Skip to main content

“I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.” ~~ John G. Diefenbaker

FRASER INSTITUTE: The total assessed value of Westbank First Nations lands (Indian Reserves 9 and 10 within the city of West Kelowna) rose more than 600% after inflation from 2005 to 2019

First Nations people living on Indian reserves are the most disadvantaged segment of Canada’s Indigenous population. Yet the situation is not all bleak because some First Nations are finding a path toward prosperity. Scholars, like journalists, often focus on bad news, but we should also study the good news to see what can be learned from successful First Nations.

Westbank First Nation, located in British Columbia on the west side of Okanagan Lake opposite Kelowna, is a highly successful First Nation, and its achievements offer important lessons to other First Nations as well as to Canadian policy makers.

Westbank First Nation (WFN) has combined individual property rights, in the form of certificates of possession (CPs), with a system of government enabling these rights to become useful in the economy. The lesson is that neither property rights nor government can succeed on their own, but the two together can become a powerful engine of wealth creation.

To be most effective, property rights must be supported by a government that defines and records these rights, enforces them impartially under the rule of law, and supports owners with services and utilities such as roadways, police and fire protection, water and sewerage, and other amenities required to make property development attractive.

Westbank First Nations success is a story of incremental learning. As reserve land started to acquire potential economic value in the 1960s, members obtained certificates of possession and used them to grant leases for trailer parks. The WFN government also created a housing estate from community land. But governmental institutions were weak, and economic development led to internal conflict, with many charges of secrecy and favouritism.

The Hall Commission, appointed in 1986, set the Westbank First Nation on the path of governmental reform. The end result was a self-government agreement with Canada enacted by federal legislation in 2005.

Westbank First Nations constitution has made its government open and accountable, with positive effects upon the real-estate market.

The total assessed value of WFN lands (Indian Reserves 9 and 10 within the city of West Kelowna) rose more than 600% after inflation from 2005 to 2019. Most of that value has been created by holders of CPs (now known as allotments) leasing their lands for residential development, while the WFN government has also leased community land for commercial projects such as shopping centres.

Leases are typically for 99 years or even longer, giving lessees something close to the certainty of fee-simple ownership. Tenants who are not WFN members do not have the right to vote for Chief and Council, but they are consulted through a residents’ advisory council that they do elect.

Property taxes are assessed according to British Columbia standards in consultation with the First Nations Tax Commission. Thus, tenants are not subjected to the sudden and arbitrary tax increases that have sometimes occurred on First Nation lands elsewhere.

The Westbank First Nation government has also engaged in other business investments, with varying degrees of success.

Although some have prospered, there were two notable setbacks: investment in the Northland Bank, which went bankrupt in 1985; and the costly failure of a proposal to build a medical clinic, which led to the defeat of the incumbent chief in 2016.

Learning from experience, WFN has reorganized its business ventures to take investment decisions away from Chief and Council and place them in the hands of a more independent board—a step towards best practice for government-owned enterprises.

It is sometimes mistakenly asserted that First Nations are inherently collectivist and have no conception of private property. The history of Westbank First Nation shows otherwise.

The members of Westbank First Nation have embraced private property in the forms of allotments (CPs) and supporting mechanisms such as leases, mortgages, contracts, and property tax. The result is a thriving real-estate economy that provides benefits both for WFN members, and the far more numerous non-members who now live on Westbank First Nation lands.

It is a win-win situation, in which First Nation prosperity through economic participation also benefits the larger society.

CLICK HERE to read the full report

About the author:
Tom Flanagan is a Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Distinguished Fellow, School of Public Policy, University of Calgary


Popular posts from this blog

It seems the call for blood donors is being responded to, however ... “This effort is a marathon, not a sprint” says Canadian Blood Services

A week and a half ago I wrote the commentary ... “ While the national inventory is currently strong, an increase in blood donor cancellations is a warning sign of potential challenges to maintaining a health inventory of blood ” It was written as a result of talk about a potential blood shortage that would occur if people stopped donating due to the COVID-19 virus. It seems the call to Canadians was responded to, however, as I was told this afternoon ... “ T his effort is a marathon, not a sprint ”. As it now stands now, donors are able to attend clinics which are held in Vancouver (2), Victoria, Surrey, and in Kelowna, so I asked if there any plans to re-establish traveling clinics to others communities - for example in Kamloops, Prince George, Prince Rupert, Revelstoke or Cranbrook, and perhaps further north at perhaps Ft. St. John? According to Communications Lead Regional Public Affairs Specialist Marcelo Dominguez, Canadian Blood Services is still on

FEDLSTED -- Rules will have to relax-- the question is how and when

The media has created a fervour over the mathematical models that allegedly help governments predict the future of Coronavirus infections in the general population. Mathematical modelling has limited use and value. We need to understand is that the data available on Coronavirus (COVID-19) infections in Canada is far too small for statistical reliability. The data available for the whole world is useless due to variables in how nations responded to Coronavirus infections. There is no commonality in steps taken to combat virus spread and no similarity in the age demographics of world nations, so the numbers you see on the daily tracking of world infections are not useful in developing a model of infection rates that can be relied on. Mathematical models of the future spread of Coronavirus are better than nothing, but not a whole lot better.  Mathematical models must include assumptions on virus spreads, and various factors involved. As they are used in projections, a small erro

When necessary – and only when necessary – the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program can attach (garnish) wages

Alan Forseth ~~ Kamloops, BC ~~ May 15th Earlier this week (Monday May 13 th ) the BC government announced it would be establishing a new Crown agency to oversee the Family Maintenance Enforcement Program (FMEP).   They indicated that on or before the end of October, the provision of family maintenance services would transition from a contracted service provider, to the newly created Crown agency. Apparently, this was to ensure that family maintenance enforcement services for vulnerable British Columbians continue uninterrupted. Seeing this story, reminded me of a woman ( we’ll call her Mary Brown ) who had email me some time b ack about this very thing, and questions she had about how maintenance enforcement was imposed and enforced. She said to me, “ I’m just curious if you can get any statistics of the homeless men and woman, that have children, that they are paying family maintenance in support of their children”.  “I am not about to sugg


Show more