The Lil’wat Nation is working towards joining the First Nation Land Management (FNLM) Regime, which will give the Mount Currie Band greater control over lands and resources in the future.
Lil’wat was announced on Jan. 11 as one of eight First Nations across the country that have signed on to participate in the regime. By signing on to the FNLM Framework Agreement, Mount Currie is in the process of opting out of 34 land-related sections of the Indian Act.
“We are very pleased to be added as a signatory to the Framework Agreement,” said Chief Lucinda Phillips in a statement. “Our Lands and Resources team has been diligently working on this project for some time. Being added to this agreement demonstrates to the federal government our autonomy, our capacity and our skill in managing our own reserve lands. We look forward to continuing on this path of self-determination.”
First Nations that sign on to the agreement work to develop their own land code — which directs management of reserve lands, environment and resources — over a period of two years. Once drafted, the community must ratify the land code via referendum.
David Dorrans, Mount Currie’s director of lands and resources, said that relevant decision-making will be expedited and done internally once the Lil’wat Nation has its own land code enacted, which would replace about one-quarter of all Indian Act provisions.
“Rather than having sections of the Indian Act that require the minister or superintendent to approve or determine if something that we’ve done is for the benefit of the people … that ministerial approval will be removed and there will be an approval process through band council, or whatever the people determine,” said Dorrans. “It essentially takes the government control over those decisions, or its final say on those decisions, and places it in a process that Lil’wat have determined here.”
Dorrans said a new land code can “fill in the gaps” of the Indian Act to address issues such as matrimonial property rights, as an example. He noted that Mount Currie joining the FNLM Regime will have no impact on other government jurisdictions.
The announcement of the eight new communities signing the framework brings the total number of First Nations who have or are in the process of enacting their own land codes to 69. The federal government is providing $3 million to be shared by the eight new signatories to establish land management plans.
According to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), the FNLM Regime has helped many First Nations spur economic development by allowing them to make decisions “at the speed of business.”
“Many of the operational First Nations reported a 40 per cent increase in new business overall by band members and a 45 per cent increase into different types of business,” reads a section devoted to the FNLM Regime on the AANDC website.
Dorrans said local officials are hopeful that will be the case for Mount Currie, since it’s currently a “slow process” for entrepreneurs to gain the necessary ministerial approvals to conduct business on reserve land.
“If we want to set up a business on the reserve, or someone outside the reserve wants to set up, then, presumably, we’d have a process for that,” said Dorrans. “I say ‘presumably’ because it is going to be a process that’s driven by what the people want.”
Election weeks away
Elections for chief and council are coming up on March 9. A nomination meeting is scheduled for Saturday night (Jan. 26) at the Ullus Community Complex starting at 6 p.m. and lasting for at least three hours. Candidates for chief or the 12 positions on council can be orally nominated during the meeting. Visit www.lilwatblog.ca for more information.