Urban reserves good for cities
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/11/2014 (3129 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Now that the Winnipeg civic election dust has settled, somewhat, we offer our congratulations to mayor-elect Brian Bowman and third place finisher, Robert Falcon-Oulette.
We congratulate them and most of the other candidates for their sincere and valiant efforts in engaging and mobilizing Winnipeg’s First Nations and Métis citizens, like never before, in a civic election.
More to the point, we also commend Bowman not only for his resounding electoral victory, but also for his bold pledge to support the development of urban reserves in Winnipeg.
Back in September, in responding to a mayoral candidates questionnaire prepared by the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, Bowman indicated his support for urban reserves in Winnipeg.
We will take him up on this pledge in the coming weeks and months ahead.
Developing urban reserves will not be an easy task.
On average, it takes nine years for a parcel of land, acquired through the various Treaty Land Entitlement (TLE) agreements signed by Treaty First Nations, to be set apart as reserve by Canada.
Getting these purchased lands converted to reserve is complex, time-consuming, and requires tremendous perseverance, patience and understanding.
Despite these challenges and obstacles, some First Nations are on the cusp of realizing the full economic development potential of their urban reserve lands.
What was once used as a tool for segregation is now being used as a tool for integration by certain Treaty First Nations across Manitoba: Indian reserve land in urban centres.
Currently, there is one official urban reserve in Winnipeg.
Under its TLE agreement, the Long Plain First Nation purchased land on Madison Street, close to Polo Park, in 2006.
The Yellowquill College is currently located on this parcel.
In July 2010, with help from former Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Ron Evans and soon-to-be former Mayor Sam Katz, Long Plain and the City of Winnipeg signed a municipal services and development agreement for the land, setting the stage for the development of this three-acre parcel.
On May 23, 2013, the property was officially set aside as an Indian reserve by Canada for the “use and benefit” of the Long Plain Indian Band.
A Petro-Canada gas station and convenience store is slated to open by year’s end. And an 80,000-square-foot office complex is currently in the works.
Beyond Winnipeg’s Perimeter Highway, another Treaty First Nation is moving forward with its acquired land in the Town of Swan River.
Eight years after buying land in Swan River, the Sapotaweyak Cree Nation broke ground on its urban reserve on July 23, 2014.
Construction of a video lottery terminal (VLT) and sports lounge is now underway after the sod was turned by Chief Nelson Genaille and Swan River’s Mayor Glen McKenzie.
Canada converted this parcel to reserve earlier this year on February 23, 2014.
Construction of this VLT and sports lounge is expected to be completed by the end of December.
To help build understanding and address the misconceptions, and misperceptions, surrounding urban reserves, the Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM), the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba and the Treaty Land Entitlement Committee (TLEC) of Manitoba have come together to share information and perspectives about TLE and municipal development.
Among some of the issues discussed at this table thus far include: payment for services in-lieu of municipal taxes, bylaw compatibility, and improved communications between First Nation and municipal governments.
I credit Manitoba’s Treaty Commissioner, James Wilson, for his instrumental role in bringing the AMM and TLEC together on this Treaty-based issue.
To implement his urban reserve pledge, I now extend this open invitation to mayor-elect Bowman to consider joining this table as he paves the way for more urban reserves in Winnipeg.
Indeed, as experience has shown so far, developing more urban reserves will no doubt be difficult, but not impossible.
Chris Henderson is executive director of the Implementation Secretariat for Treaty Land Entitlement Committee of Manitoba Inc.