A process for the Louis Bull Tribe to add lands to their reserve has hit a snag after a letter to County of Wetaskiwin council was judged incomplete at their general council meeting July 23.
The tribe’s letter was presented to council by Assistant CAO Jeff Chipley. “Correspondence was received from Lorraine White, Project Manager, Louis Bull Tribal Administration advising that the Louis Bull Tribe is proposing to add lands to Louis Bull Band through the Federal Government Additions to Reserve policy, under the Community Additions category,” stated Chipley in his report to council.
“This category applies in situations where a First Nation with an existing reserve needs additional reserve land for purposes such as to accommodate community growth.
“An environmental assessment was completed to ensure the lands have no significant environmental concerns.
“Ms. White is requesting that Council provide a letter confirming that there are no issues with the proposal; or if there are concerns or questions to let her know as soon as possible.”
Chipley stated the item was sent to county departments for comment, and it was further noted that, “There are four stages to the Addition to Reserve process:
“1. Initiation: the First Nation submits a Band Council Resolution and Reserve Creation Proposal to the INAC regional office
“2. Assessment and Review: INAC reviews the proposal and advises the First Nation in writing of the results, issuing a letter of support to First Nations with successful proposals
“3. Proposal Completion: INAC and the First Nation work together to create and execute a work plan to complete the proposal 2
“4. Approval: the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs approves proposals by Ministerial Order or recommends approval by the Governor in Council for Order in Council proposals.
“Within the correspondence sent by the Louis Bull Tribe, details regarding the proposal are vague and lacking in substance for a matter of this scope. The last formal meeting regarding this issue occurred between Louis Bull Tribe Chief & Council and Administration representatives on Tuesday, December 12, 2017.
“At that meeting, a request was made by Louis Bull Chief & Council for Alberta Transportation and the County of Wetaskiwin to construct an approximately $11 million dollar overpass upgrade at our cost for the proposed Casino development, which was stated to be completely on the currently designated Reserve Lands of the Louis Bull Tribe. The County was asked to fund this upgrade, since the Louis Bull Tribe contributes a significant amount of property tax revenue to the County each year.
“Since this meeting, where the direction from Administration to the Louis Bull Tribe was to complete the Area Structure Plan process, no formal documentation has been received, nor has consultation occurred.
“Previous meetings held between administration and representatives of the Louis Bull Tribe focused on current Commercial reconstruction or resurrection of the Bear Hills Truck Stop and, at times, the potential of a Casino on the same lands without referencing “Additions to Reserve”.
Staff noted the lands which Louis Bull Tribe are interested in generate about $30,000 in tax revenue per year for the County of Wetaskiwin. “Losing these lands from the overall taxation of the County of Wetaskiwin would have a negative impact on the funds generated by the County and an agreement with the Louis Bull Tribe for reimbursement as stated in the Policy Directive should be developed,” stated the staff memo.
It was further noted the additions to reserve could result in county taxpayers having access reduced to certain lands. “Additionally, the moving of these Lands into the Reserve would take away the northern road access of six (6) quarter sections to the south of the proposed development as a portion of Range Road 260 would be now on Reserve Land and at the control and potential closure of the Louis Bull Tribe,” noted the memo.
There was also some confusion about the proposed casino site. An email from Lorraine White at the Louis Bull Tribe to county staff on April 18, 2019 stated, “The casino site has now been selected by Chief and Council it is situated on louis bull tribe KEDC (Kisipatnahk Economic Development Corporation) fee simple lands just south of province rest area.”
However, county staff noted later in the memo, “It should also be noted that during the first week of July, 2019, Administration was updated by the consultant (Robert Riddett) for the ASP and that the location of the Casino would not involve the SE 24-45-26-W4M (south of the existing Bear Hill Truck Stop and Rest Area). It would instead be located on the NE 24-45-26-W4M (location of the existing Bear Hill Truck Stop lands).”
Following staff advice, councilors moved to table the Louis Bull Tribe request until the following information was received: A copy of the environmental assessment referenced in the correspondence must be provided to Administration; completion of an Area Structure Plan addressing specific concerns regarding road access; completion of the process outlined in Section 9.0 of the Federal Government’s Policy Direction 10-1: Annex A, regarding Local Governments; consultation with the Government of Alberta; and the development of an agreement in the form of an ongoing share of assessment revenue between the County and the Louis Bull Tribe.