Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'm here today to provide a briefing on clauses 352 to 384 of the BIA. They deal with amendments to the First Nations Land Management Act, a long-standing piece of legislation that received royal assent way back in 1999. When it came into force, the act ratified the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management. This was a nation-to-nation agreement signed between Canada and 14 first nations in 1996.
Together, the framework agreement and accompanying federal legislation provide a mechanism for first nations to opt out of one-third of the Indian Act and take on authority, control and responsibility for their lands, resources and the environment. It's worth noting that first nations land management only applies to reserve lands, defined as federal lands that have been set aside for the use and benefit of first nations in accordance with section 91(24) of the Constitution.
Today more than 150 first nations from across Canada have opted in to first nations land management, with 77 fully operating their land laws. The community must vote to pass these laws. I'll speak a little bit more about that later.
The department has been working in partnership with the indigenous rights holders since 2016 on the current bundle of legislative amendments. The Land Advisory Board is the indigenous institution that represents the interests of first nations land management communities. A resolution was passed unanimously giving the Land Advisory Board their current mandate in this regard. I mention this just to demonstrate that there is great interest and support among participating first nations in these changes.
While significant, the proposed amendments to the First Nations Land Management Act are categorized as administrative and practical in nature. They form the first phase of a broader land reform strategy that will roll out over the next three to five years. As mentioned previously, the legislative proposal parallels amendments that have been made to the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management, which must then be approved by two-thirds of the first nations that are active in this. I mention this because to date, more than 80% have already signalled their interest by signing on to the proposed amendments, and none have opposed thus far.
I'll move on now to a few specifics. I mentioned earlier that the amendments could be categorized as administrative, but they will also make meaningful improvements to communities and simplify the entry process for new communities as they come on.
First, the amendments to the First Nations Land Management Act are proposing to including a statement that acknowledges Canada's pre-existing commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In May 2016, the Government of Canada adopted UNDRIP without qualification, and committed to its full and effective implementation in accordance with the Canadian Constitution. Acknowledging UNDRIP within the First Nations Land Management Act aligns with the Government of Canada's commitment to a renewed nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous people based on the recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. It is a symbolic statement and furthers Canada's reconciliation efforts.
Another set of amendments aligns voting procedures to other democratic processes in Canada by removing the participation requirement that currently exists. As I mentioned earlier, communities must vote for their leadership to exercise the law-making powers of first nation land management. Currently, a minimum number of voters must vote, and of those who vote, more than half must vote to approve. The proposed amendments would allow first nations to decide if they want to use a participation threshold or if they want to align their voting practices to simple majority rules that are used in many other voting processes in Canada.
The proposed amendments will make improvements to how new lands are added to the reserve land base or additions to reserve. Rather than having these new lands come on as Indian Act lands before they then get transferred to first nation lands under this act, the proposed amendments would do an automatic transfer. When the lands are added, they automatically become first nation lands. This eliminates a significant administrative step and a time-consuming step in that process.
The amendments will also transfer what we call “capital” monies—that is, monies generated from non-renewable resources like oil and gas—directly to first nations. Currently, the department manages those monies on behalf of first nations. Right now under first nations land management, only “revenue” monies—that is, monies from permits, leasing and revenue-generating opportunities—are included as part of first nations land management. This would move all Indian monies, as we call them, over to first nation control.
Next, the amendments will provide for first nation employees a protection from liability that's similar to the protection provided for those in other governments. What we mean by this is that employees cannot be personally sued in the conduct of their official duties.
There are several other housekeeping amendments, such as eliminating obsolete clauses that no longer apply due to certain sections of the Indian Act being repealed. We'll clean those up. I won't bother mentioning those here, but I'm happy to take questions on them.
Just to close, the amendments are strongly supported by first nation partners and will further strengthen a successful first nation-led sectoral self-government initiative, one that supports first nations to operate at the speed of business and to enhance community economic development.
I'm happy to take any questions.