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Province Introduces Changes to Land Registry to Eliminate Barriers for First Nations

Victoria – The Province of British Columbia has introduced legislative amendments that will provide administrative changes to the ways First Nations can acquire, hold and register fee simple land in B.C., reducing discriminatory and racist barriers.

If passed by the legislature, Bill 13 – Land Title and Property Law Amendment Act, 2024, will specify that First Nations recognized as legal entities under federal law (e.g., Indian Act bands) will have the legal capacity and ability to register and hold fee simple land in the B.C. land title office.

“Our policies and laws are often built on past colonial ideas and practices, which have created hurdles and roadblocks for First Nations,” said Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “With these new provisions, First Nations will have the ability to purchase and hold fee simple land directly, just as individuals and corporations have long been able to do. We are taking action to remove this long-standing and discriminatory barrier.”

Currently, unless enabled by specific legislation, such as through treaties or other federal legislation, the majority of First Nations in B.C. are unable to acquire, hold and dispose of land, such as fee simple land and leaseholds in their own names. To buy or hold land, most First Nations must undertake the additional administrative processes of setting up a corporation or use alternative arrangements, for example, proxies, federal trust, societies and individual members.

This administrative change will reduce barriers currently facing First Nations that are recognized as legal entities under federal law (e.g., Indian Act bands), and align with the administrative steps that First Nations much take with that of corporations and Modern Treaty Nations.

The proposed act includes amendments, administrative and enabling in nature, to the Property Law Act and to the Land Title Act. The amendments to the Property Law Act will expand the category of entities in property law that may acquire, hold and dispose of land in B.C. by including First Nations that are recognized as a federal legal entity. The amendments to the Land Title Act will introduce the administrative requirements related to the registration of land, such as witnessing and execution of documents by First Nations, and the reliance on such documents by the registrar and third parties dealing in good faith with the First Nation.

These enabling provisions do not address additional governance powers, immunities or limitations of liability for First Nation governments or officials, nor do they affect relationships with local governments, which are currently addressed in Modern Treaties.

Since December 2023, the Province has been engaging with First Nations, Modern Treaty Nations, the federal government, local governments, and industry and business organizations to gain feedback about these proposed legislative amendments. The Province heard a variety of perspectives and ideas about the proposed legislative amendments, which are documented in a “what we heard” report.

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