Deconstructing the First Nations Property Ownership Act – The Communications Strategy

Well, its 2011 and I am still being annoyed on a regular basis.  Every time I think things have calmed down, another article/editorial/research piece is published from a non indigenous perspective assuming to know what is good for First Nations.  This all seems part and parcel of the overall strategy to convince the masses of the only way forward...and it appears to have worked for the non Indigenous community.  Conversely, it’s been interesting to observe the way proponents focused on getting First Nations support;

  1. Team up with Tom Flanagan and 2 other non Indigenous, “Indian Experts”and a Peruvian economist who admits has no idea how things work in Canada
  2. Attack and attempt to shame other First Nations for actually having gone “Beyond the Indian Act”
  3. Focus on selling the idea to the rest of Canada before working with First Nations 

It appears that this has been in the works for at least 3 years before the “whirlwind” book tour and very public promotion of “Beyond the Indian Act” in April of 2010.  The extremely strange partnership between Tom Flanagan and the First Nation Tax Commission was certain to raise an eyebrow but, apparently that also goes back a few years.  Tom Flanagan?  ...Really?  While I am aware that he is a demigod to certain powerful right wing minds he is also a guy with a zero to negative popularity and credibility amongst most First Nations. 

While I understand that the involvement of Tom Flanagan has its benefits when convincing a conservative government to invest millions in yet another option for First Nations in a time of fiscal uncertainty.  I am pretty sure Tom Flanagan and his extremely questionable views of First Nations in Canada (And in general I suppose) don’t do much to help the promotion of FNPOA in Indian Country.  It was certainly interesting to see him lurking around the FNPOA conference in October 2010, which really wasn’t very comforting either. 

Maybe I am naive, but this doesn’t seem to be the way to get support from those that you need it the most from.

What Happened to Integrity?

The simultaneous approach to the unlikely partnership between the “Prince of Darkness” and FNTC was the clearly intentional campaign to spread misinformation about the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management, The First Nations Lands Advisory Board and specific First Nations that have developed their own land governance pursuant to it.  Although there has been an apology provided to one community for one particularly ridiculous statement made in “Beyond the Indian Act”, the fact is, no effort is being made to actually retract that statement or any of the other spurious claims made in this lovely piece of work and a fair amount of the subsequently released “Research”.   

Even though this blog will only reach a small fraction of the world, I feel compelled to provide a response that counters the “Experts” flawed conclusions about the Framework Agreement. Below is a quick snapshot of some of the fiction that has been published in the book “Beyond the Indian Act” and endorsed by the proponents, on the other side is the actual reality.





Yet the FNLMA only partially addresses the needs of First Nations because it does not provide a model land code or  Yet the FNLMA only partially addresses the needs of First Nations because it does not provide a model land code or any other institutional support for the development of useful property rights

The Lands Advisory Board (LAB) and Resource Centre (RC) have been actively providing institutional support to signatory First Nations for over 15 years. 

One of the numerous standard generic documents regularly provided to First Nations is a model land code.


In the early 1990s, a number of chiefs led by Robert Louie, Austin Bear and Strater Crowfoot became extremely dissatisfied with the significant economic drag created by the Indian Act.

These chiefs actually objected to the authority placed in the minister and INAC over reserve lands.  The delegated authority of sections 53 and 60 of the Indian Act did not provide First Nations with sufficient recognition, authority or funding to be adequate stewards of their lands and resources


The average time to draft and ratify a land code is 1,068 days.

On average it takes less than 2 years, provided outstanding boundary survey issues don’t delay the process


In essence, the main goal of the FNLMA was to allow participating First Nations to develop locally sensitive land codes that mitigated the economic drag associated with the Indian Act.

The main goal of the Framework Agreement is to recognize the governance authority of First Nations over their lands and resources, minimizing of economic drag is just one of the benefits.


The spectre of nepotism and personal politics still hangs over the land-management regime at Muskoday First Nation

Muskoday was one of the first communities to make conflict of interest, transparency and accountability law under their land code.


One side of that limitation is that the FNLMA leaves each First Nation on its own to develop its own system of property rights.  Taken to the extreme, this could lead to 630 different First Nation land codes in Canada, each with uniquely defined property rights - a nightmare scenario for developers interested in doing business on reserves.

Most land codes don’t differ that drastically from each other on property rights.  There are 5300 municipalities in Canada, all with different development rules, why the double standard?

In 10 years there have been no reports of any complaints amongst the many developers working with First Nations under land codes.


The other side of the coin is that the FNLMA did not set up any central machinery to provide First Nations with technical assistance in the form of model land codes and zoning regulations.

First, The FNLMA ratified and brought into effect the Framework Agreement which established the LAB, which is mandated to provide nationwide technical and political assistance/support to First Nations.  Providing model land codes and other land management tools is just one of the vast support activities the LAB provides to FNs.


To date, however there is no clear evidence that the FNLMA is facilitating more investment.  In this regard, the Lands Advisory Board has not developed a model land code and accompanying land laws that are focused on reducing transaction costs for interested First Nations.

Operational First Nations have reported over 100 million in new internal and external investment because of their land codes.  Transaction costs and processing times have been drastically reduced in all operational First Nations

 I guess the question remains, if FNPOA is such a great proposal, why does it need to try and “Gut” the valid and clearly effective efforts of other First Nations to prop itself up?  So far, dealing with the tsunami of poor “research” has been like shooting fish in a barrel, which makes me wonder... why is the work so sloppy?  Is all of this considered value for money?  What I do know, is that due to the size of this blog and the sheer amount of outdated, incomplete or just plain inaccurate data presented by the proponents of FNPOA on certain First Nations and the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management, this topic will have to continue in my next installment....



 (PS. Just a reminder be sure to click on the highlighted text hyperlinks embedded in my blogs for references and other info relevant to my articles.  Also, please feel free to leave comments. Thanks!)



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