The City of Edmonton has now formally agreed to work with the Kehewin Cree Nation to explore the development of an urban reserve.
On Wednesday, Grand Chief of the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations Vernon Watchmaker and Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson signed a memorandum of co-operation and dialogue.
Urban reserves are a new concept in Alberta but it’s one that already exists in other western provinces. Urban reserves could possibly be found in any community in Edmonton in the next few years.
While still in its early stages, a task force will be assembled to identify potential land.
To establish one, First Nations must partner with the federal government, and agreements with the city are needed for things like fire services and infrastructure.
Watchmaker said the Kehewin urban reserve would centre more around commercial and industrial developments rather than residential.
“It could be anything from big box stores, industrial or shopping centres, hotels. It just depends, but that will probably take place when planning starts to take place with the community as well,” Watchmaker said.
He said the aim is to provide economic opportunities for First Nations in Edmonton while also building on social and cultural relationships.
“The population in Edmonton for Indigenous people is quite high, so we want to make sure they have the opportunity just like every other Edmontonian. We believe the city has a lot to offer, and we want to be part of that,” Watchmaker said.
“We welcome all kinds of investment and want partners to be successful, and the chance to do economic reconciliation while supporting prosperity for our city and region is kind of a lovely two for one,” Iveson said.
The city also signed an agreement with the Confederacy of Treaty 6 First Nations to renew an agreement originally signed nine years ago.
An urban reserve strategy was adopted by the city earlier this year.