First Nations back in court over Kapyong

Lawyers for a group of Manitoba First Nations were in federal court to continue their legal battle over a former army base in suburban Winnipeg.

Long-standing land-claim fight continues

Lawyers for a group of Manitoba First Nations were in federal court Thursday to continue their legal battle over a former army base in suburban Winnipeg.

The 90-acre parcel of land along Kenaston Boulevard, known as Kapyong Barracks, was the former site of 350 homes for soldiers and their families.

The base closed and has been vacant since 2004 when the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry relocated to CFB Shilo near Brandon, Man.

A group of seven First Nations is asking a federal court to overturn a federal government decision to transfer the property over to the Canada Lands Co., a Crown corporation that will 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.

Lawyers for the First Nations said they weren't properly consulted on the transfer and are interested in buying and developing the land themselves. Norman Boudreau said the group may be interested in owning some or all of it.

Lawsuit is 'about the cash': Ottawa

But lawyers for the federal government said by bringing legal action, the group is trying to negotiate with the federal government and sidestep Canada Lands.

"They think they can make a better deal with the Government of Canada," attorney Harry Glinter said.

Glinter also questioned the timing of the lawsuit. He said the decision to transfer the land was made a long time ago without their objection.

"Usually when someone feels a decision was made against them, they object right away," Glinter said.

Glinter called Thursday's proceedings "a legal sideshow to a major political event." He told court the First Nations' dispute "is about the cash."

The military has been paying to keep the vacant homes heated and secure since it moved to Shilo.

Some development ideas proposed for the land include an infill neighbourhood — either at market value or affordable housing units — an urban reserve, a military museum or using some of the land to widen Kenaston Boulevard.

Several other groups have also argued some of the homes could be used as short-term housing for new immigrants and low-income earners.