The Globe and Mail is reporting that the federal Conservative government has announced it will introduce legislation making it possible for private property ownership on aboriginal reserves. This is a bold and proactive measure and ARPA Canada is very grateful to see one of the recommendations of our most recent Respectfully Submitted policy report being pursued by our federal government. Earlier this year we sent this report to all MPs and Senators, in both official languages. Many of you followed up with easy-mail letters to your MPs (if you haven’t done so yet, it isn’t too late).
As we explained in our report, property rights are essential for economic productivity and thereby have a direct impact on employment rates, which in turn impacts the living standards, housing conditions, health, and morale of an entire community.
Yet the reserve system, as legislated in the Indian Act, forbids private property ownership. Reserves are owned by the Crown and controlled by the band council. The land can’t be sold. It can only be leased with permission of the federal government. And mortgaging it is very difficult because it isn’t owned fee-simple, a freedom most Canadians take for granted. Without the ability to mortgage property, starting a business becomes very difficult.
If a reserve collectively decides to be industrious and to use their reserve land entrepreneurially, it has to be approved by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. Although band members are given certificates of possession, leases, and landholdings within reserves, none of this compares with the opportunities associated with private property.
Allowing aboriginals to opt into private property ownership is a big step forwards and long overdue. Read the Globe and Mail article here.