“Our objective is to create a new way forward. We must extend a hand to other Indigenous nations that think like us.”
– Chief Commissioner C.T. Manny Jules
Our Lands. Our Jurisdiction. Our Institutions: First Nations Leading the Way
About 30 years have passed since First Nation communities started reflecting on their fiscal relationship and came together to develop legislative frameworks for First Nation jurisdictions outside of the Indian Act. Now, almost 300 First Nations from all regions in Canada are either participating or signatory to the First Nations Fiscal Management Act (FNFMA) and the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management.
On May 16 & 17, 2018 a two-day national meeting was held at the River Rock Hotel and Casino on Musqueam territory in Vancouver, British Columbia. Hosted by the FMA fiscal institutions and the Lands Advisory Board (LAB), the meeting brought these First Nations together to demonstrate how First Nations governments across Canada are exercising their jurisdiction and striving to move beyond the Indian Act with First Nation-led initiatives. It showcased First Nations at the forefront of expanding jurisdiction and highlighted their achievements in using First Nation-led agreements and legislation to improve their economies through greater fiscal independence, improved financial management, debenture financing, and sound land governance.
The objectives of the conference were to bring innovative and creative First Nations leaders together to share institutions tools and support services, learn about First Nations success stories working outside of the Indian Act, unify a collective voice for First Nations led initiatives and innovations, and set a clear path forward for building prosperous and vibrant First Nation communities.
The conference had over 320 delegates from over 160 FMA and/or FNLMA First Nations communities across the country. Most participants commented that it was the best, most forward looking and optimistic First Nation led meeting that they had ever attended. The event featured a number of influential presentations, engaging panel discussions, thought-provoking films, interactive multimedia encouraging attendee participation and important First Nation-led proposals to be advanced. To view the full agenda, click here.
The presenters included influential leaders of the host institutions CT (Manny) Jules (Chief Commissioner of the FNTC), Harold Calla (Executive Chair of the FNFMB), Ernie Daniels (President & CEO of FNFA), and Robert Louie (Chairman of the LAB) as well as Howard Grant (Councillor for Musqueam Nation), Christina Clarke (Executive Director for Songhees First Nation, Dalyn Bear (Councillor for Whitecap Dakota First Nation), and Chief David Jimmie (Squiala First Nation & AFN Chiefs’ Committee on Fiscal Relations Co-Chair).
Some of the other highlights of the conference include:
Special Guest Te Maire Tau of the Ngāi Tahu in New Zealand, University of Canterbury, and the Alliance for Renewing Indigenous Economies spoke about the similarities and differences between First Nations and Maori. He also discussed the successes and challenges with the Maori corporate fiscal relationship model and their move towards greater governance and expanded jurisdiction of their lands.
“Our tribe doesn’t question or challenge the crown’s sovereignty. We just want the crown’s recognition of our land title. We want jurisdiction over our lands.”
“Our ideas need to spread throughout the Commonwealth. We are creating a future. Our tribe stands with you.”
Allan Claxton and Jason Calla of the First Nations Infrastructure Institution (FNII) Development Board discussed the details of the proposed new infrastructure institution.
“The First Nation Infrastructure Institute would be established within the Fiscal Management Act to work in partnership with interested First Nations to support a better system.” Allan Claxton, FNII Development Board.
“Before contact, we had our own institutions and built our own infrastructure.” Jason Calla, FNII Development Board.
“INAC funding decisions are based on the Canadian government’s priorities. The FNII will be based on your communities’ priorities.” Jason Calla, FNII Development Board.
A panel for each of the host institutions:
First Nations Tax Commission panel facilitated by Stone Bear (Tobique) with Deanna Honeyman (Tzeachten), Ernest Jack (Penticton) and Kate McCue (Chippewas of Georgina Island) discussed the process of joining the FMA and setting up a taxation system and the benefits of First Nation tax jurisdiction and fiscal power.
“Initially we mirrored provincial tax law, but we now have our own laws and we generate revenue to improve community infrastructure.” Deanna Honeyman, Tzeachten First Nation.
“Tax revenue allows us to provide housing and security in our community.” Deanna Honeyman, Tzeachten First Nation.
“Independent revenue helps us move our community forward. We don’t have to wait for funding. I like revenue better than I like funding.” Ernest Jack, Penticton First Nation.
