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Certificates of Possession and First Nations Housing : A Case Study of the Six Nations Housing Program

  • Christopher Alcantara (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

A common misconception is that land on Canadian Indian reserves is collectively owned by the band. In reality, individual band members can access four types of private property regimes on Canadian Indian reserves. This paper looks at one of these regimes, Certificates of Possession (CPs), to determine the benefits and consequences of CPs for economic development on Canadian Indian reserves. In particular, the paper focuses on how Six Nations band members have been able to use CPs to get around the seizure for debt restrictions in the Indian Act to acquire mortgages to build and own their own housing. The paper finds that CPs, in conjunction with band and/or government support, may provide a practical solution for tackling the housing problems that face many reserves in Canada.

Résumé

Un des malentendus persistant au sujet des réserves autochtones canadiennes est que le territoire soit la propriété collective de la bande. En réalité, les membres des bandes autochtones peuvent individuellement avoir accès à quatre types de régimes de propriété privée. Cet article porte sur l'un de ces types, le Certificat de propriété (CP), pour déterminer les conséquences et les avantages des CP sur le développement économique des réserves autochtones au Canada. Nous examinerons comment des membres de la bande des Six Nations ont pu utiliser les CP pour contourner les restrictions de saisie inscrites dans la Loi sur les Indiens pour obtenir une hypothèque, construire et devenir propriétaire de leur propre maison. Cette analyse de cas démontre comment les CP, de concert avec une aide financière provenant de la bande et/ou du gouvernement, peuvent fournir une solution pratique aux problèmes de logement auxquels plusieurs réserves au Canada sont confrontés.

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1 Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, How do Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal living conditions compare? (Ottawa: DIAND 2001), online: http://www.aincinac.gc.ca.

2 Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Housing & Infrastructure Assets Summary Report (Ottawa: DIAND 2002); Correspondence with Stephane Godin, DIAND Statistical Officer, Data Operation Section, QC (25 October 2002).

3 Interview of Rhonda Sullivan, Land Administrator at Cowichan Tribes, BC (16 April 2002).

4 Interview of David General, Six Nations Band Councilor, ON (4 June 2002).

5 Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, First Nations Housing (Ottawa: DIAND 2002), online: http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca.

6 Sullivan interview, supra note 3; Interview of Shelda Johnson, Six Nations Housing Manager, ON (5 June 2002); Interview of Bobbi Watts, Westbank First Nation Housing Administrative Officer, BC. (18 April 2002); Interview of Jeneen Roberts, Cowichan Tribes Housing Manager, BC (16 April 2002).

7 Interview of Philip A. Monture, Director of Six Nations Land Claims Research Office, ON (29 May 2002).

8 Interview of Winston Day Chief Jr., Blood Tribe Director of Housing, AB (16 October 2002); Interview of Darrel Crow Shoe, Piikani First Nation Director of Housing, AB (16 October 2002).

9 Flanagan Tom and Alcantara Christopher, “Individual Property Rights on Canadian Indian Reserves” (2004) 29 Queens Law Journal 489; for a description of the historical evolution of individual property rights on Canadian Indian reserves, see Alcantara Christopher, “Individual Property Rights on Canadian Indian Reserves: The Historical Emergence and Jurisprudence of Certificates of Possession” (20032004) 23:2Canadian Journal of Native Studies 391. For a summary of the case law involving CPs, see Flanagan Tom and Alcantara Christopher, “Individual Property Rights on Canadian Indian Reserves: A Review of the Jurisprudence” (2005) 42:4Alb. L. Rev 1026; for an in-depth look at customary rights, see Flanagan Tom and Alcantara Christopher, “Customary Land Rights on Canadian Indian Reserves” in Anderson Terry, Benson Bruce and Flanagan Tom, eds., Self Determination: The Other Path for Native Americans (San Francisco: Stanford University Press, 2006) [forthcoming].

10 A copy of the consent form and questionnaire can be requested from the author, or found in Alcantara Christopher, Certificates of Possession: A Solution to the Aboriginal Housing Crisis on Canadian Indian Reserves (M.A. Thesis, University of Calgary 2002) [unpublished] at 134–41.

11 Reynolds James I., Acting for the “Purchaser” in a Conveyance of Reserve Lands (Vancouver: The Continuing Legal Education Society of British Columbia, 2002), online: http://www.cle.bc.ca at 1.

12 Section 2 of the Indian Act R.S.C. 1985, c. 1–5 defines a reserve as “a tract of land, the legal title to which is vested in Her Majesty, that has been set apart by Her Majesty for the use and benefit of a band.” See also Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Directive 02–01 in Land Management Manual Volume I (Ottawa: Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, 1995) at 1; and Eel Ground Band v. Augustine, [2004] N.B.J. No. 161 (New Brunswick Queen's Bench).

