Recent court decisions suggest the development of business on First Nations lands will expand in Canada. As the law around the economic sovereignty of First Nations evolves, the growth iun native-private sector commercial developments on FN lands is set to grow even more.
Paul Miron is senior title counsel at FCT, the largest provider of title insurance in Canada. His company has been facilitating the economic growth FN reserves for years. In a recent interview with WP he explained how title insurance enhanced the security afforded to major tenants and lenders, making First Nations lands much more attractive from a commercial point of view.
Title insurance is a form of indemnity insurance typically found in the United States. The product was developed as a way to manage risk in the perceived deficiency of the U.S. land records laws. The product is meant to protect an owner's or a lender's financial interest in property against financial loss from title defects or undiscovered liens. Title insurance first came to Canada twenty five years ago. Since then, FCT has used the product to develop leasehold interests in business on lands located within First Nations reserves.
Typically Reserve land is held be the crown. When non-natives want to invest in a business on FN lands, title insurance smooths the business case and puts investors at ease. "We do a lot of background work. This is the simple and practical solution to the problems of enforceability and priority of leases and mortgages on FN lands," says Morin. For more detail, click here.
"We do a lot of residential in B.C., " says Morin. "Shopping centers, big box stores. energy projects and shopping malls." The company currently does a deal a week. But more could be done.
“Natives are not using the tools as much as they could be,” he says. In Ontario, bands tend to be more introspective, and often don't want to see development. "The natives in the west are way ahead on this stuff," he says. But Morin thinks there are new opportunities for wind and solar projects, as well as so-called run-of-river, or micro-hydro projects in Ontario. "Pipelines, aside, people need to recognize there is a lot of development going on. It's not all bad news from the First Nations," says Morin.