Amendments to Manitoba’s Provincial Offences Act would enable First Nations to enforce certain laws and bylaws in provincial system

On May 30, 2023, the Government of Manitoba passed Bill 43, which would amend The Provincial Offences Act (the “Act”) to expand how First Nations in Manitoba may enforce specific laws and bylaws. The amendments intend to simplify the enforcement process for First Nations who choose to opt into this framework.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO), a political advocacy organization which represents the citizens of twenty-six First Nations, proposed the amendments.

The amendments would enable First Nations to enforce the following:

  • (1) their laws made under a land code pursuant to the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management; and
  • (2) their bylaws made under Section 81 or 85.1 of the Indian Act on reserve land through tickets and fines, which could be administered through the Provincial Court. The amendments also provide additional enforcement options for First Nations to collect unpaid fines. For example, First Nations could take action to collect unpaid fines through the Court of King’s Bench or by registering a lien in the Personal Property Registry against the property of a person who has not paid their fine.

First Nations in Manitoba can choose whether to opt into the framework under the amended Act. Furthermore, the amended Act will apply in respect of a First Nation law or bylaw only if it states that the Act can deal with a prosecution for a contravention. The amended framework may provide more certainty and efficiency for enforcing First Nation laws and bylaws.

Some First Nations have raised concerns about Bill 43 impacting First Nations’ right to self-government and Treaty rights. Others have noted that the enforcement framework under Bill 43 may be used as a stopgap until First Nations set up their own systems.

The amendments were assented on May 30, 2023, but are not yet in force. They will come into force on a day to be fixed by proclamation.

MLT Aikins has a team of lawyers with experience assisting First Nations with law and bylaw drafting and enforcement. We would be pleased to respond to any inquiries you may have regarding the proposed amendments to the Act and how they may impact your First Nation. Contact us to learn more.