Proposed changes to a federal policy regarding land additions to native reserves had regional directors expressing their concerns at the November 7 regional district board meeting.
An addition to reserve is a parcel of land that is added to the existing land base of a First Nation or is used to create a new reserve. The legal title to the land is set apart for the use and benefit of the First Nation making the application. Land can be added to reserve in rural or urban settings.
The addition to reserve (ATR) policy was created by the Government of Canada in 1972 and was last updated in 2001. Changes currently being contemplated by the federal government aim to:
– streamline the ATR proposal and remove duplication.
– clarify roles and responsibilities.
– facilitiate economic develpment.
RDOS board directors expressed concern that there hadn’t been enough consultation with local governments regarding changing policy for locating reserve lands within municipal boundaries. While not against First Nations economic development or additions to reserve, the board’s concern stemmed from possible adverse impacts an application may have on local government or on constituents, such as lost taxes, competing land use issues, differing standards, consultation, etc.
A recent submission on the proposed additions to reserves made by the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) presented seven points for the ATR review to consider, especially with respect to ATR’s within municipalities:
1. Local government consultation
2. Expediency and Clarity
3. Facilitation and dispute resolution
4. Non-contiguity and jurisdiction
5. Service agreements
6. Land use compatibility and community growth
7. Fiscal implications
“The way we understand it, the province and local governments have no veto power over the creation of reserve lands within municipal boundaries,” said Keremeos Director Manfred Bauer, adding that he believed the new policy would liberalize the criteria for adding reserves to include parcels of land non-contiguous to existing reserve boundaries.
Chief Administrative Officer Bill Newell told the board that there were “weaknesses in the policy that we are concerned about,” while Osoyoos Director Stu Wells added that the new policy had “major implications” that the board needed clarity on.
A suggestion was made to invite a member of the Indian Affairs Ministry to speak to the board .