The Canadian government is looking to change land ownership of Aboriginal reserves to deal with the 250-800 year backlog they have created. The new rules open the doors to private developers and reserve residents, however they are not looking to get rid of or debate repealing the Indian Act which means the land would still be crown land. The government claims that the rules would be set by each band, but given the long history of incompetence and non-cooperation, it is questionable how much the government would respect the standards set by the bands. While the land would allow for freedom and give reserve residents the legal key to power over their own land, reserves would still be crown land, meaning if the government does not agree with plans they could say no.
A Slightly More Biased Summery
If the government really wanted to change the reserve system, they would not hesitate to repeal the egregious Indian Act. Not repealing the Indian Act means the land is still the governments and there are several ways this can pan out:
1. Reserves become open for private development and people who live there build suitable housing and everything’s fine and dandy like the government suggesting it would be. <Best outcome
2. Reserves become open for private development and people who live there want to build sustainable housing/non-commercial property and the government says no because they want to use the land to stimulate the economy.
3. Reserves become an economic battlefield, supporting bidding wars for land between bands and land developers or the government, which leads to
-The bands outbidding the private interests, loosing all their money for redevelopment of the land and now that they own the land the government won’t give them money for maintaining the land (not that they already do, but their supposed to), and the government gets to continue to portray Canadian Natives with stereotypes and misconceptions. Possibly loans are taken out and with no way to pay back the loans the land is foreclosed on and the land now belongs to the bank.
-The private corporations win and despite the bands saying they don’t want to give up the land, its still crown land, so the government can legally overturn the request, giving the private corporation power to kick the bands off the reserves.
[Note: I can very easily see this happening with De Beers in Attawapiskat and gold miners kicking the Tagish band out of the Yukon]
4. The government doesn’t respect any of the standards set by the bands, does what they please and claims the bands were uncooperative. <given historical and political context most likely.
Now maybe it will be the first out come, you never know. But given the current governments attitude towards the native population, where this is going and the fact that there is no talk of repealing the Indian Act is a pretty worrying sign.
The Indian Act makes the ownership of reserve land impossible for those who live on it and as you can see from the article, politicians are already blaming the natives for not wanting to get rid of the Indian Act, when the reality is you can’t give ownership without getting rid of it, and I don’t think it’s the band leaders who want it in place.
Shawn Atleo said in January that he wanted the legislation scraped and Harper called it “A tree with deep roots” and made it clear HE didn’t want to scrap it. Unless you change or rewrite parts of the Indian Act, the only people who can have ownership on reserves is the crown. Shawn Atleo, has expressed he wants it gone several times.
Maybe it’s just my mistrust for the government in Aboriginal Affairs but I feel like this is just Harper wanting to privatize the reserves to the highest bidder.
One thing is certain though, you can not have land ownership on reserves without changing the Indian Act.