Many layers to East St. Paul turns down Peguis First Nation project

Artist’s rendering of Meadow’s project.

By Trevor Greyeyes

Never been a big fan of the way traditional news has been presented so I use an unorthodox post-modern style myself as with the news about a proposed development in East St. Paul by a First Nations group.

The East St. Paul municipality on March 10, 2022, has turned down rezoning The Meadows, a golf course purchased by Peguis First Nation.

Although, while rejecting the plan, East. St. Paul municipal council did leave the door open for a meeting to discuss redevelopment plans for the site that would be in more in step with the character of the community.

If you haven’t heard Peguis First Nation, or more precisely Peguis First Nation Real Estate Trust, purchased the former Meadows Golf Course in the East St. Paul municipality last year.

Broad plans are to develop the former golf course into a community that will prove profitable for Peguis First Nation and a private investor who has not been named.

As outlined in this letter to Errol Wilson, of the Peguis Surrender Claim Trust, ( the Peguis TLE Trust contributed some of the finances needed to buy the former golf course but a certain amount came from a private investor.

There were two webinars held on the project that included Peguis First Nation Real Estate Trust including Andrew Marquess, a non-First Nation businessman, with East St. Paul council at the rural municipality’s office and available to the public through the Internet.

For full disclosure, I am a Peguis First Nation registered band member.

It would be too easy for me to frame the rejection of the project as the result of racism, but I am not going to do it because as a Peguis First Nation band member I have questions myself.

I have talked to other band members who are not concerned about using Andrew Marquess but I do. Marquess had a strained relationship with Indigenous people over the Parker Lands Development.

And just to make it clear, the situation was resolved to Marquess development plans but I still think that I would not have chosen to work on a project with Marquess.

Just to point out, Marquess in March 2014 was basically fined $170,000 for not building a park as he agreed to with the City of Winnipeg.

Instead, he built two apartment buildings.

And this question is for Peguis First Nation chief and council but how much is Marquess being paid for his services.

Need I remind people that Peguis First Nation chief and council have run up a debt to Bridging Finance Inc. (BFI) to $144 million.

Of course, another question is how does a First Nation that is in debt over a $100 million start a substantial development like this Meadows Redevelopment Project while owing that much money.

BFI was shut down in May 2021 and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) to take control of managing BFI accounts at the request of the Ontario Securities Commission.

Peguis First Nation Real Estate Trust was started less than a year ago and that organization is the registered owner of the property.

So, what does that mean for Peguis First Nation chief and council when, not if, PwC comes looking for the payment of the BFI debt.

Follow me, will Peguis First Nation chief and council tell PwC that Peguis First Nation does not own the development but that in fact it is owned by Peguis First Nation Real Estate Trust.

And to be fair to East St. Paul council, the land in question is not set up to handle a proposed development like that with infrastructure for water and sewer.

So, the other option left is for Peguis First Nation, as in literally the plan b, to have the land declared reserve land and start a First Nation housing project there.

However, that threat to create housing for Peguis First Nations people is actually pretty hollow.

First, Peguis First Nation does not have the funds to develop that land even if it were declared reserve land.

Two, even if Peguis First Nation secured funds for developing the land there must be a municipal services agreement in place before any construction could begin.

Thirdly, threatening a non-First Nations community to allow you to build something that community does not approve of having built with creating an urban reserve… well, that’s not exactly doing business in good faith.

I know there will be some First Nations people who will point out to me much worse things that have been to First Nations people.

To which I would ask those people, do you want to be just like the colonizers?

To get that parcel of land that used to be a golf course has so many hurdles that it will be years if not a decade or more to get that land recognized as reserve property.

I covered a few meetings of the Kapyong Barracks, and this is a warning to settler types not to allow stupidity to cross into racism, where idiotic statements cross from honest concerns about a development into racist stereotypes.

There is no way you will see derelict vehicles or dogs running around loose at any of these developments. So, don’t go there.

Now, where East St. Paul council and residents have legitimate concerns are such things as land use and population density.

I would say yes that the community does have the right to decide how developments will affect the community.