lawmaking and policies, and timely decision making. Unlike under the Indian Act, First Nations completing the Framework Agreement process enjoy a regulation-backed lands registry system that is priority based, paperless, and instant. This means greater land certainty, reduced or eliminated transaction costs and increased financing options for infrastructure, housing, capital and economic development projects.
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