I have observed the news articles and public debate published in the Brandon Sun around the Spirit Sands Casino and Resort development over the past few weeks and must state that I am disappointed with the complete lack of respect displayed.
I want to provide clarity to your readers on the process that the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) adhered to reach the current stage of development, which, as reported, is ongoing negotiations with potential financiers.
As early as 1997, First Nations gaming has been a joint undertaking by two parties — the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and the Province of Manitoba. Several reports have resulted from these joint processes, which can be found online for anyone that cares to do their homework.
The Market Study has guided this process and states, “the Brandon market area (100 km around Brandon) can currently support one small-sized casino facility” and, “contains an immediate opportunity for a First Nation gaming facility.” The key word here is “one” licence.
Since this report, the Chiefs Gaming Committee has worked diligently toward realizing the dream of opening the third First Nations casino in Manitoba.
The work has included business plan development, a site selection process, an MOU with our host community of Swan Lake First Nation, a negotiated 20-year gaming agreement that provides a casino operating licence to the Spirit Sands Casino, a negotiated 45-year land lease and general services agreement with the host, and a negotiated management and development agreement. Negotiations take time and money to reach satisfactory conclusion.
This work has also received ongoing support through various resolutions from the Chiefs-in-Assembly.
Other work has included a traffic study, road design, soil testing, power and data communications, GMP contract and the list goes on.
During this time, Swan Lake adopted a First Nations Land Code that gives them the authority to manage their own reserve lands and resources, and have also obtained financing to fund the infrastructure development. The local rural municipalities of Carberry and Glenboro have also been fully supportive of this initiative — we thank them for their continued support.
It is naïve to believe that the work has not continued or that “the politics can be removed from this.” First Nations gaming is all about politics. We have worked consistently with the Manitoba government to ensure that we operate via processes agreed to at the joint steering committee table and continue to move forward.
We operate under the authority of resolution approved by the chiefs of Manitoba. We have an established Chiefs Gaming Committee that has been tasked to represent the collective interests of the First Nations.
There is no resolution “directing the Tribal Councils Investment Group (TCIG) to pursue a casino development as far back as 2009.” There is, however, a resolution directing TCIG to call a shareholders meeting with its constituents on distribution of profits — this is the work TCIG should be focusing on.
For Brandon, your constituents also went through due process prior to the site selection process for Spirit Sands Casino to be located at the Swan Lake Carberry site. Your people have voted and declared, in no uncertain terms, not once but twice, that they do not approve of a casino to be located within the city limits of Brandon. We get it. It is fair to remind you that you had your opportunity to work alongside us.
This was not an election promise, or platform of Mayor Shari Decter Hirst. Now to state that “the Brandon voters will not face a third casino plebiscite as it will now be a decision at the city council table” seems … improper. I can only reiterate that we have followed due process every step of the way to be awarded that coveted casino licence.
In conclusion, it should be clear that considerable time, effort and financial investment have been injected by all parties involved in this casino development. I respectfully ask that all attempts to circumvent due process are ceased and that you allow us to continue to work with Swan Lake First Nation, which has stood by us, along with our other partners, throughout these discussions.
They deserve our continued support and respect, and to see the fruition of the Spirit Sands Casino and Resort.
Chief David Crate
Chair, Chiefs Gaming Committee
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 15, 2012