Two of the largest reserves of band members in Canada are the Six Nations of the Grand River, near Brantford, Ontario, and the Akwesasne Mohawks, who live near Cornwall, Ontario, in territory that extends on both sides of the borders of Ontario, Quebec and New York. Among the first of these reserves is Asimakaniseekan Askiy, from the Lake Muskeg Cree nation. This urban reserve is located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, on land that was formerly occupied by the city's railroads. Asimakaniseekan Askiy is the result of a specific land claim agreement awarded to the Lake Muskeg Cree nation.
It's home to dozens of indigenous businesses in the city. The success of initiatives like this has led to the creation of more than 120 urban reserves across the country. They also received reservations where First Nations people could live safely, get education, and practice agriculture. Some First Nations, such as the Qalipu Mi'kmaq First Nation in Newfoundland and Labrador, do not have reserve land.
Before Confederation, colonial governments often took steps to reduce the size of land reserved for First Nations. The McKenna-McBride Royal Commission unsuccessfully tried to resolve issues related to reservations, and these are still the subject of debate in negotiations on Aboriginal titles in that province. Those who disagree with this approach point out that this proposal, often made by non-Aboriginal Canadians, is based on Western conceptions of private property and is based on the assumption that the only “solution to the challenges faced by reservation communities in Canada” is to assimilate into non-Aboriginal white society and adopt non-Aboriginal lifestyles. The reserve communities, on the other hand, are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Indigenous and Northern Canada Affairs (INAC), as stipulated in the Indian Act.
Some First Nations have created urban reserves, which are reserves within or next to a large city. While conditions are improving, the First Nations on the reserve are still living below the level of the Canadian population. The treaties stipulated that First Nations would select the location of their reservation, but the government occasionally rejected their selection and allocated land to them elsewhere. Under the Federal Reserve Addition Policy, First Nations can obtain land and have it added to their reserves.
For example, in Ontario, the reservation lands occupied by the Mohawks of Quinte Bay (Mohawk territory of Tyendinaga) and the Six Nations of the Rio Grande originated as special grants from those loyal after the American Revolution. This map shows the approximate traditional territories of the First Nations that participated in the British Columbia Treaty Process, as described in their statements of intent to negotiate a treaty. Many First Nations own more than one parcel of reserve land, and some reserves are shared by more than one First Nation. In these treaties, the First Nations preserved the right to continue using the entirety of the ceded territory for hunting, fishing and capturing.
In some cases, the Canadian government allocated land from the Crown in order to form a reservation, while in other cases the Crown purchased private land to convert it into reserves. The relationship with traditional territory also remains important for many First Nations that have lost access to it, even if they cannot continue those practices in those places.