Kwanlin Dun cheers changes to land titles system

Proposed changes to the territory's Land Titles Act will allow First Nations to register settlement land without losing aboriginal title.

Proposed changes to the territory’s Land Titles Act will allow First Nations to register settlement land without losing aboriginal title.

The move, the first of its kind in Canada, should help unlock the economic potential in their land, according to the Kwanlin Dun First Nation.

A bill to modernize the territory’s legislation was tabled this week in the Yukon legislature.

If it’s passed, First Nations could register all or some of their settlement land with the Yukon’s land titles office – something many First Nations have been calling for for years.

Under the current regime, First Nations that wanted to register land could only do it if they gave up any aboriginal rights and title first to render it fee simple, like all other privately-owned land.

Yukon’s First Nations don’t want to give up rights they agreed to through land claim negotiations just to register.

What sounds like mundane paper-pushing is much more than that, said Dave Sembsmoen, Kwanlin Dun First Nation’s director of lands and resources. “This is an important step for us towards developing our economic potential,” he said.

Without registered land, development can be difficult. That’s because it’s hard to get a mortgage, even after you have a residential or commercial lease agreement with the First Nation, if a bank can’t find you in an established registry, said KDFN lawyer Rod Snow.

“A lot of this has to do with creating confidence, not for the First Nation, but for other people who might be dealing with those lands,” he said.

Banks want somewhere to go and confirm, for example, that a lease exists and that land doesn’t have any court orders against it, he said.

People buying homes want similar reassurances about the state of the land when it comes to spending their money.

“If there’s no way for them to confirm that and be confident in the decision that they’re making, then you’re not going to realize value in the same way,” Snow said.

Without documentation, even applying for something like a home improvement loan can be difficult, Snow said.

The Yukon government is still working on the new regulations to accompany the act. Those will provide details on the process for registration of First Nation settlement land and are expected to be completed next year.

Any self-governing First Nation could be covered under the new act, said Lesley McCullough, the Department of Justice’s assistant deputy minister of courts and regulatory services.

All they have to do is add a clause to their self-government agreement stating that while settlement land is registered in the land titles office, the rules and procedures of the registry system apply.

Kwanlin Dun has already passed a resolution to consent to the amendment once everything is in place.

The new act has other changes beyond First Nations land.

The updated rules allow for land documents to be managed electronically.

Plans to eventually transition to an electronic, as opposed to paper, system are in the works, McCullough said.

The idea is to create an online database where people could search records instead of having to come into the land titles office.

“We’re making that information, which is public information, more readily available,” she said.

There’s also the potential to allow for some documents to be filed electronically, but that is much further down the road, she said.

For now the focus is on the online database.

The government plans to put out a request for proposals next year to see what kind of systems already exist, she said. After that they’ll have a better idea of how long it could take to get something up and running.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Two people walk up the stairs past an advance polling sign at the Canda Games Centre on April 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
April 12 is polling day: Here’s how to vote

If in doubt, electionsyukon.ca has an address-to-riding tool

Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon addressing media at a press conference on April 8. The territorial election is on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Currie Dixon and the Yukon Party platform

A closer look at the party leader and promises on the campaign trail

Yukon NDP leader Kate White, surrounded by socially distanced candidates, announces her platform in Whitehorse on March 29. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Getting to know Kate White and the Yukon NDP Platform

A detailed look at the NDP platform and Kate White’s leadership campaign this election

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Sandy Silver announces the territorial election in Whitehorse. Silver is seeking a second term as premier and third term as Klondike MLA. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Getting to know Sandy Silver and the Yukon Liberal platform

Yukon Liberal Leader Sandy Silver is vying for a second term as… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
This week at city hall

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its April 6 meeting.

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks to media in Whitehorse on October 30, 2020. Hanley is now encouraging Yukon to continue following health regulations, noting it could still be some time before changes to restrictions are made. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
No active COVID cases in Yukon

Hanley highlights concerns over variants, encourages vaccinations

Most Read