Urban satellite reserves are properties located either in whole or in part within or adjacent to existing urban municipalities; they are governed and managed by Indian Band Councils. Under the federal Indian Act, such urban satellite reserves have the same legal status as other Indian reserves found in other parts of the province; they differ from another type of urban reserves which exist in other provinces by virtue of urban municipalities expanding to the point where their boundaries are contiguous with those of the longstanding neighbouring reserve. They also differ from urban properties which are held by Band Councils as part of their land holdings but have not been granted official reserve status.
Properties acquired by Band Councils in urban areas are not automatically converted to reserve status. They acquire such status only after the federal Cabinet approves a formal request submitted to it by the Indian Band Councils that govern what might be termed “base reserves” or “home reserves” in other parts of the province. The conversion of any non-reserve properties to reserve properties requires conscious decisions both by the Band Council and federal Cabinet, based on a prescribed process. The process for converting such properties to reserves is defined in two documents. The first document is the Treaty Land Entitlement Framework Agreement (TLEFA), which is a Saskatchewan-specific comprehensive land claims agreement signed in 1992 by the federal government, the province of Saskatchewan, and twenty-two entitlement bands in the province. The second is the Additions to Reserve Policy (ARP), which is the official policy of the federal government that applies to properties earmarked for reserve status, regardless of how they are acquired by Band Councils. Both policies stipulate parallel and similar processes aimed at ensuring, among other things, negotiations and agreements between the councils of the Band, the urban municipality, and the school divisions. Although negotiations and agreements related to provision and payment of services and bylaw compatibility are identified as a desirable goal, they are not a precondition to having properties converted to reserve status. In some cases such properties have been converted to urban satellite reserves in the absence of such negotiations or agreements.
During the past two decades, over twenty such satellite reserves have been created in municipalities of various sizes such as Prince Albert, Saskatoon, Regina, Yorkton, Fort Qu’Appelle, Lebret, Duck Lake, Meadow Lake, and North Battleford. Such reserves have been created and used for commercial and institutional purposes; to date, none has been created or used for residential purposes. Invariably, they have been created because the Band Councils are seeking to capitalize on the location of such reserves in urban areas which generally serve as regional service centres and in which they can establish and operate either profitable commercial ventures or various types of First Nation governance, educational, and service agencies. The two main advantages of urban satellite reserves over urban properties which do not have reserve status are: first, Band Councils who govern and manage them have extensive flexibility in the types of arrangements that they enter into with neighbouring municipal governments for services and service fees as well as for bylaw compatibility; second, bona fide First Nation members who work or operate businesses on such reserves are exempt from taxation.