Understanding the Heterogeneous Nature of First Nations in Canada: A Study on Governance, Land-tenure and Socio-economic Development

Authors: Robert Fligg*, University of Waterloo, Derek Robinson, University of Waterloo
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Land Use, Economic Geography
Keywords: First Nations, Indigenous, land-use policy, land management, land-tenure, community well-being, socio-economic development
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 2:35 PM / 4:15 PM
Room: Roosevelt 3, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Among Indigenous peoples in Canada, there are approximately 630 First Nations who have de facto title to approximately 3100 reserves. Few are aware that land tenure differs on First Nation lands from non-First Nation lands, and often varies among First Nations. First Nations lands are also managed differently than non-First Nation lands with approximately 84% managed under the Indian Act (IA), approximately 12%, under the First Nations Land Management Act (FNLM) and approximately 4% under a self-government (SG) framework. These land management systems differ in terms of their governance, land tenure, and socio-economic development. A numeric indicator of socio-economic well-being of a community within Canada is called the index of community well-being (CWB). The CWB index uses community information on housing conditions, labour force activity, income and education and is represented on a scale from 0 (lowest) to 100 (highest). Analysis of CWB scores indicate a disparity of 20 points between non-Indigenous and First Nation communities, with non-Indigenous communities’ average score of 79 and First Nation average score of 59. Although a wide disparity has existed for many years, there is a lack of understanding about the relationship of First Nation CWB scores with land management, land tenure and socio-economic development. Our findings suggest: security of tenure and geographic location are key factors in socio-economic development; CWB scores for the 3 land management regimes are significantly different; higher CWB scoring IA and FNLM communities had a higher rate of improvement and SG communities had a more uniform rate of improvement.

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