The Federal Court of Appeal has sided with a group of Treaty 1 First Nations over the Kapyong Barracks site.

Friday, it ruled that Canada failed to properly consult four Manitoba First Nations about the future sale of the former military site on Kenaston Boulevard.

“When Canada closed the Barracks and realized it had surplus land, it did not notify the four respondents and call for discussions,” reads part of the decision.

“Access to information documents show that Canada was aware of First Nations' interest in the Barracks property. But despite knowing of that interest, it did not consult,” it continues.

“That’s what we wanted,” said Norman Boudreau, the lawyer representing the First Nations group. “It’s a very strong decision.”

The 160-acre parcel of land has sat empty since 2004.

In 2005, Ottawa tried to redevelop the land, but several First Nations took it to court as they were interested in acquiring some or all of the land under a treaty land entitlement, a process to compensate First Nations for obligations Canada failed to meet after signing treaties.

Their plan was an urban reserve with a mix of commercial and residential development.

“If you look at all urban reserves across this country, it’s benefited all people in the city and it’s for city development, which is why it’s had support all throughout Canada,” said Leah Gazan, President of the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg.

“For example in BC, there are shopping malls, restaurants, all these wonderful things, some social enterprise, and that’s a benefit to everybody.”

Lawyers for the government argued that under a surplus federal land clause, the groups had no right or entitlement to the property.

After reserving its decision for 1.5 years, the Court of Appeal decided that Canada failed its constitutional duty to hold significant consultation with First Nations.

Chief Alfred Hayden represents Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation and says he hopes the latest court decision will help bring the process to a resolution so the First Nations involved can begin planning what to do with the property if they are able to acquire it.

“Right now, I’d like to discuss that with the other Treaty 1 chiefs and then we’ll go from there and talk to Canada and we’ll let people know what kind of visions we have,” said Hayden.

Boudreau is also hopeful the matter can be resolved soon.

“I think it’s time, not only for First Nations, but for the citizens of Winnipeg, to start rebuilding,” said Boudreau. “Reconciliation has to occur.”

Boudreau said this decision will lead to a new era with deep consultation.

Ottawa still has the option of taking its case to the Supreme Court of Canada.