Communities in British Columbia are raising alarm bells over a proposed change to the federal Additions to Reserve (ATR) policy.
The changes will streamline the process for creating reserves away from home reserves. First Nations are able to access additional lands through specific claims or other processes.
So-called “satellite reserves” will allow First Nations to develop their economic base.
In particular, a positive change will be a new flexibility in where these “satellite reserves” may be located. Whereas before a First Nation had to choose lands from within a First Nation’s treaty or traditional territory, now they can be located away from their traditional territory.
This will allow bands to access lands closer to highways and urban centres. In short, better and more commercially viable lands.
Here is a link from Aboriginal Affairs about the proposed changes.
Communities all over- and not just B.C.- should see that First Nations with increased economic opportunities have a greater chance of being self-reliant.
There is no reason for fear, as well. As long as service agreements are signed between First Nations and neighbouring municipalities (to harmonize bylaws) and service fees are paid in lieu of lost tax revenues, there should be no problems.
Additions to reserve are one major way that First Nations can re-enter the commercial mainstream. It’s time we allowed that to happen.