Manitoba

First Nations file lawsuit over Kapyong land

First Nations in southern Manitoba stepped up their fight over the former Kapyong Barracks in Winnipeg Friday, launching a lawsuit over the one-time military land.

First Nations in southern Manitoba stepped up their fight over the former Kapyong Barracks in Winnipeg Friday, launching a lawsuit over the one-time military land.

The seven Treaty No. 1 First Nations have asked a federal court to overturn the federal government's decision to turn the land over to the Canada Lands Co., an arms-length Crown corporation that would arrange for its sale.

The chiefs involved argue the land should be going to First Nations who have pending treaty land-entitlement settlements.

"We're saying that Canada did not fulfil their duty to consult with the First Nations before transferring that land to the Canada Lands Company," said Norman Boudreau, the lawyer for the bands.

Other Canadian First Nations have won similar cases recently, Boudreau said, notably in Vancouver, where a band was able to halt the sale of two office towers.

Dennis Meeches, chief of the Long Plain First Nation, near Portage la Prairie, Man., said the lawsuit is the group's last resort.

"This is the last thing we want to do," he said. "We'd rather have the federal government come to us and work with us and negotiate with us instead of playing keep-away."

 Treaty Land Entitlements

Manitoba is constitutionally obligated to set aside unoccupied Crown land to fulfil its outstanding land entitlements to First Nations in treaties dating back to 1871.

The province is required to provide the land, and the federal government covers survey costs and provides funds for its acquisition.

A total of 27 First Nations are eligible to select more than 400,000 hectares of land.

Less than 17,000 hectares had been converted into reserve land by June 2006, according to Manitoba's treaty land entitlement committee.

Boudreau said he expects it could take a year for the case to go before the courts. In the meantime, he said, Canada Lands will likely put any sale plans on hold.
 
The Kapyong Barracks site is a desirable piece of land nestled between Tuxedo and River Heights, two affluent Winnipeg neighbourhoods.

The barracks were built on a 90-hectare parcel of land, with 52 barracks and warehouses and 350 permanent married quarters.

The site has been largely vacant since the 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry relocated to Canadian Forces Base Shilo in the fall of 2004.

Some development ideas proposed to date 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.

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