Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 16/5/2009 (3802 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
This is what we do in a capitalist society, although we usually start with farmland that surrounds an existing urban area. Some developer buys up that farmland at a cheap price, then subdivides it into lots, puts up houses on those lots and then sells the lots and the houses at a profit. The City of Winnipeg chips in with roads and infrastructure, and then collects taxes from residents of this new neighbourhood.
So why can't we do the same thing with the Kapyong Barracks?
This is prime property, located between two of Winnipeg's most affluent neighbourhoods; River Heights and Tuxedo. What better use for this property than to create another neighbourhood like nearby Linden Woods? What would change the way we think when it comes to developing such an opportunity?
In this case, it might be because Indians have made a claim on this land. And, no matter whether or not you agree with the claim First Nations have on this property, the greatest tragedy is our headlong rush to abandon the capitalist values that built this great country.
Some people think we should use those houses for the homeless. Other people have suggested we somehow move these same houses to reserves to alleviate overcrowding. Unfortunately, the same lack of research and foresight that has caused our tax dollars to be spent heating these homes and mowing their lawns year after year while they remain vacant, has overlooked the facts they are all over 50 years old, none meet modern building codes or standards, and many contain toxic lead paint and perhaps asbestos.
And these homes are wood-framed structures that would be hard-pressed to survive the stress of a ride on a flatbed truck over roads too narrow to carry a wide load to northern reserves, let alone squeezing these houses through underpasses and bridges that do not normally accommodate two-storey structures.
Some other people have suggested we build rows and rows of low-income housing — rows and rows of apartments or townhouses or tenements like we have in the Lord Selkirk developments on Flora Avenue or Jigtown on Burrows Avenue.
Use the Kapyong property to meet some immediate needs for shelter.
The problem with that is these immediate needs never seem to go away. They go on forever.
We have to get away from this kind of bleeding-heart liberal thinking that social workers always seem first to advocate.
How about if we pay our outstanding debt of land to the Indians and they take this property and develop it properly and make a zillion dollars off it and they use that money to provide shelter for homeless and low-income people while rolling most of it over to make more and more money and eventually solve all of the social problems facing First Nations once and for all?
First Nations have been very successful when they have had the opportunity to undertake economic development in other urban areas. The Westbank Indians in British Columbia finally took over some nickle-and-dime long-term leases Indian Affairs bureaucrats had negotiated on their behalf on some primo West Coast real estate and started charging market value, which has created enormous wealth and employment for their citizens. We also laud another West Coast Indian group that lives across the bridge (Lions Gate) in North Vancouver. The Capilano First Nation leases and owns businesses like Future Shop, gas stations and convenience stores and rents out nice, tidy homes on its suburban First Nation reserve. Similar story on an urban reserve in Saskatoon. So why does our thinking get so warped when it comes to Kapyong? Why can't we see the big picture?
First Nations have a legal right to the Kapyong properties. Canada's courts have ruled that First Nations must be consulted when federal surplus land is to be disposed of as part of Treaty Land Entitlements and Settlements.
Kapyong has been designated as surplus land. That means Indians have first claim to it.
The big problem is that we don't allow First Nations to use the same approach Canadians have always used to get rich. Somehow there is something wrong with a bunch of Indians taking this land and developing it and making a killing off it. For sure, we don't want just a few fat cats to get rich and the rest of the people suffer but the way we do things right now is short-sighted, and hurts us all.
Economists, especially right-wing ones, are always telling us the big money will trickle down to the little guy, so why do we only believe them when it comes to white people?
First Nations are entitled to develop the Kapyong Barracks property into a Linden Woods-type haven that they can sell/lease at profit. The profits made from this can be used to alleviate some of the poverty in other First Nations in Manitoba and to invest in other lucrative opportunities, which will create a revolving fund of wealth and investment to eventually overcome the disparity between First Nations citizens and other Canadians.
Oh! By the way, First Nations have agreed to pay a fee for service which would be at least equal to what the City of Winnipeg would collect in taxes on the Kapyong/Linden Red Woods development.
Mainstream society is constantly worried or complaining about the plight of First Nations people. At the same time, First Nations people are denied the opportunity to overcome poverty by doing the same things that made many white people rich.
It makes no sense at all.
Don Marks is a freelance writer in Winnipeg.