Nisga’a first to privatize reserve land

NLast week, the Nisga’a Nation in northwestern B.C. became the first First Nation in Canada to introduce private property, when the community’s land registrar signed off on the transfer of three pieces of land that can now be sold to non-native peoples.

Introducing what is known as “fee-simple” title has long been promoted by pro-free market forces, given how easily collectively owned reserve land would be liquidated under a regime of private property.

The Nisga’a was the first B.C. nation to sign a modern treaty with the provincial and Canadian governments in 1998. The agreement transformed the signing authorities into a municipal-style government and provided $190 million in cash. The Nisga’a were exempt from paying sales tax for a transitional period of eight years, but in 2008, had to start paying GST and PST, as well as taxes on fuel and tobacco.

The 2009 Nisga’a Landholding Transition Act then gave members a chance to own their own homes on native land in the Nass River Valley in British Columbia.

Nisga’a members can now mortgage their property or transfer or sell it to anyone, native or non-native.

Many fear that the deal portends a dangerous precedent, and the beginning of yet another attempt by the Canadian government to effect the assimilation of Onkwehon:we.

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