Winnipeg reaches deal to provide services to Naawi-Oodena, the largest urban reserve in Canada

The City of Winnipeg has reached a deal to provide police, fire, ambulance and other services to the Naawi-Oodena development in Tuxedo, a 160-acre site the city says is the largest urban reserve in Canada.

The city and seven Treaty 1 First Nations have reached a deal called the Gaawijijigemangit Agreement, which effectively paves the way for new housing, businesses, parks and other amenities to rise on the former Kapyong Barracks site.

The deal calls for the Treaty 1 nations — Brokenhead, Long Plain, Peguis, Roseau River, Sagkeeng, Sandy Bay and Swan Lake — to collect the same business and property taxes at Naawi-Oodena as the city does in the rest of Winnipeg.

The First Nations will remit 65 per cent of the proceeds to the city to pay for policing, firefighting, ambulances, water distribution, sewage collection, land drainage, flood control and other service Treaty 1 requests that the city can provide, says a report that goes before council’s executive policy committee next week.

The remaining 35 per cent of the tax revenue will remain with Treaty 1, allowing it to build its own capacity to deliver services, operate as a distinct level of government and support the First Nations, the report says.

The deal calls for the taxes to be remitted as the Naawi-Oodena lands are developed.

“Once developed, Treaty 1 Nation intends to utilize its taxing authority to create a property and business tax regime that mirrors that existing beyond the boundaries of Naawi-Oodena, to present a seamless transition,” Winnipeg chief administrative officer Michael Jack wrote in the report.

While the city already has two smaller urban reserves, this servicing deal is “unlike any previous experience, beginning with the clear, collaborative understanding that the parties were building an entire community where nothing has actively existed for decades,” Jack said.

The Treaty 1 nations are responsible for developing all the infrastructure at Naawi-Oodena. The name means “centre of the heart and community” in the Anishinaabe language and signifies the land’s location in the centre of Turtle Island. 

The deal goes before executive policy committee next week and heads to council later in June.

(Former Kapyong Barracks Master Plan)

The lands alongside Kenaston Boulevard were abandoned in 2004 when the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, moved to Canadian Forces Base Shilo, east of Brandon, Man.

The Canadian Forces then declared the site surplus, and the federal Treasury Board tried to sell it to a Crown corporation.

That decision was challenged in court by the group of Treaty 1 First Nations, who argued outstanding treaty land entitlement claims gave them a right to the land.

The land transfer was ruled illegitimate and the federal government fought the decision.

Then-prime minister Stephen Harper announced in 2015 that the government would no longer continue to appeal the decision.

In 2019, the land transfer to Treaty 1 First Nations was made official. A master plan for the site was made public in March 2021.