First Nations negotiating for control of the former Kapyong Barracks site in Winnipeg say they won't refer to the potential development as an urban reserve.
Manitoba Treaty Commissioner Jaime Wilson said that's because the word "reserve" conjures up stereotypes, including images of poor housing, mould and a lack of water.
Rather, if a deal is reached for the First Nations to take control of the area along Kenaston Boulevard, Wilson said he'd prefer to call it an economic development area (EDA).
He thinks it's a more accurate description and says people could be surprised at how successful it could be. He points to Saskatoon, which has a successful 20-year-old EDA.
"That area has created over 400 jobs in that period of time. They've got an office complex there, restaurants, so they employ from the city of Saskatoon and from the First Nations," Wilson said.
First Nations leaders on Wednesday said a deal to take control of Kapyong could be made within days.
The former Canadian Forces base has been the focus of a dispute between a group of six Manitoba First Nations and the federal government since the base closed in 2004.
That year, the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, relocated to CFB Shilo near Brandon, Man.
The site would likely become a mixed commercial and residential site with business and malls, Wilson said, adding the chiefs from the First Nations want to help their people and the greater community.
"They may say their intent is to get people off social assistance, to get people off welfare and for all the economic development they do, it benefits their communities which benefits the province," he said.
First Nations need to do a better job of showcasing their business successes, he added.
Real estate limbo
People who live along Kenaston Boulevard hope word of a deal for Kapyong Barracks might take them out of real estate limbo.
Robin Whiddon has been waiting for years for the city to expropriate his home for the widening of Kenaston. But legal wrangling has lead to delays.
A city committee voted in January to widen Kenaston, from Taylor Avenue north to Ness Avenue, to six lanes.
That cleared the way for the city to begin preliminary discussions with property owners along the route. The city has estimated it would need to purchase property from about 45 homeowners.
Whiddon said he and his neighbours just want something finalized but he also worries about what might come next.
"You're going to have 50 people looking for a home in the area at the same time, so I'm just a little bit nervous about getting another home that would be, as I say, in a reasonable location," he said.
Whiddon said people may get between $200,000 and $300,000 for their homes if and when the deal ever goes through.
The 90-acre barracks site is located on some of Winnipeg's most valuable property, nestled between Tuxedo and River Heights, two affluent Winnipeg neighbourhoods.
The group of First Nations — originally it was seven, but Brokenhead First Nation pulled out — asked a federal court in 2009 to overturn a federal government decision to transfer the property over to the Canada Lands Co, a Crown corporation that was to oversee the land's re-development and resale.
The group said the land should be going to First Nations who have pending treaty land-entitlement claims.
In September 2009, Justice Douglas Campbell declared the transfer invalid, saying the federal government didn't do enough consultation with First Nations groups over the future use of the land, which does not include the swath of homes in the area that used to be residences for soldiers and their families.