The city of Winnipeg and First Nations officials have put pen to paper on an agreement that will see the city provide municipal services for what is planned to be the largest urban reserve in Canada.
“Today marks the beginning of a bright new future,” Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said at a ceremony at the Forks on Wednesday, where city officials and the governing council of the Treaty One First Nations officially signed the Gaawijijigemangit Agreement, a municipal development and services agreement for the planned Naawi-Oodena urban reserve, which will be constructed on the former site of the Kapyong Barracks.
The new agreement states that once the land has been developed, the city will provide services in and on Naawi-Oodena land, “in a scope and manner consistent with the rest of the city.”
“This is truly reconciliation in action because it recognizes Indigenous peoples inherent right to determine their own economic future,” Bowman said. “This is the framework for reconciliation in action that can be modelled in communities across Canada.”
The former Kapyong Barracks along Kenaston Boulevard has sat empty since 2004, and is now slated to become a massive urban reserve, as a joint venture between the Treaty One Development Corporation and Canada Lands Company, a self-financing Crown corporation, will see approximately 68% of the 168-acre site developed.
Urban reserves operate by allowing First Nations to develop land in cities for commercial purposes, which in turn generates revenue for their communities.
Brokenhead Ojibway Nation (BON) Chief and Treaty One Nation chairperson Gordon BlueSky spoke at Wednesday’s event about the effort he saw from the city to get the deal done, and about the importance of the City of Winnipeg and of all levels of government making real efforts towards reconciliation.
“In my opinion, the Treaties were not documents that were written in good faith, but resulted in 150 years of us fighting for our lands,” BlueSky said. “And we still aren’t finished, but these types of agreements are the start to put reconciliation into action.”
He said he hopes that all levels of government in Canada can now look at the agreement that was signed on Wednesday as an example of “how reconciliation works.”
“I want to make a special acknowledgement to the City of Winnipeg and the work that they’ve done here, and the leadership that has been shown on how it can work when you have political will, and you have the support of your administration, and your bureaucracy,” BlueSky said.
“We had unanimous city approval, and I would like to just acknowledge to the provincial and federal governments that this is how it looks when you work together.”
According to Treaty One, once completed the “landmark development” will represent the largest multi-use project in Winnipeg’s modern history, and the single largest Unban Indigenous economic zone in all of Canada.
The agreement signed on Wednesday also states the two parties will continue to work together in the creation of the Naawi-Oodena urban reserve.
“While the agreement provides the fundamental framework for all future collaboration and engagement, the City and Treaty One Nation also acknowledge that development of this scale will continue to require ongoing work, and have agreed to the creation of a joint committee which will play a crucial role in the implementation and ongoing administration of the agreement,” the city said in a release.
Representatives from each of the seven First Nations that make up Treaty One also spoke on Wednesday, and the event concluded with Mayor Bowman gifting a Key to the City, which is considered to be Winnipeg’s highest honour, to each of the seven representatives.
— Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Dave Baxter, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Sun