Recommendations by the Treasury Board Secretariat following a review of planning, zoning and permitting processes in Manitoba has added a new level of uncertainty to the development of the Kapyong barracks.
The concern was raised by Chief Dennis Meeches of Long Plain First Nation as the newly minted Treaty One Development Corporation prepared to host the public on the former barracks along Kenaston Boulevard at an open house and Indigenous Peoples Day celebration.
On June 11, the provincial treasury board released the recommendations of its review into the planning, zoning and permitting activities across the province, including the City of Winnipeg and other municipalities and rural planning districts.
The board recommended the creation of a "new quasi-judicial tribunal," or to broaden and enhance the mandate of the existing municipal board, to hear planning, zoning and permitting appeals across the entire province.
"I’m thinking, is that another way to try to circumvent the Indigenous urban reserves? To have some kind of veto power on urban reserves," Meeches said. "That concerns me."
The board recommended the tribunal be staffed by "independent professionals" with strict minimum qualifications and an appointment process that "mitigates against politicization." It also recommended the creation of a Winnipeg metropolitan region working group to fast-track a regional development model.
Meeches said as plans for the barracks progress and a mutual service agreement is hammered out with the City of Winnipeg, the prospect of a provincial planning body having a final say on Treaty One’s vision for the 110 acres it will develop is worrying.
"We still haven’t heard the province come out and support the work being done on urban reserves," he said.
"The City, they’re obviously objecting to this too for their reasons, but in my opinion this could be another reason the province is trying to do this."
Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman previously told the Winnipeg Free Press that a third party with the authority to overrule council decisions should concern residents.
When asked how First Nations and Métis communities would be represented on the recommended working group and appeals tribunal, a spokesman for the provincial government said it is currently reviewing the 12 recommendations provided by the Treasury Board Secretariat.
"While decisions have yet to be made regarding next steps, there is ongoing dialogue as the province works to develop better, more evidence-based processes that will improve economic opportunities in Manitoba," a statement read.
In a statement issued on June 11, Municipal Relations Minister Jeff Wharton said the overall goal is to establish a province-wide framework based on the recommendations.
"With a clear, transparent, consistent and efficient framework in place, we will ensure due diligence and safety requirements are met, and create a culture that embraces development opportunities," Wharton said.