A real estate success story with a real history

Aerial photo of the Indian Head site.

Aerial photo of the Indian Head site. Credit: courtesy Google Earth

Public Services and Procurement Canada’s (PSPC) Real Property Services expertly manages a variety of transactions, including acquisitions and disposal of federal real property. Recently, it disposed of a property in Saskatchewan that was considered high profile because of its connection with important historical legacies in western Canada. The property was home to the Agroforestry Development Centre, where a tree nursery had been providing loyal service to farmers since 1901. Located at Indian Head in southern Saskatchewan, the nursery would grow and ship seedlings to farms near and far across the Prairies, where they were used as a “shelterbelt,” a barrier of plants used to protect crops and soils from the elements.

When Agriculture and Agri-food Canada decided to close many of its facilities and assets across Canada, one of which was the Agroforestry Development Centre, its announcement did not come without controversy, nor media or political attention. While recognizing the nursery’s long history, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada gradually wound down operations and in late 2013, formally requested that Real Property Services start the disposal process.

Carry the Kettle First Nation in Saskatchewan expressed its interest in the 256-hectare (634-acre) property soon after Agriculture and Agri-food Canada announced the Centre at Indian Head would be closed. The Real Property experts at PSPC provided the First Nation with advice and guidance throughout the process, including sharing market value determinations, environmental site assessments and building condition information on the property. They also facilitated the First Nation’s submission of an offer to purchase and the transfer of the property.

Renewing a nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples by fulfilling a long-time promise

When PSPC proceeds with the sale of any surplus federal lands, eligible First Nations are afforded an opportunity to formally express their interest in purchasing a property. If an interest is expressed, PSPC engages directly with First Nations on potential opportunities for them to purchase surplus federal real property, as well as with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.

Since 1992, a number of Treaty Land Entitlement Agreements have been signed by Canada, Saskatchewan and First Nations, providing them with the right to select Crown land or with funds to buy private land, or both. The purpose of these agreements was to fulfill federal obligations to set apart the promised amount of reserve land as part of the historical treaties.

Following Confederation in 1867, Canada signed 11 treaties with First Nations in central and western Canada, intended, in part, to deal with the waves of settlers moving across the Prairies. Under these treaties, Canada promised to reserve alternative lands for First Nations (that is, create reserves). While many First Nations in Saskatchewan received the full land allocations promised under the treaties they signed with the Government of Canada, others did not.

The property located at Indian Head in southern Saskatchewan was successfully sold to the Carry the Kettle First Nation in April 2017. In addition to realizing the disposal of the Indian Head facility, the sale process is a key chapter in the long history of the facility, and contributes to the Government of Canada’s Treaty Entitlements, a key element of Canada’s history and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

We’re really pleased with an outcome that enabled us to dispose of the property while facilitating a successful sale to the Carry the Kettle First Nation,” says John Manning, Senior Advisor with the Real Property team in Edmonton. “This is in keeping with the Government of Canada’s priority of renewing its nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples.”

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