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Candidates applaud court decision on Kapyong Barracks

Barracks seen as First Nations' hope for economic growth

Matt Henderson says he would like to see development of the former barracks that would offer First Nations a chance for economic growth.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Matt Henderson says he would like to see development of the former barracks that would offer First Nations a chance for economic growth.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/8/2015 (1650 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg South Centre NDP candidate Matt Henderson says four First Nations bands ought to have first right of refusal to the Kapyong Barracks, which could become a symbol of reconciliation in Winnipeg.

Henderson, who was filming a short campaign video Sunday near the barracks, was reacting to Friday's Federal Court of Appeal decision that sided with the four Treaty 1 bands. The Appeal Court found Canada failed to consult with the bands when it tried to sell off the surplus barracks lands on Kenaston Boulevard.

"Indigenous people have first right of refusal," said Henderson. "As the judge said, all parties have to come together."

He said he'd like to see a sustainable, multi-use development that would offer First Nations a chance for economic growth. Beyond that, he didn't want to presume what a proposal might look like before First Nations had their say. But he said Kapyong could be a "shining example of what reconciliation looks like."

'Indigenous people have first right of refusal. As the judge said, all parties have to come together'

Green party candidate Andrew Park called the Appeal Court's decision overdue. He said given Winnipeg's large indigenous population, it makes sense to pursue the development of an aboriginal economic-development zone on the Kapyong lands.

"There is no reason at all why an urban reserve could not be contemplated for these lands," he said, adding some public education might be needed to dispel the myths that still cling to urban reserves.

Winnipeg South Centre Liberal candidate Jim Carr was more guarded in his reaction to the latest Kapyong decision. Carr said Friday's court decision was "expected and consistent with what the courts have said about the duty to consult for a long time."

He said the decision makes clear Canada's obligation to consult First Nations on Kapyong, but he said the ultimate fate of the land will depend on the nature of the bands' proposal.

"There's a wonderful opportunity for our community to develop the lands," said Carr, as long as any development is respectful of the established neighbourhoods that surround it.

He would not say whether First Nations ought to be the ones to develop the lands, saying Canada has an obligation to consult but not necessarily to sell or give the land to the bands. But Carr did note several cities in Canada have seen successful economic-development projects on lands owed to bands under treaty land entitlements.

Conservative MP Joyce Bateman, who is seeking re-election in the much-watched riding, was not available for comment, her campaign manager said Sunday.

It's been more than a decade since soldiers abandoned the Kapyong Barracks and nearly as long since the prime piece of property has been mired in a complicated land-claim dispute between Canada and seven First Nations, which has since shrunk to four — Peguis, Swan River, Long Plain and Roseau River.

Based on the terms of the 144-year-old Treaty 1 and later agreements with Canada, those bands are still owed hundreds of acres of Crown land, or the cash to buy their own. The Kapyong matter has twice been heard in Federal Court and twice in the Federal Court of Appeal. In previous iterations of the court battle, Canada acknowledged it had a duty to consult with the bands on the fate of Kapyong. The nature of the duty and whether Canada fulfilled it — one of the most vexing questions in Canadian aboriginal law — was at issue in the latest round of hearings.

On Friday, in a long-awaited decision, Federal Court of Appeal Justice David Stratas said the lower court was correct when it said Canada had failed to consult with the four bands.

"In these circumstances, Canada's obligation was not just to give notice to the four respondents that it was selling the barracks property and offer a bit of information to them about it," wrote Stratas. "In these circumstances, given the background of Treaty No. 1, the purposes behind the treaty land entitlement agreements, and the concepts of honour, reconciliation and fair dealing, much more was needed."

Stratas admonished both sides to begin fulsome and fair-minded negotiations.

"Finally, it is to be hoped that whatever rancour, bitterness and mistrust among the parties may have existed in the past, the parties will now proceed to engage in constructive, respectful consultations concerning the barracks property for the benefit of all," he wrote.

Though the case was expected to end up before the Supreme Court of Canada, Norman Boudreau, longtime lawyer for the First Nations, said Friday he believes the Appeal Court decision is so strong Canada will not appeal. He said there is nothing stopping Canada and the bands from beginning consultations immediately.

The land claim dispute involves only the 160-acre "working" portion of the land, not the 350-plus houses and duplexes that surround it. Those houses are mostly occupied but are expected to eventually be declared surplus like the rest of the land.

Former Peguis chief Glenn Hudson, whose band led the charge on Kapyong, said recently any urban reserve would blend in seamlessly with River Heights and Tuxedo. Hudson envisioned a combination of condos, apartments and single-family homes, green space, mainstream big-box stores and perhaps an educational facility.

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Monday, August 17, 2015 at 6:51 AM CDT: Replaces photo

9:07 AM: Updates fact box

10:00 AM: Headline changed.

1:50 PM: Typo in headline fixed.

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