First Nations leaders today rejoiced at their legal victory in stopping Ottawa from selling off 160 acres of Kapyong Barracks property.
At a news, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak said the Federal Court ruling sends a clear signal to Ottawa that First Nation treaty rights must be respected.
"This is a message to Stephen Harper and his government that the unilateral actions of him and his ministers is not acceptable," Nepinak said, referring to a decision by Manitoba cabinet minister Vic Toews and others to sell the property.
"This court challenge was to tell the government of Canada to stop taking our lands, to stop taking our rights to sovereignty and to stop taking away our resource equity position and to stop denying us the economic opportunities that so many other Canadians take for granted," Nepinak said.
The ruling Friday by Justice Roger T. Hughes does not hand the 160 acre parcel of surplus federal military land to Aboriginal people. But it forces the federal government to reckon with First Nation treaty rights to such properties.
Several First Nation leaders today expressed hope for a negotiated settlement over the land. The two sides were said to be close to a settlement a couple of weeks ago.
Nepinak told reporters that Winnipeggers need not be afraid of today’s court ruling.
"First Nations leadership want nothing more than to help their people, our people acquire employment, housing and all of the opportunities afforded to other Manitobans," he said.
Glenn Hudson, chief of Peguis First Nation, one of four First Nations represented in the court case, said the victory should remind Canadians that First Nations people have every right to the Kapyong lands.
"We’re calling on the prime minister’s office to have this land converted to the rightful owners of this land, that being the First Nations people," Hudson said. "We want to create economic opportunities for our people, (an) economic development zone is what we’re talking about."