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Treaty 1 First Nations Chiefs officially entered a partnership with the Federal Government today, which they say will be integral to the future of the Kapyong Barracks land.

The two sides signed an agreement, in principle to officially kick off negotiations of the land transfer from the Federal Government to First Nations Communities.

“This is one of the most important days of my life, along with my relatives, friends and fellow Chiefs,” Long Plain First Nation Chief Dennis Meeches said. “We look at Kapyong as a treaty destiny for our people. This was bound to happen from the day it was declared surplus.”

Meeches says the land deal is symbolic of what can be accomplished when two sides work within a healthy relationship.

“Once people recognize the value of working towards reconciliation with Indigenous people in this country, we know it will create a stronger, more powerful country that looks after its citizens,” Meeches said. “We need to move forward with reconciliation and Kapyong represents a shining example of what reconciliation is all about.”

The base has been empty since 2004 and was declared surplus. An attempt by the Federal Government of the time to sell the land to another organization sparked long court battles between the Federal Government and First Nations communities, which wanted the land as part of outstanding treaty land claims.

In 2009, First Nations communities won in court, and in 2015 then Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his government would not seek an appeal.

The idea proposed by Treaty 1 communities is to build an urban reserve on the plot of land, which could include housing and retail spaces.

Federal Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said today the government can’t undo the past but wants to shape a better future.

“The new relationship we’re building is based on respect, cooperation and partnership and this is an important milestone in the future of the Kapyong Barracks land,” Sajjan said. “We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but I will stay closely engaged as we develop a final settlement agreement.”

Sajjan says his department will start to clean out the property by demolishing old buildings, removing dangerous issues and ensuring the land is safe for future use.