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Canada Designation Land Lease (3-CAN-c)

Information current as of 2018
In Canada, a person (developer) may need a Designation Land Lease (Designation Lease) from the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (Department) if a project requires the exclusive use and/or access to unallotted reserve land for a period of up to 49 years or longer. Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Development Canada – Land Development Webpage; Indian Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. l-5, s. 37, 38, 53(1). Unalloted reserves are tracts of common land, the legal title to which is vested in the Crown, that have been set apart by the Crown for the use and benefit of a Band. Bands are a “body of Indians for whose use and benefit in common, lands, the legal title to which is vested in [the Crown] have been set apart.” Indian Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. l-5, s. 2(1).


Bands may designate unallotted reserve land for specific purposes, which the Department may then lease to third parties in accordance with the designation via a Designation Lease. Designation Leases are contracts that grant exclusive possession of reserve land for a specified period of time for authorized uses. Indian Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. l-5, s. 53(1)(b); Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Land Management Manual, Directive 7-2, s. 4. Pursuant to the Indian Act, lands in a reserve may not be leased until they have been designated. Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Development Canada – Land Development Webpage; Indian Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. l-5, s. 37, 38, 53(1). To create a valid designation, a Band must initiate a referendum, pass a Band Council Resolution (BCR) by majority vote, and certify the designation in coordination with the Department prior to submitting the designation to the appropriate Governor in Council for acceptance. Only a Band may initiate designation proceedings. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Land Management Manual, Directive 5-4.



Designation Land Lease Process

3-CAN-c.1 – Contact Appropriate Band Council and/or the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (Department)

A developer should contact the appropriate Band Council and/or Department for more information regarding the process for obtaining a Designation Lease.

3-CAN-c.2 – Application for Use of Land Within an Indian Reserve

The developer must submit an Application for Use of Land within an Indian Reserve (Application) to the Department to obtain a Designation Lease. The Application must include all information necessary for the Department to successfully draft the Designation Lease. The Application is available on the Department’s website. Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Development Canada – Forms-Economic Development Webpage.

Along with the Application, the developer must provide the following:

  • A corporate certificate of good standing (if applicable);
  • An identification document, if the lessee (developer) is an individual;
  • A development proposal (if applicable);
  • Appropriate plans or a survey of the land;
  • An Environmental Assessment in accordance with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, S.C. 2012, c. 19 conducted at the expense of the developer; and,
  • Any other documents requested by the Department or relevant to the proposed Designation Lease.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Land Management Manual, Directive 7-2, s. 4.

3-CAN-c.3 to 3-CAN-c.4 – Review Application Materials for Completeness

The Department review the Application materials for administrative and technical completeness.

3-CAN-c.5 to 3-CAN-c.6 – Review Application Materials for Approval

The Department reviews the Application to determine whether the terms of the proposed Designation Lease are in compliance with the terms of the Designation. A Designation Lease must strictly comply with the terms of the designation or the Department rejects the Application. As part of its review, the Department:

  • Verifies the status of the land;
  • Verifies the legal description of the land;
  • Conducts a credit investigation at the expense of the developer;
  • Conducts a corporate status check at the developer’s expense (if applicable); and,
  • Conducts a survey of the land at the expense of the developer (if applicable).

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada – Locatee Lease Policy and Directive Webpage; Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Land Management Manual, Directive 7-2, Annex A, Directive 7-3, s. 8.

3-CAN-c.715 to 3-CAN-c.816 – Negotiate Designation Lease

If the Department accepts the Application, the Department and developer will negotiate key terms of the Designation Lease. The key terms of a negotiated Designation Lease must include at a minimum:

  • A provision designating the lessor as Her Majesty the Queen;
  • A provision designating the developer as the lessee or tenant;
  • The proposed use of the land and the specific development or activity planned;
  • The proposed term of the lease;
  • A legal description of the land or premises being leased;
  • The amount and terms of rent payment;
  • Any other terms deemed necessary by the Department.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Land Management Manual, Directive 7-1, s. 2.19, 2.7.

3-CAN-c.9 to 3-CAN-c.10 – Draft Designation Lease

After the terms are agreed upon, the Department drafts a standard Designation Lease incorporating the negotiated terms and provides a copy of the Designation Lease to the developer. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Land Management Manual, Directive 7-2, s. 4.

In addition to the negotiated terms, a Designation Lease should include the following recitals, or introductory provisions, which appear before the main body of the lease:

  • A statement saying that the leased lands are reserve lands or designated lands, which have been set apart for the use and benefit of the First Nation;
  • The number and date of the BCR approving the lease;
  • The date of the designation and the date and number of the Order-in-Council accepting the designation;
  • The Indian Land Registry Number of the designation Order-in-Council, if available;
  • The expiration date of the designation; and,
  • The section of the Indian Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. l-5, s. 37, 38, 53(1) or regulations which authorizes the Designation Lease.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Land Management Manual, Directive 7-4, Annex A.

3-CAN-c.11 to 3-CAN-c.12 – Review Designation Lease for Approval

The Department conducts a thorough review of the Designation Lease to ensure it is in compliance with the designation as well as any other applicable laws or regulations and to determine if any further studies or assessments must be concluded prior to execution of the Designation Lease. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Land Management Manual, Directive 7-4, Annex A.

3-CAN-c.13 to 3-CAN-c.14 – Execute Designation Lease

After the Designation Lease is approved, the Department and the developer must execute the Designation Lease. The following steps must occur in order to properly execute the Designation Lease:

  • The Band must consent to the Designation (as evidenced by the BCR);
  • The developer must execute and sign the Designation Lease;
  • The Department’s delegated authority must execute and sign the Designation Lease.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Land Management Manual, Directive 7-4, Annex A.

3-CAN-c.15 – Register Designation Lease

After a Designation Lease is executed, the Department registers the Designation Lease and supporting documentation in the Indian Lands Registry System.


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