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Canada Indigenous Land Right-of-Way Overview (3-CAN-b)

Information current as of 2018
In Canada, a person (developer) may need a Designation Lease or Locatee Lease from the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (Department) for any project requiring a right-of-way across indigenous land (reserves). Reserves are tracts of 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. I-5|Indian Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. I-5, s. 2(1).


Although Bands have the right of exclusive use and occupation of reserve lands, the legal title belongs to the Crown and the lands are held in trust for bands by the federal government. The Department must approve of or grant most land transactions. Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Development Canada – Land Development Webpage. Obtaining leases for rights-of-way across reserves therefore requires coordination with Bands, individual indigenous possessors of land (Locatees) and the federal government.

Bands may designate 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 and for some authorized use. Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Development Canada – Land Development Webpage; Indian Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. l-5, s. 37, 38, 53(1). In addition, a Locatee may request that the Department lease designated or undesignated reserve land to a third party via a Locatee Lease. Indian Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. l-5, s. 58(1).


Indigenous Land Right-of-Way Overview Process

3-CAN-b.1 – Contact the Department of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada

A developer should contact the Department for more information on projects on reserve land, the processes for obtaining a Designation Lease or Locatee Lease and any other additional permits or applications that may be required.

3-CAN-b.2 to 3-CAN-b.3 – Does the Project Require Exclusive Use and Access to Unallotted Reserve Land?

A developer may need a Designation Lease if the project requires the exclusive use and access to unallotted reserve land for a long period of time. Unallotted reserve land is common land which is not under the lawful possession of a Locatee. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Land Management Manual, Directive 7.1, s. 2.2(g). If a developer needs a Designation Lease, see:

Designation Land Lease:
3- CAN-c

3-CAN-b.4 to 3-CAN-b.5 – Does the Project Require Exclusive Use and Access to Allotted Reserve Land?

A developer may need a Locatee Lease if the project requires access to and use of allotted land. Allotted land is reserve land in lawful possession of a Locatee. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada – Locatee Lease Policy and Directive Webpage; Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Land Management Manual, Directive 7.3. If a developer needs a Locatee Lease, see:

Locatee Land Lease:
3- CAN-d


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