Members of the Tsuu T'ina First Nation have voted against a tentative agreement that would have allowed the southwest portion of Calgary's ring road to be built through their reserve.
Of the 78 per cent of eligible voters — or roughly 700 members — who turned out at the polls on Tuesday, 60.5 per cent voted against the draft plan while 38.5 per cent were in favour, according to Morten Paulsen, a Tsuu T'ina spokesman.
"This result reflects the passionate feelings Tsuu T'ina people have for their land. This was more than a simple economic transaction for us," Chief Sandford Big Plume said in a written statement on Tuesday night. "We consider our land to be a sacred trust."
Under the draft agreement, the First Nation would have transferred 400 hectares of property, where the ring road would be built, to the province in exchange for $240 million and 2,000 hectares of Crown land on the northwest border of the reserve stretching west to the edge of Kananaskis Country.
The tentative deal was reached in March after decades of stops and starts in negotiations with the province. The stretch of land at issue is considered sacred and some of it contains burial grounds.
Lack of guarantee for additional reserve land
"The Nation will not enter into this agreement," Big Plume said. He also said certain key elements were not satisfactory, including a lack of a guarantee his people would get additional reserve land.
The deal would have changed commuting in Calgary, but band members were divided between future economic development for the reserve, and holding on to land owned by the First Nation for generations.
Calgary Mayor Dave Bronconnier said that while the outcome was "regrettable," he said the city must respect the voters' wishes, according to local reports.
The southwest portion of the proposed road, which would run about 20 kilometres, was planned to start at an interchange at Sarcee Trail, Highway 8 and Glenmore Trial. The City of Calgary wants to see the road run though the First Nation's land from Glenmore Trail to 22X on the western edge of Calgary.
The province has said it has no other draft route on the table.