Kapyong Barracks signed over to First Nations group

The transfer of Kapyong Barracks to Treaty 1 First Nations is now official.

'The promise of tomorrow with Kapyong is with us,' Treaty 1 spokesperson Chief Dennis Meeches says

MP Jim Carr, left, and the heads of seven First Nations sign official agreement for Kapyong Barracks, but terms of the deal remain secret. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

The transfer of Kapyong Barracks to Treaty 1 First Nations is now official.

The heads of seven First Nations and the federal government held a signing ceremony at Assiniboia Downs on Friday after reaching a settlement agreement for the 64-hectare site west of Kenaston Boulevard at Grant Avenue, bordering the Tuxedo and River Heights neighbourhoods.

The new ownership group reached an agreement in principle in April to acquire the property from Ottawa, after a protracted legal stalemate over the future of the former military base.

"Seventeen years ago!" Treaty 1 spokesperson Chief Dennis Meeches cheered on Friday at the signing. "I knew someday we'd come to an agreement, we'd find a solution.

"The promise of tomorrow with Kapyong is with us."

Meeches says it may take 10 or even 15 years before the site is fully developed, but adds it represents the potential for nearly $2 billion in economic development.

A rendering of preliminary plans for the development at Kapyong Barracks shows a mix of residential, commercial and public spaces. (Submitted photo from the Treaty 1 Development Corporation)

Manitoba MP Jim Carr, a federal cabinet minister, said "sometimes these things take time."

Approximately two-thirds of the site (about 45 hectares) will be developed by the Treaty 1 Development Corporation while the rest will be developed by Canada Lands Co., a Crown corporation.

The site was abandoned in 2004 when the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry was moved to Canadian Forces Base Shilo, near Brandon, Man.

Development has been in limbo ever since.

The federal Treasury Board tried to sell the site to a Crown corporation but the group of Treaty 1 First Nations challenged the decision, saying they had a right to the land under outstanding treaty land entitlement claims.

The land transfer was ruled illegitimate, and the federal government fought the decision until 2015, when then-prime minister Stephen Harper announced that the government would no longer continue to appeal the decision.

The barracks site contained 41 deteriorating buildings, including sleeping quarters, an officers' mess and administration space. Demolition began in summer 2018.

A preview of the future of the site, which will become an urban reserve, was provided by the Treaty 1 First Nations during National Indigenous Peoples Day in June.

The preliminary plan shows it could include a sports facility, hotel, convention centre, war museum and an Indigenous hospice. 

There's also green space and low- to high-density residential areas that could include condo developments and housing for students and seniors.

Treaty 1 chiefs hold up the signed agreement. While the agreement is complete, its details are hidden behind a confidentiality clause and the final price has not been negotiated. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC )

Carr told reporters that while the agreement to transfer the land is complete, the dollar figure on the deal hasn't been decided.

"A final price isn't not yet known. There are other determinations that will happen between now and a final price, but we think that because it has been agreed to, it is within the interests of everyone that it will happen," Carr said.

Deal signed, but details secret

Chief Meeches was asked by the media after the event for some of the terms and conditions of the agreement. He initially agreed they would be shared later Friday.

Minutes later, a lawyer representing Meeches's Long Plain First Nation and Roseau River First Nation told reporters the details of the agreement would not be disclosed.

"The agreement is not to be published because there is a confidentiality clause within the agreement, and it does not permit any of the parties to publish the agreement," said Norman Boudreau.

Meeches, who appeared surprised the agreement wouldn't be published, wasn't sure why there was a condition of nondisclosure.

"I just don't understand that," Meeches said.


Sean Kavanagh

Former CBC reporter

Sean Kavanagh was a reporter for CBC Manitoba from 2003-21. He covered some of the seminal events in Manitoba, from floods to elections.