Fraser Forum

Property rights can increase prosperity on First Nations reserves

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Our new Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister, Carolyn Bennett (pictured above), is no doubt getting briefed on various pressing aboriginal issues—from the state of education on reserves to high levels of unemployment in aboriginal communities. There’s no shortage of issues and work for Minister Bennett. But one of those pressing issues is the state of housing and infrastructure on reserves.

The quality of housing in First Nations communities often lags behind housing off-reserve.

A potential solution, supported by evidence-based research, is to extend full property rights to on-reserve First Nations citizens who currently cannot own fee-simple land.

Chief Michael LeBourdais of Whispering Pines First Nations, a proponent of property rights on reserve, states that property rights will help “restore [their] values and rights that the Indian Act took away” and make First Nations partners in the market economy.

The new Liberal government has committed to evidence-based policy, so the new Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs will be happy to learn that research on property rights supports Chief Michael LeBourdais’ claims. Research has shown that expanding property rights increases the quality of housing in a community. This research also demonstrates that extending full property rights on-reserve can promote economic growth. In other words, extending fee-simple property rights to First Nations, as requested by communities such as Whispering Pines, can help increase the standard and quality of housing on reserves and, as Chief LeBourdais states, make First Nations partners in the market economy.

Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Bennett have promised a new “nation to nation” relationship with our First Nations communities. What better way to start that relationship than by extending property rights enjoyed by all other communities to our First Nations reserve citizens; a policy driven by grassroots First Nations leaders like Chief Michael LeBourdais and supported by evidence-based research.  

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