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B.C. property act changes allow First Nations to purchase, hold and sell land

Prior to this switch First Nations only able to legally hold land through a variety of proxies
Murray Rankin, provincial minister for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, has tabled legislation that would allow First Nations to buy, hold and sell land under their own names. (Elena Rardon / Alberni Valley News)

New legislation promises to make it easier for First Nations to buy, hold and sell land under their own names as recognized legal entities.

Currently, most First Nations have to either set up corporations or make other arrangements such as using proxies, federal trusts, societies and individual members to purchase, own or transfer land. Such steps would no longer be necessary under new legislation introduced Tuesday (April 2) by Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Minister Murray Rankin.

“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,” he said. “We are taking action to remove this long-standing and discriminatory barrier.”

Rankin said the changes come exactly 150 years after the enactment of the B.C. Property Act.

“It explicitly restricted First Nations individuals from the ability to acquire land,” he said. “English common law requires a legal entity to have express legislative authority to hold land. Since then…most First Nations government could not hold land in the name of their First Nation.”

Rankin said this legislation will make what he called “small but important” changes to reflect government’s commitment toward reconciliation and to eliminate discriminatory barriers to land ownership.

RELATED: First Nations leaders call on B.C. to truly share the law-making pen

“Our provincial policies and laws are often based on past colonial ideas and practices, which were inherently racist and harmful,” he said.

Rankin said these changes should have happened a long time to ago.

Government stresses that these changes neither affect additional governance powers of First Nations nor their relationships with local government covered in modern treaties.

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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