BC Government Passes Legislation Giving Fee Simple Land Rights to First Nations

Published by Waterstone Law Group

Author: Brydan Heisler

The Government of B.C. has passed legislation to give First Nation bands the right to directly acquire, hold and register fee simple land in BC. This new law will come into force on May 21, 2024.

The objective of these legislative changes is to remove a long-standing discriminatory barrier that prevents First Nation Bands from registering and holding fee simple land in British Columbia.

The current law in British Columbia does not recognize First Nation bands as legal entities capable of being the registered owner of lands in the provincial Land Title Office. While First Nation bands can still acquire land in the province, their registered ownership in the Land Title Office must be done through proxies (such as corporations) that hold the land on their behalf. This is largely regarded as an unjust administrative barrier that creates the need for First Nation bands to structure fee simple land ownership through complex ownership structures and onerous arrangements.

Bill 13 – Land Title and Property Law Amendment Act, 2024, will grant First Nations that are recognized as legal entities under federal law (i.e. Indian Act Bands) the ability to register and hold land in the provincial Land Title Office. These First Nations will then be subject to the same requirements as companies and individuals that own fee simple land.

These changes are widely supported and are considered an important step in the path to reconciliation. For more information, please contact our Real Estate Transactions Group.