Sunday, December 16, 2012

Kapyong, Kapyong, Kapyong

The battle for Kapyong continues.

It has been characterized in the media again as a victory for the First Nations against the federal government. But it is more complicated than that.

What the federal ruling said was that the federal government must negotiate in a meaningful way with First Nations in regards to surplus land as part of a 1997 agreement. The land claim is not settled. No transfer was ordered. In fact, the judge stated clearly that no transfer to First Nations was automatically in the offing. Further legal wrangling was suggested as being a possible outcome.

In layman's terms, no deal happening yet.

The court says talk. Or appeal to a higher court. We'll see.

The Princess Patricias left the base in 2004 for CFB Shilo. The Liberal government had been in contact with the First Nations in regards to the land from 2001 to 2004 about its disposition. However, it should be noted that Liberal MPs in Manitoba were far more focused on not seeing all of Manitoba's military bases close.

In 1992, CFB Portage la Prairie closed. And in 2001, CFB Shilo sat empty after Germany repatriated training to home territory. They had used the base for thousands from 1974 onward.

CFB Winnipeg's Kapyongs Barracks required costly upgrades and the feeling was that moving the Princess Patricia's to Edmonton to join the rest of the battalion was the best option.

The Free Press mentions that some Liberals were involved in that discussion surrounding the base and the military unit. This is true. However, let's not forget the timeline. Lloyd Axworthy left Ottawa in 2000. At no time would he have had the chance to discuss what was to happen to Kapyong. Ron Duhamel died in 2002 and was sick in that year. Rey Paktagan lost his seat in 2004, the year the Princess Patricia's left the barracks.

My understanding is the latter two Liberal MPs were part of the caucus push to save the military presence in Manitoba. And to that end, they were successful in halting the transfer of the Princess Patricia's to Edmonton along with the area MPs Reg Alcock and Anita Neville.

There were some preliminary discussions in regards to the lands from 2001 to 2004 between but no one was sure exactly how much land might be available or might be absorbed by CFB Winnipeg's military air unit. In other words, the thinking was that some of the land would become surplus but the houses and possibly Lipsett Hall would still be needed by the base. And in fact, that has been the case. Many of the military houses are in fact occupied by Royal Canadian Air Force members.

Lipsett Hall was used up till 2009 by Canada's national volleyball team.

It is fair to say that no discussions of any kind took place in 2005. However, it can also be said that the Liberal government at the time was not attempting to sell or transfer the lands either.

Or were they? If we accept that the 1997 federal obligation was to negotiate land settlements for surplus land and that Kapyong was declared surplus in 2001 with final departure of the military from the site in 2004, how is it that part of the base was transferred to the city of Winnipeg in that year for construction of the Kenaston underpass?

 Kenaston Underpass, land transferred to the city in 2004

If you examine the picture above, you will note that land on both the west and east side was transferred to the city for the underpass.

Now this was Reg Alcock's main infrastructure project and it required land from the military base to achieve it. Additional lanes were carved out of the east and west side of the base. The underpass cost $43 million and built between 2004 and 2006.

Now my question is: If the base was declared surplus in 2001 and the military left in 2004, how is it part of the base was sold to the city that year? Who was paid for it? The military? The federal government? No money changed hands?

Now, I am not arguing against the underpass. Anyone who waited for two trains to pass only to get hit by a third train probably fully understands why the need was there. But how was the land made available?

If it was so easy to transfer land without dealing with surplus land issue, why couldn't the city get three lanes each way all down Kenaston?

The only conclusion I can make is that the land was kept off the books when it  transferred to the city. Because in all honesty, shouldn't the land have been part of the overall surplus Kapyong property?

Makes for an interesting legal argument, doesn't it.

But let's get back to the Free Press and Liberals in regards to Kapyong. At least one of the Liberals mentioned could have had nothing to do with Kapyong being declared surplus and other two were out office by 2004 while the base was still in use.

If Reg Alcock were alive, it might be revealing to ask how Kapyong land was extracted for the underpass.

By 2006, the Liberals were out of office. Why did nothing happen with the base in 2005? My only conclusion is that everyone was distracted by the impending election. And with the underpass under construction through till 2006, it is possible the Liberals didn't want questions about they sold part of the base already under our noses.

It is only in 2007 when the Harper Tories began the transfer of the base as a whole to Canada Lands without consulting the First Nations that the real proverbial pile hit the fan. Unlike prior Liberal and Progressive Conservative governments that signed agreements to transfer urban lands to First Nations, Vic Toews sought to sell the land as strategic land rather than surplus land.

In the end, the court in 2012 believes the government failed in its obligation under Treaty 1 to negotiate meaningfully.

And round and round it goes.

This has been through three rounds in the courts. More could come.

The resignation of the PC Youth president over inflammatory remarks that some say are racist demonstrates the mindset in regards to a possible land transfer of Kapyong to First Nations. Even aboriginal leaders are sensitive to the use of "urban reserve" lest people believe the negative connotations of what reserves are like in Manitoba. Most leaders are careful to indicate that the area would be an economic zone not a transfer of the reserve population from old reserve to new reserve.

To be blunt, the First Nations want the land to generate income.

It remains to be seen whether a deal can be made. The fears are through the roof that Kapyong might be full of crime, protests, roadblocks, poverty and who knows what else.

I don't think it will be but the Harper government certainly is acting like the last thing they want to see is the First Nations get the land.

I think in the end, Winnipeggers want the land used wisely and that the Kenaston be widened. Throw in a service agreement for water, sewer and roads and city politicians should say: "done deal."

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