Federal government slammed from all sides over Kapyong Barracks

Former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin says the federal government made an error in pursuing a lawsuit instead of negotiations over the sale of the Kapyong Barracks, a former Canadian Forces base in Winnipeg.

Paul Martin was in Winnipeg to support Liberal candidates in federal election campaign

Former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin says the federal government made an error in pursuing a lawsuit instead of negotiations over the sale of a former Winnipeg Canadian Forces base. 2:04

Former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin says the federal government made an error in pursuing a lawsuit instead of negotiations over the sale of a former Canadian Forces base in Winnipeg.

In a decision issued on Friday, the federal Court of Appeal said it agrees that the federal government failed to adequately consult with Treaty 1 First Nations over the sale of Kapyong Barracks, which has sat empty since 2004.

Four Manitoba First Nations have outstanding treaty land entitlement claims; there has been interest in turning the 64-hectare site on Kenaston Boulevard into an urban reserve. 

"The tragedy is that it had to go to the courts for this to happen. The government should be consulting. It's very clear that the days in which the government simply arbitrarily turn their backs on the First Nations without talking to them — those days are over and they should be over," Martin said Monday.

​Martin is in Winnipeg supporting Liberal candidates in the election campaign. He told Liberal supporters that the sale is both an economic and moral issue.

The Kapyong land has been in dispute since the federal government declared the Canadian Forces base surplus land in 2004. The property has been vacant ever since while it has been tied up in federal court on four occasions since 2009. 

Candidates weigh in

Martin was out campaigning with Winnipeg South Centre Liberal candidate, Jim Carr. 

"We have an obligation to have a meaningful consultation with native bands. We should have done it years ago — we haven't done it yet. The court has said, yet again, you have an obligation to do it, so let's do it and lets do it soon," Carr said Monday. 

There was nothing but agreement from the NDP candidate in the riding, Matt Henderson. 

"The federal government has continually fought this, wasting millions of dollars and time. And the courts have come back again and again, saying, 'no, you need to consult with these bands, with First Nations on this territory,'" Henderson said. 

Henderson also added that he believes that many concerns regarding the potential development of an urban reserve is based on fear. 

"As Canadians we've excelled at creating a notion of 'the other' and I think we can move beyond that and when we start looking at what's the history: What is myth? What is fact about this particular land? Then I think we can start bringing down a lot of that fear," Henderson said. 

Green Party candidate, Andrew Park, said he hoped that Friday's court ruling would bring finality to the Kapyong Barracks question.

"An urban reserve and public housing would make constructive use of all or part of Kapyong Barracks. Of course, the details of how Kapyong is to be used in the future must be worked out over time and in fair consultation with nearby residents and other interested stakeholders," Park said. 

Joyce Bateman, the Conservative Party candidate for the Winnipeg South Centre riding, said she takes the ruling "to heart," adding "consultations are a two-way street.

"The future of the site of the Kapyong Barracks deserves a full, fair, and public consultation that includes all stakeholders — including First Nations and members of the neighbouring communities," Bateman said in a statement.


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