In Canada, Federal legislation generally governs the affairs of First Nations peoples. The exception being where corporations are set up off reserve; in such circumstances provincial legislation generally applies.
Bands are capable of entering into contracts and they usually act through band council resolutions. It is sometimes required that a band resolution approving an agreement be passed.
Under the Indian Act, the personal property of a native or band cannot be taken by a non-native. A non-native cannot go onto a reserve and take goods belonging to a native. One of the exceptions to this rule is repossession of property involving a conditional sale contract where payment is not made.
Corporations are not natives, so a corporation’s property can be seized. Natives can seize property of other natives. Off reserve property is generally subject to seizure. However, if the property is usually used on reserve, such as a school bus, it cannot be seized when it goes off reserve. Off reserve bank accounts can be seized. However, if the account holds money provided by the Crown, that money cannot be seized.
Aboriginal peoples can make use of the advantages and protections of corporate status in their dealings both within the community and in joint ventures and other business arrangements with non-aboriginal individuals and companies.
Even if everyone involved in a corporation is a registered Indian, the corporation is not considered to be a registered Indian.
In a broad sense, one has to assume that First Nations peoples can be sued and can sue for personal injury or property damage. Insurance should, therefore, be arranged on the same basis as one would for non-First Nations entities.
Given that this assumption is generally correct, with some exceptions, all that remains is to ensure that the insurance arranged is adequate in the particular circumstances. From a risk management perspective, which includes issues of safety, loss prevention, quality control and corporate governance, the issues are much the same as for the general population.
Where located on reserve, Provincial Workers’ Compensation coverage is often elective and sometimes on an “all or nothing” basis.
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