On June 21, 2017, the First Nations Gazette (www.fng.ca) celebrates its 20th anniversary. For the past two decades, The First Nations Gazette (FNG) has been supporting the legal voice of First Nations and continues in its role supporting the emerging voice of First Nation self-determination. Laws and regulations that govern the daily lives of Canadians are published in the Canada Gazette. The role of the Canada Gazette is to provide access to these laws and regulations, to engage citizens and to assist the private sector in meeting legal requirements. However, in 1987, the Canada Gazette made a rule that excluded First Nation by-laws from its publication.
Around this same time, many First Nations were accessing new legislative options that enabled them to enact their own by-laws – such as property taxation by-laws. First Nations were required to take steps to provide notice of by-laws and provide copies of by-laws on their own, without access to a Gazette that provided this service with ease and consistency.
It was clear that First Nation governments wanted a gazette to fulfill the responsibility of informing their communities and citizens. This was becoming increasingly important as more and more First Nations were exercising and expanding their jurisdictions. The Indian Taxation Advisory Board – the predecessor to the First Nations Tax Commission – began to explore options for the creation of the FNG.
The original vision for the FNG, which holds true today, was to support First Nations in their need to provide public notice and to transfer information regarding First Nation legislation. On Aboriginal Day in 1997, the FNG officially launched through a partnership between the Indian Taxation Advisory Board and the Native Law Centre. First Nations now had a voice for their laws, which helped to enforce their jurisdiction on the land and to inform their citizens of their laws.
“Over the course of its twenty-year history, the First Nations Gazette has firmly established itself as an important information source for laws, by-laws and codes enacted by First Nations and, more recently, for notices with regard to matters affecting First Nations. Today’s exclusively electronic First Nations Gazette evolved from changes made to the editorial and production processes to improve operational efficiency, to make the information more accessible, and to stay true to the purpose to inform. Innovation and change always raise uncertainties. The proposal to launch a First Nations Gazette was no different. Its success is demonstrated in its achievements. No doubt the First Nations Gazette will continue to be a dynamic resource and serve those who consult it or need its information.”
Zandra Wilson, former First Nations Gazette managing editor
First Nation governments have been pushing forward, and gaining access to more jurisdictions and powers. As their jurisdictions and powers grow, so do their responsibilities, including transparency for their members and providing taxpayers with access to the laws and by-laws that affect them. FNG’s success and longevity is, in part, due to its recognition that First Nations want to ensure there is a reliable and easily accessible source of legal information available. Most importantly, First Nations publish their laws in the FNG to support the enforcement and governance of their laws. Because of this, First Nations have been driving the FNG forward, and have requested new services that have led to many of FNG’s technical innovations.
The FNG has grown steadily and evolved with First Nations. Originally published as a subscription-based printed book published semi-annually, today it has become available online-only, free to use, with a state-of-the-art database that is updated daily. The FNG is a comprehensive source for First Nation legislation in Canada, including current and archived laws, by-laws and codes, as well as providing public notification service for matters affecting First Nations. The public notification services is also used by other governments (federal, territorial provincial and municipal), institutions, corporations, law firms and individuals.
The FNG is widely used and has been accessed for the past 20 years by First Nation governments, First Nation members and citizens, the public, the courts and legal professionals. The steady use helps to ensure the FNG will remain adaptable and relevant. As First Nations continue to expand their jurisdiction and take on more responsibilities, the FNG looks forward to a future of transforming to reflect these important changes.