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Lack of reconciliation stops Edmonton city council from going forward with gondola project

Click to play video: 'Gondola grounded: Edmonton city council kiboshes project over lack of Indigenous consultation' Gondola grounded: Edmonton city council kiboshes project over lack of Indigenous consultation
The Prairie Sky Gondola project died Monday, when Edmonton city council voted not to support a land agreement because of what councillors said was a lack of genuine Indigenous engagement. – Aug 15, 2022

Edmonton city council voted on Monday to “receive as information” and pass for now on the proposed Prairie Sky Gondola project that has been discussed the past few years.

Several councillors, including Ward sipiwiyiniwak councillor Sarah Hamilton and Ward O-day’min councillor Anne Stevensen — as well as Mayor Amarjeet Sohi — noted the decision to receive the proposal as information does not mean Edmonton is not ready to receive big ideas and projects.

Instead, they said the decision displays consideration for the Indigenous community and for reconciliation that needs to take precedent in these matters.

Hamilton said she expects Prairie Sky to “do the basic test” of researching concerns about the project disrupting a traditional burial ground and building community relationships.

Read more: Dozens speak for and against Prairie Sky Gondola proposal at Edmonton city hall

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A special committee hearing was held last week at which project developers presented the feasibility of the estimated $155-million development. Fifty-six members of the public signed up to speak about the issue.

Click to play video: 'Dozens speak for and against Prairie Sky Gondola proposal at city hall' Dozens speak for and against Prairie Sky Gondola proposal at city hall
Dozens speak for and against Prairie Sky Gondola proposal at city hall – Aug 10, 2022

The largest concern coming out of the hearing was the consideration of building on top of ancestral grounds, as the Rossdale Flats burial site in the river valley was included in the project’s proposed landscape.

“I think receiving this for information provides clarity for future investments that there’s an expectation from Edmontonians… it cannot be the usual way of doing things,” Sohi said.

Read more: Gondola developer would pay Edmonton $1.1 million annually for city land

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The biggest thing is “the lack of authentic engagement with Indigenous communities… it did not happen. I wish it had, but it had not,” Sohi said. “Especially when we as a city have such a strong commitment to reconciliation of Indigenous peoples.”

Council voted 12-1 in favour of accepting the project as information. Ward tastawiyiniwak councillor Karen Principe was the only member of council who voted to move forward with the project.

Late Monday night, Prairie Sky Gondola CEO Jeffrey Hansen-Carlson issued a statement about council’s vote via Berlin Communications.

“We are not deterred by today’s decision,” he said. “Maybe it’s time The Edmonton Project is revived. This city needs more big ideas for people to believe in and more empowered city builders daring to do them.

“We’re proud of what we did and we’re excited to explore what we can do next. We are unequivocally committed to Edmonton and all of its residents.

“Truth and reconciliation are not mere words, we wholeheartedly believe those words must be a priority. And this was our intention all along and it will be forever. We are grateful.”

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