Growing Importance

Business transactions involving Indigenous communities and their lands have become increasingly commonplace over the past decade. Modern treaties and innovative legislation have allowed First Nations and their members to unlock the economic potential of their lands, creating opportunities, and building financial sustainability and independence. Lenders, developers and other project proponents have increasingly come to recognize the opportunities presented by these changes – including opportunities to advance reconciliation by partnering with First Nations on projects.

Unique Legal Regimes, Values and Stakeholders

Although some laws of general application apply to transactions on Indigenous lands, many do not. The legal regimes applicable to Indigenous lands are often markedly different from those applicable to non-Indigenous lands, and typically vary from Nation to Nation. In addition, the values that drive decisions and decision-making processes by individual First Nations will reflect their district cultural heritage and experience, and business transactions with Indigenous communities and organizations often involve unique stakeholders and governance structures.

On some transactions, a membership vote may be required, while on others the Nation may act through an economic development corporation (which may be independent from or controlled by Council). In some cases, Indigenous Services Canada may be involved in negotiating a lease, or Council approval may be required for a lease granted by a member of the First Nation. The possibilities are limitless, so navigating the unique complexities of structuring proponents, lending, leasing, development and construction on Indigenous lands requires experienced legal counsel with a sensitive yet practical approach.

Our Experience

Unlike many firms, we act for both First Nations and their partners in the larger business community – lenders, developers, and other project proponents – in connection with transactions on Indigenous lands. We are especially well positioned to understand the perspectives of the parties, whether the transaction involves lending, leasing, development, or construction. We have also worked extensively with First Nations in the area of law and policy development, so have a strong understanding of the applicable legal frameworks and issues that are important to First Nations and those who wish to do business with First Nations.