First Nations Financial Management Board panel facilitated by Joe Bevan (Kitselas) with Chief David Crate (Fisher River First Nation), Dwayne Nashkawa (Nipissing First Nation) and Chief Maureen Thomas (Tsleil-Waututh) talked about the importance of financial transparency and investor certainty and the process and institutional support involved in attaining financial management certification through the FMB.
“The focus has always been building capacity in our community.” Chief David Crate, Fisher River First Nation.
“The core was for us to build capacity and confidence in the community.” Dwayne Nashkawa, Nipissing First Nation.
“We have all these young people in our community and they understand that these dollars are not just for now. They know they have to plan for the future.” Chief Maureen Thomas, Tsleil-Waututh First Nation.
First Nations Finance Authority panel facilitated by Frank Busch (Nisichawayasihk) with Peter Kirby (Taku River Tlingit), Mike MacIntyre (Membertou) and Chief Frieda Martselos (Salt River) spoke about the benefits of becoming FNFA borrowing members and accessing capital to fund projects and other services on First Nation lands.
“The biggest problem we had was we had no equity, but the First Nations Finance Authority helped us finance real estate deals and secure title to some of our traditional lands.” Mike MacIntyre, Membertou First Nation.
“Thanks to the First Nations Finance Authority, we’ve been able to do things for ourselves. And thank goodness for that.” Chief Frieda Martselos, Salt River First Nation.
Lands Advisory Board panel facilitated by Leah George-Wilson (Tsleil-Waututh) with Dean Bear (in for Chief Austin Bear) (Muskoday), Anthony Laforge (Magnetawan) and Stephan McGlenn (SEMÁ:TH) discussed their experiences as Land Code First Nations and operating outside of the Indian Act land management framework.
“I’m often asked ‘Would you ever go back to the Indian Act?’ And I emphatically say ‘no damn way.” Dean Bear, Muskoday First Nation.
“Land Code is the source of our authority. It’s not granted to us by any other government.” Stephen McGlenn, SEMÁ:TH.
A panel on education and training facilitated by Stone Bear (Tobique) with Dr. Andre Le Dressay (Tulo Centre of Indigenous Economics), Deanna Honeyman (First Nations Tax Administrators Association), Mike Mearns (Aboriginal Financial Officers Association BC) and Angie Derrickson (Lands Advisory Board Resource Centre) as well as special guest and Tulo alumni Chief Laurence Paskemin (Sweetgrass First Nation) discussed the various education, training and capacity development initiatives undertaken by their respective organizations.
“We provide options for First Nations — with the consent of their communities — to manage their lands outside of the Indian Act.” Angie Derrickson, Lands Advisory Board Resource Centre.
“At Tulo, we’re very much about the practical instruments of jurisdiction. Tulo is your school for the tools needed to implement jurisdiction in your communities.” Dr. Andre LeDressay, Tulo Centre of Indigenous Economics
“With Tulo’s help, we are working to stop the brain drain and bring jobs and people back to our community.” Chief Laurence Paskemin, Sweetgrass First Nation.
There were also several interactive elements of the conference that encouraged engagement and boosted participation of the attendees, including:
Beyond Transfers Films – Three short films were released at the conference and on social media as part of the Beyond Transfers video series:
Chief Mike Lebourdais (Whispering Pines/Clinton) – As the first video in this series, Chief Michael Lebourdais picked up where his last film left off by providing an overview of the jurisdiction based fiscal relationship option and the importance of fiscal power. “This is our time to design our own fiscal relationship based on what works for us. We have the experience, knowledge and the strength. First Nations are leading the way.”
Delyla Daniels (Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc) – In the second video in this series, Tk’emlúps te Secwe̓pemc member Delyla Daniels discusses the benefits of a jurisdiction based fiscal relationship (provided through the FMA) and First Nation institutions. She provides evidence by discussing the benefits her community has experienced as a result of the tax jurisdiction provided by the FMA and the support of the FMA institutions. “In Tk’emlúps, we have experienced the direct impact that taxation has brought to our community. Through the creation of the Powwow Arbor, the ability to build infrastructure, paved roads, street lights, fire protection, good drinking water, and most importantly, the ability to create meaningful jobs.”
