B.C. introduces bill for First Nations land acquisition

British Columbia’s government has introduced a bill that would give federally recognized First Nations the legal right to acquire and hold land in the province.

B.C.’s Ministry of Indigenous Relations says in a statement that the changes to land title and property laws would allow First Nations to register at the land title office, “reducing discriminatory and racist barriers” for them to own land. 

The statement says First Nations in the province are currently not able to acquire, hold or dispose of land in their own names unless “enabled by specific legislation” such as a treaty.

It means that First Nations without those pathways would need to set up corporations or alternative arrangements for land acquisition and holding purposes.

A white man with round glasses speaks in front of B.C. flags.
Indigenous Relations Minister Murray Rankin, seen in September 2022, says the bill works to correct a historic wrong. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Indigenous Relations Minister Murray Rankin says the proposed change is meant to remove a “long-standing and discriminatory barrier.”

“Recognition of the inherent right of self-determination is the starting point to reconcile and achieve the coexistence of federal, provincial, and Indigenous jurisdictions, laws, and legal systems,” Rankin told a news conference on Tuesday. “This change will make an enormous difference in practical terms to First Nations.”

Hugh Braker, a citizen of the Tseshaht First Nation who serves on the B.C. First Nations Leadership Council, told the news conference that the law was like a “yoke around the neck” of Indigenous people in the province for over 150 years.

“First Nations could not own land to develop this province like the rest of British Columbians could, like other companies could, like other cities could,” he said. “We were treated differently and it’s a relief that this government has seen fit to finally change and right this terrible wrong.”

Braker, along with B.C. Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee, said First Nations leaders look forward to working with the province to correct more wrongs that still exist within provincial law.

The bill’s introduction comes months after the provincial government scrapped another plan to amend the Land Act to clear the way for shared decision-making over the use of public land in First Nations territories.

Indigenous leaders said at the time that political opposition to the plan derailed the amendment, with the B.C. United party describing the move as giving First Nations veto power over public land, while the Conservatives called it “an assault on … private property rights.”


Posted in CBC