Legal Counsel for the Union of Ontario Indians Jenny Restoule-Mallozzi says that it’s important for First Nations to understand that if they don’t pass their own Matrimonial Real Property (MRP) Law, the resolution of MRP in their First Nations is now under the jurisdiction of the federal legislation Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act which came into force December 16, 2014.
“The federal process is not tailored to the First Nations and its citizens as it requires MRP to be settled through provincial courts rather than through First Nation dispute resolution processes or traditional approaches,” says Restoule-Mallozzi. “Use of the provincial court systems will mean a foreign government will be determining MRP issues in First Nations, will be more adversarial, will be lengthy, and will be much more costly for First Nations and their citizens.”
“Matrimonial Real Property is the family home and any interests or rights in structures and lands on reserve,” says Restoule. “This has been an issue for years because there were no provisions under the Indian Act or any other legislation that addressed how MRP on-reserve would be resolved. Despite the fact that there was no federal or provincial legislation, First Nations have always had their own ways to resolve MRP issues within their communities although these may have been mainly through unwritten laws.”
Restoule-Mallozzi also says that the MRP Laws are tied to larger initiatives that are currently being developed by the Anishinabek Nation – Citizenship, Constitution, the Child Well-Being Law, and Anishinabek Nation dispute resolution processes. “In developing these laws, the Anishinabek Nation is asserting its jurisdiction to govern its citizens, affairs, and rights through laws that are centered on the values, traditions, customs, and rights of the Anishinabek.”
Aundeck Omni Kaning has had a MRP Law in place since the late 1980s. There are additional Anishinabek Nation First Nations that have recently passed their MRP laws and others who are in the process of developing theirs. The Legal Department of the Union of Ontario Indians is available to provide MRP training or MRP law development to First Nations on a fee for-service basis.
Restoule-Mallozzi says that communities that are interested in developing their own MRP Law can use the Anishinabek Nation Law, which was passed in 2007, as a template.
“The template is a starting point,” says Restoule. “It sets the framework and guiding principles for Anishinabek First Nations, allows communities to establish regulations and rules, and assists in guiding discussions within communities as to what values and approaches to MRP do First Nations want to include within their own MRP laws.”
For more information on the federal MRP legislation, visit http://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/. For more information on the Anishinabek Nation MRP Law, visit http://www.anishinabek.ca/roj/matrimonial-real-property.asp To arrange for MRP assistance on a fee-for service basis from the Legal Department, contact Linda Seamont at (705) 497-9127 or www.anishinabek.ca