The Nisga'a Nation has passed a historic law allowing Nisga'a citizens to own their own property. It is the first time in Canada that an aboriginal group has approved legislation to allow for private property rights.
This was possible because under the 2000 Nisga'a Final Agreement, the Nisga'a gained certain self-government rights and freedom from Indian Act regulation. The Indian Act prevents Indian Band members from having fee simple title to their homes located on reserve land and from mortgaging or granting security over their residential property. All reserve land property is owned by the Federal Government.
The Nisga'a Landholding Transition Act gives Nisga'a citizens the opportunity to own their residential property. A Nisga'a citizen who obtains fee simple title to their residential home under the Act will be able to mortgage their property as security for a loan, or to transfer, bequeath, lease or sell their property, to any person. However, the property will always remain Nisga'a lands and be subject to Nisga'a laws.
"This is a significant step toward true self government. It is a process for increasing economic prosperity for our people," said Nelson Leeson, president of the Nisga'a Nation, in a statement, on the Nisga'a Lisims government website.
The Nisga'a Nation is home to about 6,400 Nisga'a citizens.