FORT MCKAY, Alta. — The tiny northern Alberta community of Fort McKay is planning on getting a lot bigger after buying $1.6 million in land from the Alberta government.
The Metis community, on the Athabasca River just north of Fort McMurray, is home to about 750 people and sits among many oilsands sites.
It is believed to be the first Metis settlement to buy all the land it occupies from a provincial government.
“This is nothing less than the realization of Louis Riel’s vision for his people — that we have a land base, a home that is truly ours,” Fort McKay Metis president Ron Quintal said in a release Wednesday.
“Now that we have land, we can proceed with an aggressive economic development plan to leverage the land into businesses, careers, housing and long-term prosperity for our people.”
The Fort McKay Metis initially leased the largely undeveloped land from the Alberta government in 2007 to use for housing. Seven years later, the group bought almost 49 hectares and now the deal for the remaining 150 hectares is complete.
“This is the start of genuine and tangible self-determination for our community,” Quintal said.
“This land transaction goes hand and hand with a decision by the community members to move toward developing a self-government model and our own community constitution. Our goal? Self-government.”
The approved sale paves the way for land development.
The community is planning more housing, high-density apartments, a gas station with a car wash and a Tim Hortons, a healing lodge, a cultural pavilion and a municipal firehall.
Fort McKay was established in 1820 by the Hudson’s Bay Co. as a trading post. The oilsands are the primary employer but forestry, hunting and trapping are also part of the local economy.
— By Bill Graveland in Calgary. Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter
The Canadian Press