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First Nations leaders applaud changes to Indigenous land ownership in B.C.


First Nations leaders are applauding the provincial government for introducing changes to the Property Law Act that will allow the buying, holding and selling of property like any other British Columbian.

For the past 150 years, the law required complex legal manoeuvres like the formation of societies or proxies in order for First Nations to be involved in real estate transactions, including owning lands in their own territories.

“Many people in Canada do not know that First Nations could not own land in the province of British Columbia, it will come as a shock to many people,” said First Nations Summit executive, Hugh Braker, at a press conference discussing the tabled legislation. “It’s a relief that this government has seen fit to finally change and right this terrible wrong.”

Indigenous Relations Minister Murray Rankin introduced Bill 13 for first reading on Tuesday, and there was no audible opposition in the house.

Rankin later told journalists, “this legislation will make an enormous difference in practical terms to First Nations.”

The regional chief for the BC Assembly of First Nations agreed, suggesting the ripple effects would be considerable.

“Far too often our people are left out of the economy and perhaps this is the answer,” said Terry Teegee. “This is a first step, certainly it's an important step, as part of the path to reconciliation.”

Legal experts were quoted endorsing the legislative changes in a government press release, with Indigenous law specialist Michael J McDonald pointing out governments knew the laws were problematic for decades, but nothing was done until now.

“I congratulate the government of B.C. for its leadership in taking this step and urge other provinces to follow," he said in the release.

The chief of the Saulteau First Nation considers it the righting of a longtime historic injustice.

“Our people have suffered and this racism bill that was introduced 150 years ago was an atrocity,” said Rudy Paquette. “We want to work with the government going forward and recognize a lot of these wrongs that our people have suffered. We're trying to make them right with our government and this is a good start.” Top Stories

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