On-Nation Considerations

On-Nation Considerations

Starting a business on a First Nation involves unique legal considerations. Our team members can support you every step of the way.

Legislation and First Nations Businesses

Although First Nations are under federal laws and policies, on-Nation co-operatives are regulated provincially.

Businesses on First Nations are affected by laws that impact both property rights and taxation. Ask community leadership if any of these acts apply to your business:

If a Nation has opted into the First Nations Land Management Act (FNLMA), it can withdraw from the land-related sections of the Indian Act. It can draft its land code and set out rules regarding the band’s management of its land, including governance, laws, accountability, and land and resources.

Under FNLMA, the Crown (Canadian government) still owns the land, and it can’t be sold outside of the band. But steps like environmental assessments and permits take less time. Working under this Act also eliminates delays often caused by Indigenous Services Canada — the First Nation can create more efficiency, clearer communication, and greater security.

If your Nation has opted into the FNLMA, ask your band for a copy of its land code. Review the code carefully to see how it may affect the set-up of your business.

The First Nations Fiscal Management Act (FNFMA) allows First Nations to create their own property tax system, like municipalities. Through collecting property taxes, bands can raise money for infrastructure and economic development. If your Nation has signed up for this Act, make sure you know how local taxes will apply to your business.
The First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act (FNCIDA) gives more certainty to commercial and industrial projects on-Nation. It allows a Nation to adopt regulations on-Nation that match provincial off-Nation regulations.
Under this Act, First Nations collect their goods and services taxes — i.e., replace GST with its tax, which it charges to all of its members (regardless of status). Administered by the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA), this tax is equivalent to GST (5%).
  • First Nations Land Management Act (FNLMA)
  • First Nations Fiscal Management Act (FNFMA)
  • First Nations Goods and Services Tax Act (FNGSA)

We’re here to help you clarify how legislation affects on-Nation co-ops.
For more information about how these acts can affect your co-op, see page 15 of our guidebook

Property Rights

There are three options to be granted land on-Nation:

Customary Rights are the most common property rights on-Nation, granted by the band through a Band Council Resolution (BCR). Canadian courts have maintained that the federal government must grant the right to possess or use land – meaning customary rights often aren’t ideal for establishing a business.
Certificates of Possession (CP) are the closest a band member can come to owning land on-Nation and the most common method of securing land for development. They act as proof that you have permanent rights to occupy, develop, lease the land, or sell your rights to another member of the First Nation. However, since the land is still owned by the government, it cannot be used as collateral or equity when applying for a loan. If you plan to go this route, speak to your band’s Lands Manager and seek legal advice.
Lease Agreements allow First Nations to enter long-term land-use agreements that can be negotiated with band members and non-band members. On-Nation leases are temporary and can take longer to register than off-Nation land. No two First Nations have the same rules for lease agreements. Your First Nation’s leadership and Lands Manager can tell you about the rules that will apply to your co-op.

For more information about on-Nation property rights, see page 16 of our guidebook


Like property rights, the tax laws that apply to a First Nation depend on whether that band operates under the Indian Act, is self-governing, or has opted into other Acts

Generally, people with Indian status don’t pay taxes for income made on-Nation or goods purchased on-Nation.

Sales Tax

If a First Nation is entirely under the Indian Act, Status Indians can buy goods on-Nation without paying GST and PST.

  • First Nation-owned businesses have to be registered for GST if they have sales of goods and services over $30,000.
  • Once registered, the business must charge sales tax on taxable goods and services.
  • If a Status Indian buys something from the business, they must show their status card to receive the tax exemption. The company must record the customer’s name and registry number and retain it for seven years.

Nations that have opted into FNGSA have their own tax that replaces GST.