The Indian Land Registry System, when compared to the provincial registry system, is the least effective land registry system in Canada compared to provincial registry systems based on at least the following metrics (a) efficiency (b) reliability (c) security (d) cost and (e) processing times for most common transactions.
Its problems contribute to uncertain, inconsistent survey fabric, less economic development through increased transaction costs, low third-party confidence, less economic development, more legal and other disputes, greater administrative costs, less sustainable infrastructure, longer processing times regarding additions-to-reserves, and protracted wills and estate settlement on First Nation lands.
In 2010, the First Nations Tax Commission (FNTC) proposed an Indigenous land titles registry to serve the participating communities to the Indigenous Land Title initiative (ILTI). Significant progress has been made, including drafting regulations and by-laws, endorsing a business plan and partnering with an existing registry on software.
For many years, the Lands Advisory Board (LAB) has expressed an interest in improving the First Nation Land Registry system (FNLRS) for the operational signatories of the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management (Framework Agreement/FA) as well as the possibility of an Indigenous operated registry.
In 2017, the FNTC and LAB, with the support of the Land Title and Survey Authority of British Columbia, entered into discussions on the design of an Indigenous controlled land registry to serve the full range of Indigenous land tenure – Indian Act, Framework Agreement, self-governing communities, Aboriginal title (given the Tsilhqot’in decision), and Inuit and Metis lands.
One registry serving all these different tenures may be possible since the framework of land title registration is similar, but the nature of the registered interests is recorded differently for each type of tenure. Each tenure requires standards and regulations to support the registration of title interests. We are exploring cost and time saving advantages by having a single lands registry in place.
Such a system could help First Nations transition from one tenure system into another much more easily. Such a proposed indigenous land titles registry is an opportunity to address two key government priorities – reconciliation and infrastructure. The FNTC sees an Indigenous land titles registry (ILTR) as a pragmatic project consistent with the Honour of the Crown and with Canada’s commitment to build land governance capacity and the necessary supporting infrastructure within Indigenous communities. The LAB has concerns about the feasibility of a land titles system but supports an improved registry subject to First Nation control.
The LAB and FNTC and proponent First Nations hope to work with the federal government to develop the necessary legal framework to support a new First Nation land registry system.