The City of Richmond is urging the federal government to re-consider a proposed policy, which could see First Nations land sprouting up in unexpected places.
City staff have warned that potential changes to the government's Additions To Reserve (ATR) policy may lead to an increase in ATR applications from First Nations, which have the majority of its land in B.C. Under the proposed policy, any lands purchased by First Nations could become reserve land.
Currently, ATR applications have to be near or adjoining an existing reserve (contiguous).
However, the proposal, which B.C. municipalities are being asked to comment on, suggests that such applications need not be contiguous in the future.
An added worry for Richmond is the clarity over whether or not land acquired by a First Nation could be relieved of its Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) status, leaving it exposed to development contrary to the city's bylaws and Official Community Plan.
Amarjeet Rattan, the city's director of intergovernmental relations and protocol,
said in his report to city council that the proposed policy could have a "significant impact" for local governments, including loss of land base, land use planning and tax loss.
City councillors last week expressed concerns over a "tremendous threat to agricultural lands in Richmond" from the potential changes.
It has now written to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Bernard Valcourt, and Richmond MPs Kerry-Lynne Findlay and Alice Wong to express its "strong concerns."
Richmond Fire-Rescue also has issues with the proposal - drafted by the government to apparently expedite an onerous ATR process for First Nations - over jurisdiction, codes, bylaws and service levels expected.
The city's finance department said it was concerned with municipal tax loss or a tax shift to other taxpayers if the city wasn't able to negotiate an appropriate agreement with whatever First Nation owned the land.
At the moment, reserve lands are scarce in Richmond, with the Musqueam band owning 6.5 hectares on the northwest corner of Sea Island and land under the River Rock Casino.
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