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Southern Manitoba chiefs gathered Tuesday to sign a re-declaration to unify Treaty 1 First Nations just as negotiations with the federal government over the Kapyong lands are ramping up.

Representatives of Peguis, Brokenhead, Ojibway, Swan Lake, Roseau River Anishinabe, Long Plain, Sandy Bay Ojibway and Sagkeeng First Nations signed the declaration and celebrated at the former Kapyong Barracks, where a contentious battle over land rights and future development has been waged in the 13 years since the Canadian military closed the base in 2004.

Manitoba’s First Nations have won key legal battles in recent years and former Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced in 2015 the government wouldn’t appeal a 2012 Federal Court of Appeal decision that said the government didn’t adequately consult with First Nations when it began moving on developing the area off Kenaston Boulevard.

“We’ve been in court for well over 15 years, but we’ve been on a dual track negotiating as we’ve been winding through this long journey,” Long Plains Chief Dennis Meeches said. “Now we have, I think, an opportunity that presents itself where governments have basically realigned themselves — in terms of Treaty 1 government — and we have a very receptive Canadian government that wants to resolve this.”

Meeches foresees a mixed-use development on the 160-acre barracks site, but wouldn’t commit to specifics, saying that is part of the ongoing negotiations.

First Nations and Canadian government officials were to meet later Tuesday, but Meeches said a tentative agreement was in place.

“We hope to have something concrete by Aug. 3,” Meeches said. “… There’s a lot of players involved. The civic government, the provincial, federal governments but I think everybody has a role to play on how we move forward with Kapyong, and I think there will be great opportunities for everyone.”

Meeches said discussions with the city over widening Kenaston Boulevard will be a priority “as fast as we can move it.”

“I think everybody recognized that there needs to be some resolution with it and with the city,” Meeches said.

Peguis First Nation Chief Glenn Hudson affirmed Treaty 1’s interest in seeing Kenaston widened and said “it is going to happen, it’s just a matter of when.”

Hudson said the attitude both politically and among residents towards urban reserves has changed drastically in the past decade or so.

“There was a lot of push back when we initiated this 10 years ago, push back from the community overall,” Hudson said. “They wanted to have a sense of security to what was actually going to happen here.

“… Society is ready, the area’s ready and certainly we’re ready. It’s just a matter of government accommodating that and I think the timing is right.”

– Courtesy of the Winnipeg Sun



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