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Edmonton gondola needed better Indigenous consultation, councillor says

The sole city councillor to vote in support of a gondola across Edmonton's river valley says the outcome may have been different if there were better Indigenous consultation.
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The river valley in Edmonton, where an idea to build a gondola over has been proposed, is shown on June 24, 2015. Edmonton city council voted to drop the Prairie Sky Gondola project on Monday afternoon. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Amber Bracken

EDMONTON — The sole city councillor to vote in support of a gondola across Edmonton's river valley says the outcome may have been different if there were better Indigenous consultation. 

A recommendation that a city agreement with Prairie Sky Gondola be terminated passed 12 to one on Monday. 

Karen Principe, councillor for Ward Tastawiyiniwak, was the lone vote against nixing the project.

But she says more meaningful consultations with Indigenous people were needed before signing the land-lease agreement with Prairie Sky.

The gondola project has been criticized for several reasons, including financial risks to the city and controversy around building on the Rossdale Burial Site. 

The Rossdale Burial Site is an Indigenous burial ground that has been recognized as a cemetery by the City of Edmonton since 2005.

The decision comes after a meeting last week where citizens, councillors and the Prairie Sky Gondola team discussed the project.

"It was a very tough decision," said Principe. "I just thought that it was such a great, creative idea and something unique for Edmontonians."

Chief Darlene Misik of Papaschase First Nation sent out a statement Thursday, saying her community supported the Prairie Sky Gondola Land Agreement. 

"Without this opportunity to access and develop our significant presence beyond the appearance of what is quite frankly an unkept cemetery, the city will wait yet another 15 years or until something else triggers a discussion before considering that perhaps something should be done at the Rossdale Flats," Misik wrote.

Nisha Patel, former Edmonton poet laureate and disability justice activist, wrote an essay against the gondola.

"I feel immensely grateful to the amount of people who fought and reasoned for this outcome," Patel said.

Patel's essay focused on the Indigenous burial site, the city's transit needs and the financial implications of the project.

"As someone who has lived in areas with low to no transit options and now lives in a high transit corridor, I'm very sympathetic to the many folks who rely on transit alone." 

While the city has halted the project, Prairie Sky Gondola could still revise its plan and propose the project again.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 16, 2022

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Angela Amato, The Canadian Press