—— By The Canadian Press

British Columbia’s government has introduced a bill that would give federally recognized First Nations the legal right to acquire and hold land in the province.

B.C.’s Ministry of Indigenous Relations says in a statement that the changes to land title and property laws would allow First Nations to register at the land title office, “reducing discriminatory and racist barriers” for them to own land.

The statement says First Nations in the province are currently not able to acquire, hold or dispose of land in their own names unless “enabled by specific legislation” such as a treaty.

It means that First Nations without those pathways would need to set up corporations or alternative arrangements for land acquisition and holding purposes.

Indigenous Relations Minister Murray Rankin says the proposed change is meant to remove a “long-standing and discriminatory barrier.”

The bill’s introduction comes months after the provincial government scrapped another plan to amend the Land Act to clear the way for shared decision-making over the use of public land in First Nations territories.

Indigenous leaders said at the time that political opposition to the plan derailed that amendment, with the BC United describing the move as giving First Nations veto power over public land, while the Conservatives called it “an assault on … private property rights.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 2, 2024.