Urban Reserves & Treaty Land Entitlement

Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) is a specific claim with the Federal government to resolve outstanding obligations to First Nations who did not receive all of the reserve land they were entitled to under Treaty.

Additionally, First Nations can purchase land and transfer it to reserve status through the federal Additions to Reserve (ATR) process. If lands are located within a city, they are then known as an urban reserve.  Urban reserves provide investment opportunities and support the community’s on-going economic, environmental, social and cultural well-being.

The City of Fort St. John, guided by Council’s Additions to Reserves Policy [PDF - 235 KB], welcomes these investments in the community and is committed to working with First Nations through the Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) and Additions to Reserves (ATR) process. The policy lays out ten principles:

  • Autonomy of both parties to make decisions in the best interest of their community
  • Recognition and acknowledgement that First Nations have legal rights as enshrined in the constitution.
  • Recognition that Council’s goal is to foster and support an inclusive community that welcomes and respects diverse cultures and heritage
  • Ensures all citizens are treated fairly and equitably
  • Engages with our citizens to ensure broader views and interests are taken into consideration
  • Values collaboration and partnership that fosters a cohesive community
  • Accountability and transparency through the consistent application of this policy
  • “Good neighbour” approach to working with First Nations which promotes good will, good faith and reasonableness
  • Recognition that both the City and First Nations have similar goals and objectives in relation to the provision of services to their residents
  • Works to provide safe, reliable and cost-effective services to our communities

Before an urban reserve is created, the City desires to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with a First Nation that outlines each party's values and interests and establishes a relationship built on trust and respect of each other’s rights and obligations and a willingness to work collaboratively. Additionally, the City and First Nation work together to develop a Municipal Services Agreement (MSA) covering municipal services, fees for services, and compatible bylaws and development standards.  

Urban Reserve Examples

Tsawwassen First Nation

In 2008, the Tsawwassen First Nation aimed to create new economic opportunities and self-reliance for its members following an agreement on the first modern-day treaty in Canada. In addition to several other projects, Tsawwassen Mills was developed with over 1.4 million square feet of retail and entertainment space near BC Ferries Tsawwassen Terminal on Highway 17, which created up to 3,500 construction, retail and property management jobs in the community.

Westbank First Nation

The Westbank First Nation is a recognized success in terms of economic and urban reserve development. Over the past several decades, the First Nation has developed residential and commercial ventures including a 177-acre, 208 lot residential development called Lakeridge Park and the Okanagan Lake Shopping Centre, a 127,000 square foot retail development. Since 2005, construction building permits worth over $600 million have been issued for development on Westbank First Nation lands.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE)?

Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) is a specific claim with the Federal and Provincial governments to resolve outstanding obligations to First Nations who did not receive all of the reserve land they were entitled to when the First Nation adhered to Treaty.

What is an Urban Reserve?

An urban reserve is land within a municipality that is originally owned in fee simple by a First Nation and then converted to reserve status by the Federal Government. These lands are often purchased by the First Nation on the open market due to limited crown land within a city. Reserve status is obtained by going through the Additions to Reserve process which results in the land becoming under federal jurisdiction.

What are the benefits to an Urban Reserve?

There are several significant benefits to the community, including economic, social and cultural development opportunities, including:

  • Community investment through development
  • Job creation for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members
  • Revenue generation opportunities
  • Economic spin-offs from the job creation and community investment
  • Positive relationships between First Nations and the City
  • Building a stronger and more inclusive community 

What does an Urban Reserve look like?

An urban reserve looks no different than any other city property and can be an office building, hotel, gas station, residential housing, vacant lot or a commercial or industrial development.

What is the difference between an urban reserve and fee simple holdings?

Fee simple holdings are land owned by a First Nation that has not been converted to reserve status, meaning that the property is not exempt from City bylaws or property taxes.

How does obtaining Reserve status change the property?

Once land has reserve status, it is under federal jurisdiction and the First Nation instead of the City. For example, City property taxes or bylaws no longer apply. However, a Municipal Service Agreement covering services, fees for services, and compatible bylaws and development standards are negotiated between the City and the First Nation.

What is a Municipal Services Agreement?

A Municipal Services Agreement covers a variety of items that may be included, however, the main elements address services, fees for services and compatible bylaws and development standards. During negotiations, the City and First Nation will agree to the level of City services provided to the Urban Reserve and the corresponding payment in lieu of property taxes or fees for services. This ensures the urban reserve receives and pays for the same services received by other properties. Recognizing the First Nation’s independent jurisdiction while ensuring compatibility in the urban setting, the First Nation will ensure through its bylaws that the urban reserve has the similar building and safety standards, and business and land use regulations compared to surrounding properties.