13 Indian Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. 1–5, s. 20 (1–2). Section 20 (1) reads: “No Indian is lawfully in possession of land in a reserve unless, with the approval of the Minister, possession of the land has been allotted to him by the council of the band.” Section 20 (2) reads: “The Minister may issue to an Indian who is lawfully in possession of land in a reserve a certificate, to be called a Certificate of Possession, as evidence of his right to possession of the land described therein.”

14 Cadieux Pierre H., Individual Land Holdings Systems under the Indian Act (Ottawa: Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, 1989) at 3; Interview of Brenda Payne, DIAND Acting Deputy Registrar, QC (15 July 2002).

15 Ibid. Also see interview of Michel Brascoupe, Former Manager of Policy Unit for the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, QC (15 July 2002).

16 See the cases of Sandy v. Sandy [1978] 100 D.L.R. (3d) 363; Darbyshire-Joseph v. Darbyshire-Joseph, [1998] B.C.J. No. 2765; Derrickson v. Derrickson, [1986] 2 C.N.L.R. 45 (S.C.C.); Paul v. Paul, [1986] 2 C.N.L.R. 74 (S.C.C.); also see Alcantara Christopher, “Indian Women and the Division of Matrimonial Real Property on Canadian Indian Reserves” [unpublished].

17 Place Carmen, An Historical Review of the Reserve Allotment System (Ottawa: Department of Justice, 1981) at 11.

18 Interview of Cindy Smyth, Financial Services Officer, Bank of Montreal on Six Nations, ON (30 June 2002).

19 [2000] F.C.J. No. 470 Fed. T.D. at para. 1 & 14.

20 [1994] 3 C.N.L.R. 199.

21 See also Pronovost v. Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs (1986), 1 C.N.L.R. 56; Boyer v. Canada (1986), 4 C.N.L.R. 60; Batchewana First Nation v. Corbiere [2000, Docket: T-1234–98] online: http://decisions.fct-cf.ca. On the right of CP holders to transfer their CP, see Williams v. Briggs [2001] B.C.S.C. 78; Simpson v. Ziprick (1995), 126 D.L.R. (4th) 754; Simpson v. Ryan (1996), 106 F.T.R. 158; Cooper v. Tsartlip Indian Band [1997], 1 C.N.L.R. 45; Batchewana First Nation v. Corbiere, [2000] Docket: T-1234–98, online: http://decisions.fct-cf.ca. The courts have enforced wills involving CPs: Johnson v. Pelkey (1997), 36 B.C.L.R. (3d) 40; Dale v. Paul, [2000] AJ No. 751 (Alta. Master) and the right of a CP holder to engage in a lease: Mintuck v. Valley River Band No. 63A, [1977] 1 C.N.L.R. 12 (Man.C.A.); Boyer v. Canada, [1986] 4 C.N.L.R. 53; Tsartlip Indian Band v. Canada (1999), 181 D.L.R. (4th) 730.

22 Six Nations, Outstanding Financial and Land Issues & Summary of Six Nations Claims (Six Nations, ON, January 2002); interview of Janice Martin, Six Nations Lands/Membership Manager, and Toni Martin, Six Nations GIS Technician, ON (27 May 2002).

23 Ibid.; Monture interview, supra note 7.

24 Ibid.; Monture interview, supra note 7; Johnson interview, supra note 6.

25 Martin and Martin interview, supra note 22.

26 Interview of Sherry Martin, Department of Indian Affairs District Office Lands Officer for Department, Brantford, ON (4 June 2004).

27 Martin and Martin interview, supra note 22.

28 Interview of Glenda Porter, Six Nations Band Councilor and Chair of the Lands/Membership Committee, ON (17 June 2002).

29 Interview of David General, Six Nations Band Councilor, ON (4 June 2002).

30 Interview of Adam Carney, DIAND Senior Lands Examiner for the East, QC (15 July 2002).

31 Martin and Martin interview, supra note 22.

32 Porter interview, supra note 28.

33 Martin and Martin interview, supra note 22.

34 Reynolds, supra note 11 at 1.

35 Martin and Martin interview, supra note 22.

36 Johnson interview, supra note 6.

38 General interview, supra note 29.

39 Johnson interview, supra note 6.

40 The findings of this report are weakened by the fact that the bands provide the information and that DIAND does not verify the reported figures.

41 For comparative purposes, the Six Nations and Kahnawake reserves were excluded from the average values of all reserves in Canada, since these are the only two bands in Canada which employ CPs in conjunction with a revolving loan fund.

