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CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - It is a mere hole in the ground now, but Lennox Island First Nation Chief Matilda Ramjattan is bubbling with enthusiasm over what is to come.
Ramjattan is thrilled with the potential of an Urban Indigenous Centre that will be built in Charlottetown along the waterfront next to Founder’s Hall.
“This is our footprint,’’ she says.
“We’ve been here for 12,000 years and why not have a building. I think it’s high time. It’s a place to call home for everyone and I’m really happy.’’
A ground-breaking ceremony took place Friday with Charlottetown MP Sean Casey announcing $750,000 in federal funding through ACOA for the project.
Last year, the province committed $2.2 million.
Don MacKenzie, executive director of the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I., says the funding from the two levels of government should come close to covering the cost of building the 18,000-square-foot, three-storey building.
He estimates the building should be ready to move into in about one year.
The Urban Indigenous Centre will provide a venue for business skills development and employment services, Indigenous programs and service delivery, cultural tourism and several social enterprises, as well as leasable tenant space.
Ramjattan believes the centre will be alive with diverse activity.
“We want to be able to provide cultural teachings, to be able to do workshops, healing events, and also it will be a really good way to promote our communities,’’ she says.
“I think that in terms of economic development, I really want people to flourish.’’
P.E.I. Senator Brian Francis, former chief of the Abegweit Mi’kmaw Nation, says he is filled with pride over the long-sought multidimensional facility set to become a reality.
“The contribution by ACOA and the willingness to work with the First Nation governments illustrates the positive results that can be accomplished when various levels of government work together with a cooperative spirit,’’ he says.
“This building will serve as a hub for economic, cultural and social programming activity to benefit the entire Indigenous community.’’
Casey describes the project as a significant step in creating a more diverse, inclusive and stronger economy for P.E.I.
“The Urban Indigenous Centre will recognize the rich cultural traditions that connect the Mi’kmaq First Nations communities of P.E.I. and will build on the innovative and sustainable economic plan they have been collaboratively developing with federal and provincial partners.’’