The Municipal Landscape of BC
The Municipal Landscape in BC
In British Columbia, there is a local government system that consists of regional districts, municipalities and improvement districts, each administered primarily through the Community Charter (Vancouver Charter for the City of Vancouver and the Islands Trust for the Gulf Islands). Reserves are Federal Lands specifically held in trust for the benefit of First Nations identified under the Indian Act and administered according to the Act. First Nations can and have taken over land administration of reserve lands under the First Nations Land Management Regime by implementing a Land Code. Once a Land Code comes into effect, nations have complete power to manage reserve lands.
While these levels of bureaucracy can often be complex to navigate, even on the best of days, there are ways to try and manage not only the day-to-day administration, but also the servicing of Reserve land for economic and/or social development
Shared Interests and Goals
In the case of reserve lands situated within Regional Districts or Municipalities where servicing infrastructure (such as sewer or water) already exists or is planned, efforts and costs to bring servicing to both reserve and non-reserve can be shared. The costs need not always flow from a First Nation to a Municipality or Regional District, and can be used to finance construction and the ongoing operation of facilities (including capacity building and training) on-reserve that may also serve off-reserve communities subject to Local Government regulations. This last point may be of importance to First Nations looking to provide higher standards of servicing on-reserve than currently exist and may serve as a facilitating vehicle for cost-sharing of infrastructure projects between an individual Nation(s) and the Municipality or Regional District. Among other candidate sources, funding for infrastructure enhancements can be found as part of the Gas Tax Fund.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) is an organization that represents “90 per cent of Canada’s Municipal population” and serves to advocate to meet the needs of communities and facilitate funding opportunities and increase the knowledge base of the population. Amongst a number of First Nations-related initiatives, the FCM offers a Toolkit specific to issues regarding Servicing Agreements between First Nations and municipalities, under the Municipal Community Infrastructure Partnership Program (CIPP). That Toolkit can be found here: https://fcm.ca/Documents/tools/CIPP/CIPP_Toolkit_EN.pdf
“…First Nations looking to provide higher standards of servicing on-reserve than currently exist and may serve as a facilitating vehicle for cost-sharing of infrastructure projects between an individual Nation(s) and the Municipality or Regional District.”
Where Can I Find Support?
Implementation of CIPP has resulted in many long-term benefits, some planned and some already implemented, for many Nations across the country. In light of the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) meetings being held in Vancouver this week, we would like to take the time to highlight one such project:
In early 2016, the Katzie First Nation and Municipality of Pitt Meadows were able to participate in CIPP to renew servicing agreements between them to renew water and sewer agreements, fire protection agreements and develop a communication protocol for future development of infrastructure which could include economic benefits over the long term. A case study can be found here: https://fcm.ca/Documents/programs/Katzie-PittMeadows_EN.pdf
With an eye to the ever-changing landscape and continued efforts towards Reconciliation, agreements such as these that strengthen relationships between neighbouring communities, support common goals and bring mutually beneficially and economic opportunities should continue in earnest.
Graham Wood is Manager of Castlemain’s Lands Practice and has extensive experience working on servicing access across British Columbia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.