Largest private landowner in Whitehorse prepares to offer up land for lease

'Today has been a long time coming, and it is a significant step in what has been a long complex process,' said Chief Doris Bill of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation.

Parcel of Kwanlin Dun First Nation settlement land now listed on territory's land registry

'We have designed a proven framework that enables select parcels of KDFN settlement land to go to market for both commercial and residential use,' said Chief Doris Bill of Kwanlin Dun First Nation on Wednesday. (Mike Rudyk)

The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dun First Nation (KDFN) say it's a first in Canada. The First Nation is laying the groundwork to lease land that it has title to, under self-government agreements.

Other First Nations have leased reserve land under Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada. Kwanlin Dun will sell leasehold interests under Yukon's Land Titles Act, on settlement lands.

"Today has been a long time coming, and it is a significant step in what has been a long complex process," said Chief Doris Bill of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation.

Kwanlin Dun is the largest private landowner in Whitehorse, with 85 settlement land parcels totalling over 2,385 ha.

Officials show off the first Certificate of Title. 'Today has been a long time coming and it is a significant step in what has been a long complex process.' Bill said. (Mike Rudyk)

The Yukon government amended its Land Titles Act so its settlement lands could be listed on the territory's land registry — a requirement for bank financing — without affecting Aboriginal rights and title. Now people interested in leasing land can qualify for mortgages from financial institutions.

The Yukon Lands Titles Office will register leasehold interests to the general public. Leasehold interest allows the purchaser to have exclusive possession of the leased land for up to 125 years. It can also be bought and sold. 

Bill says a leasehold interest will provide certainty for land purchasers.

When a lease expires, Kwanlin Dun has the option of de-registering it at the land titles office. The First Nation will still retain Aboriginal title of their land.

"We have designed a proven framework that enables select parcels of KDFN settlement land to go to market, for both commercial and residential use," Bill said.

"More importantly, it ensures Kwanlin Dun First Nation retains ownership of its settlement land, forever," Bill added.

'Once again the Yukon is leading the way,' said Premier Sandy Silver on Wednesday. (Mike Rudyk)

In 2015, KDFN council amended its self government agreement for leasing land. Settlement land leases registered at the Land Titles Office have priority over Aboriginal rights, interest and title, for a period of the lease agreement.

The Yukon government amended its Land Title Act in 2016, to allow settlement land leases to be registered at the Land Titles Office.

Premier Sandy Silver called it a historic step in the reconciliation process.  

"This process is the first of its kind in Canada, and once again the Yukon is leading the way ... this might be the first-ever, anywhere."