42 Housing & Infrastructure Assets Summary Report, supra note 2.

43 Johnson interview, supra note 6.

44 Simple interest involves fixed monthly payments and is calculated based on the principal amount borrowed. Compound interest is calculated on the principal plus accrued interest. For instance, a member borrows $10,000 at a simple interest rate of 1% and pays a fixed rate of $1,000 a month for the duration of the loan. For the first month, the member pays the $1,000, leaving $9,000 outstanding. Simple interest would then be calculated on this $9,000. At an interest rate of 1%, the interest charged would be $90.00, resulting in a total outstanding balance of $9,090.00. The next month, the member pays another $1,000, reducing the total outstanding amount to $8,090.00. Interest for the second month would be calculated on the $8,000 total, not on the accrued interest total of $8,090.00. If this were compound interest, interest charges would be calculated on the $8,090.00 amount rather than the $8,000 amount.

45 Johnson interview, supra note 6.

46 The one-acre requirement is to ensure that the lot can accommodate a well and a sanitation system since half or quarter-acre lots are insufficient to do so; piped water and sewer systems only apply to the subdivisions. Smaller one-sixth or quarter-acre lots that are typical off-reserve are simply not available on reserve as most of Six Nations is held under CP in large lots. Most members refuse to sell or subdivide their land, preferring to pass the whole lot or subdivide it among their children. Therefore, out of practicality, Housing requires that an individual have at least a one-acre unencumbered lot (Johnson interview, supra note 6).

47 Six Nations, Sue Nations Housing Program Policies (Six Nations, ON, April 2000).

48 Johnson interview, supra note 6.

49 Ibid., and Six Nations Housing Program Policies, supra note 47.

50 Johnson interview, supra note 6; Monture interview, supra note 7.

51 Johnson interview, supra note 6; Interview of Elaine Lickers, Community Manager at the Royal Bank at Six Nations, ON (26 June 2002).

52 Ibid., Lickers interview.

53 Johnson interview and Lickers interview, supra note 51.

54 Lickers interview, supra note 51.

55 Smyth interview, supra note 18.

57 S. Martin interview, supra note 26.

58 Martin and Martin interview, supra note 22.

59 S. Martin interview, supra note 26.

60 Martin and Martin interview, supra note 22.

61 Carney interview, supra note 30.

62 Ibid.; S. Martin interview, supra note 26.

63 Johnson interview, supra note 6.

64 Smyth interview, supra note 18.

65 Lickers interview, supra note 51.

66 Smyth interview, supra note 18.

67 Ibid.; Lickers interview, supra note 51.

68 Reynolds, supra note 11 at 3.

69 Brascoupe interview, supra note 15.

70 Flanagan and Alcantara (2004), supra note 9; Isaac Thomas, “First Nations Land Management Act and Third Party Interests” (2005) 42–4 Alta. L. Rev. 1047.

71 Interview of Lynn Vanderburg, Westbank First Nation Land Manager, BC (18 April 2002).

72 Interview of Alan Ray, Sandy Lake First Nation Treaty and Lands Manager, ON (10 June 2002).

73 Alcantara and Flanagan (2005), supra note 9.

74 Interview of Larry George, Cowichan Tribes Land and Governance Manager, BC (17 April 2002).

75 Day Chief Jr. interview, supra note 8.

76 Watts interview, supra note 6.

77 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, “Rent arrears prompt First Nation to take own members to court” (13 July 2005), online: CBC <http://www.north.cbc.ca.

78 Johnson interview, supra note 6; Lickers interview, supra note 51; Smyth interview, supra note 18.

79 CBC, supra note 77.

80 Interview of Kevin MacLeod, Lac La Ronge Indian Band, SK (15 July 2005).

81 Lickers interview, supra note 51.

82 Vanderburg interview, supra note 71.

83 Interview of Hugh Ryan, Manager of DIAND Policy Infrastructure and Housing Community Development, QC (16 July 2002).

84 George interview, supra note 74; Roberts interview supra note 6.

85 Smyth interview, supra note 18; General interview, supra note 29.

86 Lickers interview, supra note 51.

* This paper is a condensed and modified version of my M.A. thesis entitled, “Certificates of Possession: A Solution to the Aboriginal Housing Crisis.” I would like to thank Tom Flanagan, Rainer Knopff, Rick Ponting, Nigel Banks, and the officials from Six Nations, Cowichan Tribes, Westbank, Tsuu T'ina, Blood Tribe, Piikani, Siksika, and the federal government for participating in this study. Thanks to David Chandonnet for his help with the French translation of the abstract, and to the anonymous reviewers of this Journal for their helpful advice. As usual, the author is responsible for all omissions, errors, and opinions expressed in the paper.

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