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Manitoba aboriginal leaders say urban reserves could lead to riches (Mba-Urban-Reserves)

Source: The Canadian Press  Feb 26, 2014 21:17

WINNIPEG _ A pair of aboriginal leaders have outlined their plan to create millionaires on Manitoba First Nations.

Long Plain Chief Dennis Meeches and Southern Chiefs Organization leader Terry Nelson want to develop 242 hectares of land in and around Winnipeg into hubs of commerce.

The land is owned by the Swan Lake, Roseau River, Brokenhead and Long Plain First Nations.

Both men told a day-long conference on urban reserve development Wednesday they want to set the stage for a promising future for aboriginal and non-native business partnerships.

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs leader Derek Nepinak calls the plan “a nice beginning” for more discussion on urban reserves.

As Manitoba’s senior grand chief, Nepinak’s support is key to smoothing the path with the federal and provincial governments for economic development and he indicated it’s time to move forward.

“There remains a lot of misunderstandings about urban reserves in the greater community and a lot of positives can come out of this,” Nepinak said. “People think urban reserves are about tipped-over cars and … feral packs of dogs. But that’s not the case. There’s an extensive trading economy (among aboriginal groups) across the continent.

“There is an opportunity here for foreign investment that benefits everybody.”

Nelson said the proposal could generate $400 million a year in retail sales and pump $40 million back into the impoverished communities.

“This is not about problems. This is about solutions,” said Nelson. “This conference is about throwing open the doors to the business community of Winnipeg.”

He said the biggest barrier to economic freedom for aboriginals is the Indian Act, which he equated to the Berlin Wall.

“We will break down the Berlin Wall here. We will create millionaires here,” he said. “Urban reserves will be a place where profit is not a dirty word.”

(Winnipeg Free Press)



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