Dalyn Bear (Whitecap Dakota) – In the third video, Councillor Dalyn Bear of the Whitecap Dakota First Nation outlines some of the proposals advanced at the national meeting and calls on supportive First Nation communities to get involved and share their thoughts in relation to a new First Nations fiscal relationship. “We need more fiscal power, not less.”
Clearing the Path: Expanding Jurisdiction & Building Vibrant Economies – This short film developed by the First Nations Tax Commission presented a number of inspiring stories of communities utilizing the FMA and taxation to exercise First Nation jurisdiction and strengthen communities.
Interactive Q&A – An audience interaction tool, Slido, was utilized to offer real time questions and answers whereby attendees could submit broad or specific questions throughout the conference from their seat with their mobile devices. It also allowed crowd sourcing of the most popular questions as indicated by the attendees during question and answer periods of each presentation. A number of the relevant Q&As attained from the tool and discussed at the conference will be posted to the FNLeadingtheWay.ca website.
Graphic recording – The conference also had a graphic artist present who created visually appealing illustrations during the presentations and panels that summarized the concepts and topics being discussed.
Delegate interviews – Throughout the event delegates had an opportunity to provide their thoughts via video interview. Over 80 attendees shared their First Nation success stories, perspectives and insights.
Presentations – An archive of the presentations are available on the FNLeadingTheWay.ca website.
Photographs – Photographs from the event can also be found on the FNLeadingTheWay.ca website.
The Way Forward – Proposals Advanced at the National Meeting
“The best way forward is to work together. For all time. And for all of us.”
– Chief Commissioner C.T. Manny Jules, First Nations Tax Commission
A goal of the conference was to obtain broad based support to proceed with the proposals to expand the FMA and FNLMA frameworks. This goal was achieved based on the comments and strong support voiced by participants during and after the conference. Most notably, there was a unified show of support; an ovation that clearly demonstrated encouragement of the proposals and continuation of the successful work of all four of the institutions.
“Our job is to find the solutions that will improve our communities and improve our people.”
– Robert Louie, Lands Advisory Board
The objective of the Lands Advisory Board (LAB) is to continue to strengthen the Framework Agreement on Land Management and to further streamline the process, where warranted. As such, the LAB advanced a two phased proposal at the National Meeting:
- United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) – The language in the Framework Agreement will be updated to incorporate UNDRIP.
- Land Code Voting Threshold – It is proposed that the land code voting threshold be changed to a simple majority as a base level, unless the First Nation chooses to have a higher voting threshold.
- First Nation Enforcement Powers – Proposed enhanced and clarified First Nation enforcement powers to better enable enforcement of laws and collection remedies. This will enable cooperative enforcement with Provinces in some cases.
- Transfer of all Indian Monies from INAC – This includes Capital Monies, which would be transferred to the First Nation upon a successful Land Code vote.
- Optional Verifier Role – It is proposed that the verifier role become optional once the Land Code and community ratification process has been developed.
- New First Nations led Land Title Registry – The LAB supports the development of a new First Nations led land registry.
- Streamlined Additions to Reserve (ATRs) – Proposing to have First Nation Land Code authority to manage third party interests during the pre-reserve consultative stage, to eliminate pre-serve designation requirements and to streamline administrative process to bring new ATRs immediately under Land Code authority.
- Greater clarity to First Nation law making – This includes explicitly adding expanded law-making powers such as land use planning, cemeteries, gravesites, environment, natural resources and land authorities similar to other governments.
- Expand Land Management Jurisdiction – Expand First Nation Land Code jurisdiction to include, not only reserve lands, but other lands that may fall within s. 91(24) of the Constitution – including Aboriginal Title Lands and Federal land categorized as “lands set aside”.
- Adjust Environmental Assessments – Propose to remove the current requirement for First Nation environmental assessments to meet the requirements of the Federal Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. Instead replace it with a more workable environmental format that is designed specifically for First Nation communities.
“We need your support. We need to walk out of this meeting committed to working toward our common goals and objectives. We need to stand together.”
