It is good news to hear that 18 more First Nations communities have signed deals to enter the First Nations Land Management Act (FNLMA) regime. The FNLMA allows bands to opt out of the land use parts of the Indian Act and more directly control their lands.
A forthcoming report (that the blog author has seen) from the National Aborignal Economic Development Board confirms that bands in the FNLMA do better across several indicators, including income and employment rates.
So, this heralds better days for those communities. Getting used to controlling their own lands and resources is also positive for communities that have only known intrusive federal oversight for so long.
What should not be forgotten in the conversation is that an eventual full property rights regime should be the goal. Even eventually converting a fraction of lands to fee simple (land that can be sold, transferred or pledged as collateral to anyone) would represent significant increases to land values for communities.
This is the result of the federal government committing increased funds in the 2011 budget for this purpose. It is a good use of federal dollars and more monies should be allocatted to this in the future.