Members of K’atlodeeche First Nation (KFN) will be voting this week and next in a ratification process on what would be a major change for the Hay River Reserve.
They will be voting on establishing a land code.
It would be the basic land law of KFN and would replace the land management provisions of the Indian Act.
Chief April Martel said, right now, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) and its minister basically make the decisions on land and resources on the reserve.
“It’s not really chief and council that make the decisions,” she said. “It’s the minister and Indian Affairs that does all the decision-making on this reserve.”
Under a land code, Martel said KFN would manage the lands and resources on the reserve.
The chief believes a land code would be beneficial for the reserve by promoting business development, and even impact things like the ability of band members to get a mortgage for a home on the reserve.
“So basically now if we vote KFN land code we would be able to develop businesses,” she said. “We would be able to develop land and lease it to businesses, and that would go through KFN. And through that, it would develop monies into our First Nation.”
KFN has been working towards a land code for several years and established a land code committee to move the process forward.
Advance polls in the ratification process will be held on July 22, while the official voting day will be July 29. All eligible voters have also received a mail-in ballot package.
Across Canada, 92 other First Nations have enacted land codes.
“The land code committee has travelled to various First Nations to see how their land code has processed and how it’s developed,” said Martel. “And it’s been very positive all around Canada. So KFN is very excited for that.”