– Harold Calla, First Nations Financial Management Board
The FMA institutions put forward several proposals that form a broad agenda to expand and implement First Nation jurisdiction for the many First Nations using the FMA legislative framework. The proposals advanced by the FNFMA institutions is comprised of three main components:
“We live in a world where cash is king. We have attracted investors to our communities. We are a growing part of Canada’s economic success. We can no longer be ignored.”
– Ernie Daniels, First Nations Finance Authority
Growing Current Institutions – The FMA fiscal institutions have advanced a number of amendments to create greater certainty and increase the jurisdictional power of First Nations.
First Nations Financial Management Board – Improved federal transfer mechanism (10-year grants) without offsets to facilitate transition to a revenue based fiscal relationship supported by FMB certification.
First Nations Finance Authority – Enable First Nations to monetize their transfers in combination with other First Nation independent revenues to support FNFA debentures.
First Nations Tax Commission – Expansion & clarification of existing FMA fiscal powers such as property transfer tax, business activity tax, accommodation tax and associated FNTC support through sample laws, standards, administrative support, coordination with other governments as necessary, and training.
“To unleash the incredible imaginations in our communities, we need creative destruction. We need economic weapons.”
– Chief Commissioner C.T. Manny Jules, First Nations Tax Commission
New Tax Jurisdictions
These new tax jurisdictions are part of the development of a revenue based fiscal relationship option for interested FMA First Nations. This includes also providing an option for participating First Nations to associate exclusive service responsibilities and jurisdictions with these independent revenues using the FMA framework.
FNGST in FMA – The FNGST could be much more valuable to First Nations if it were included in the FMA as local revenues that can be pledged for financing debentures, FNGST legislation recognized the FMA as an optional law-making authority for FNGST laws, the moratorium on three product First Nation taxes was removed to include cannabis, revenue sharing elements were restructured to support an improved fiscal relationship and facilitate more debenture financing and increased support from the FMA institutions in the areas of communications, sample laws, tax collection agreements, revenue estimates, and administrative support & training.
Cannabis Tax – The FNTC has been working with proponents to advance a First Nation cannabis tax jurisdiction option when recreational cannabis becomes legal. This means that First Nations would obtain fiscal powers associated with cannabis excise tax and FNGST on cannabis sales. This requires amendments to the Cannabis Act (Bill C-45), FMA, Excise Act, 2001, FNGST Act, and Bill C-74 to advance a First Nations cannabis tax jurisdiction option.
Aboriginal Resource Tax (ART) – First Nations are advancing the ART to ensure they are adequately compensated for resource projects on their traditional territories. The tax should be developed from tax room currently occupied by other governments; standardized and transparent; not subject to unilateral change; based on world bench mark prices; integrated into an improved fiscal relationship; and, administratively supported by the FNTC.
Tobacco Tax – This is an option for tobacco tax jurisdiction for interested First Nations in the FMA. It is proposed that participating First Nations would pass a law and establish their own administrative systems to collect the taxes. The proposal includes the development of a legal framework through the FMA amendment to allow First Nations to pass a tobacco tax on consumers equivalent to provincial tobacco taxes. It also includes an administrative framework that enables the FNTC to help interested First Nations implement this jurisdiction by developing sample laws and standards, providing support for communications with members and retailers, supporting efficient collection systems and developing training programs for administrators through the Tulo Centre of Indigenous Economics.
“We need to build up our institutions. We need you to help develop those institutions in support of First Nations governments.”
– Councillor Howard Grant, Musqueam Nation & First Nations Summit
Increased Institutional Support
Increasing institutional support is an imperative to support new jurisdictions and ensure an efficient and cost-effective transition from the Indian Act regulatory framework to a First Nation regulatory framework.
First Nations Infrastructure Institute (FNII) – Create FNII within the FMA to help build more economically and fiscally sustainable infrastructure for interested First Nations.
First Nations Statistical Institute – This proposed re-established FMA institution will focus mainly on supporting an improved fiscal relationship through better administrative data.
Tulo Centre of Indigenous Economics – Expand capacity development to support a First Nation public service that can implement FMA, FNLMA and other institutionally supported jurisdictions by expanding Tulo to support First Nation public service capacity development.
“People around the world marvel at what we’ve been able to accomplish here in Canada. You made it happen by placing your faith in these institutions. Thank you for everything that you’re doing. We have a lot more work to do.”
– Harold Calla, First Nations Financial Management Board