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Lethbridge good candidate for next urban reserve: First Nations officials

Click to play video: 'Lethbridge a good candidate for next urban reserve: First Nations officials' Lethbridge a good candidate for next urban reserve: First Nations officials
Piikani Nation officials say they are considering following in Enoch Cree Nation’s footsteps by initiating work on the creation of an urban reserve in the City of Lethbridge. As Emily Olsen reports, Saskatchewan officials say with their extensive experience forming these agreements, Lethbridge is well positioned to do the same – Jan 28, 2021

Edmonton is taking preliminary steps to create an urban reserve within the city, and some officials say Lethbridge is well-positioned to do the same in the coming years.

Piikani Nation councillor Riel Houle says creating an urban reserve has been on his mind since his election, as a way to support the nearly 50 per cent of members who live off-reserve.

“Lethbridge is one area where… all of our members seem to go live there or work there or even go to school there,” Houle said Thursday. “So I think there is an opportunity for that.”

Read more: Kawacatoose First Nation and Moose Jaw, Sask. work toward the city’s first urban reserve

After several years of focus on housing and business development at home, Houle says he’s motivated to continue that push forward with a City of Lethbridge partnership.

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Perry Stein, Indigenous Relations Advisor for the City of Lethbridge, says it’s something the city could embrace, especially in the context of reconciliation efforts and recent economic development focuses.

“I think it’s important when you’re thinking about this idea, to think quite expansively and think about how economic, social, education, cultural and housing benefits can all be part of the equation,” he added.

“And we’ve seen all of those examples play out in western Canada over the last several decades.

Read more: Kawacatoose First Nation and City of Moose Jaw sign Municipal Service Agreement for urban reserve

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Several of those examples are in Saskatoon, Sask.

“The framework that’s been given to us was from 1992 when the federal government, the provincial government and most of the First Nations in Saskatchewan signed what’s called a Treaty Land Entitlement Framework Agreement,” Saskatoon Regional Planning Manager Laura Hartney said Wednesday.

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As Hartney explained, the agreement allowed municipalities to meet outstanding treaty land obligations.

Read more: Saskatoon’s 8th urban reserve takes step forward

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand says the creation of urban reserves has created numerous partnerships.

“We have many partners that come in and support us that are non-First Nations. Non-First Nations businesses, the city, provincial government, etc., that are helping us knock down this racism barrier and talk about reconciliation and making that happen,” Arcand said Wednesday.

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Arcand strongly encourages well-positioned communities like the Blood Tribe and Piikani Nation to initiate those discussions with the City of Lethbridge.

“I’m proud to say Saskatoon is leading the way through their mayor and their council in regards to this kind of stuff,” he said.

“We’re paving a good way for other First Nations communities to do the same in other provinces.”

Read more: Piikani Travel Centre seeks help from Alberta Transportation

Houle says he intends to connect with Arcand to figure out how to get the ball rolling and what pitfalls may await him.

“Teamwork makes the dream work, right?” Houle smiled. “And you know, that’s what we need.”

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No local discussions have been initiated yet.

Global News reached out to the Blood Tribe for its thoughts on urban reserves, but were told nobody was available to comment.

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