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Proposed Métis Cultural Centre gets OK from RMWB Council

Last Updated Jun 10, 2020 at 1:58 am MDT

RMWB Council met just hours after the Alberta government’s announcement of a Stage 2 Relaunch on June 12.

Mayor Don Scott made proclamations for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, Pride Week and Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

He also made a brief statement about the ASIRT investigation into an incident involving Chief Allan Adam and the RCMP.

“Like many of you, I am deeply concerned about what I have read and heard, and it is something we must take very seriously. While I cannot speak to the specifics of an ongoing investigation, I believe that everyone in our community deserves to be treated fairly, equally, and with respect.”

The RMWB recognized the recent work of residents combating systemic racism for black, Indigenous, and other racialized communities in the YMM Solidarity March.

READ MORE: Hundreds pack Jubilee Plaza for solidarity march

Mayor and Councillors voted to defer the motion calling for a hold on Capital Projects in Lower Townsite.

RMWB Councillor Mike Allen, who made an amending motion, could not attend the meeting.

Council heard an update on the Fort McKay Community Centre.

Fort McKay Community Centre

The Fort McKay Métis produced a report as part of the 2019 Capital Budget.

Answering the request for financial support to complete the work, RMWB Council approved $6.2-million for construction of the facility.

Ron Quintal said the facility will benefit the community and enhance the presence of the RMWB.

“Ultimately, our community does have the ability to move forward with this facility, as was our original intent, but we saw an opportunity for a facility that the RMWB could look to having a presence in the community.”

RMWB Council voted 6-4 against deferring the matter to the fall.

The reasoning would allow the Council to consult with the administration about cost-sharing, land allowance, and scope.

Mayor and Councillors next voted on the option to continue with the budgeted $9-million project, including operation and maintenance costs.

The administration estimates those costs at $360,000.

RMWB Council approved the option to continue with the project by another 6-4 vote.

Métis Cultural Centre

Mayor and Councillors unanimously approved the land transfer request for 7.8 acres of land on MacDonald Island to McMurray Métis at nominal value.

Also known as Métis Nation of Alberta Local 1935, the group’s goal is to build a Métis Cultural Centre on the land.

Supportive of the motion, RMWB Council did express concerns about the flood plain and potential flood impacts.

READ MORE: RMWB Council hears land request from McMurray Métis

The total budget is at least $22-million.

McMurray Métis CEO Bill Loutitt said they received a $16.5-million grant from the federal government for the project.

He added they have letters of support from MLAs Tany Yao and Laila Goodridge and the support of Arts Council Wood Buffalo and Syncrude.

An open house held on June 8 drew over 200 residents, including members of RMWB Council.

Loutitt said the project will be done in the spirit of reconciliation.

“Reconciliation means you got to be able to hear that acceptance from the other side with an apology, and that moving forward we’ll work together on things. The McMurray Métis are in that spot: We want to quit looking backwards, and we want to build this community to be [really] strong.”

Loutitt said they will engage with the Regional Recreation Corporation of Wood Buffalo (RRC) on access, parking, and services.

CAO Jamie Doyle confirmed the RRC also supports the cultural centre.

McMurray Métis President Gail Gallupe thanked RMWB Council for its support of the motion.

“There was a ‘dirty deed’ that happened to Métis families on Moccasin Flats. The evictions are a traumatic and painful point of Métis history in Wood Buffalo. With Council passing this motion, its in the spirit of reconciliation with the Métis community.”

She said it signalled an important step for the RMWB and its relationship with the Indigenous community.

“Métis people inhabited MacDonald Island and worked the surrounding waterways by pulling freight up and down the Athabasca River, as trackers. Métis always feel at home on MacDonald Island!”

McMurray Métis will next apply for a development permit for RMWB Council’s consideration at a public hearing.

Currently on that site are three baseball diamonds.

Luana Bussieres of the Re/Max BP Co-ed Adult Slo-Pitch League said they support the cultural centre, but the league would be in jeopardy without a place to play.

While there are as many as 23 ball diamonds in Fort McMurray, Bussieres said most are unavailable to the league.

The administration said it will explore maintenance and site enhancements for the city’s diamonds to facilitate adult leagues.

Bussieres said the league plays at least 1064 games, including playoffs, across several of its divisions per year.

She added it also attracts teams from Anzac, Janvier, and Conklin.

New business

Mayor and Councillors approved a motion not to increase user fees for youth sports ice surfaces and sporting fields.

This covers fees and rentals under the Municipality’s direct authority.

Council also approved a motion tasking the administration to review the Alberta BearSmart Program.

The RMWB will examine strategies to minimize the risk of bear encounters.

RMWB Council also accepted the 2020 Capital Budget Amendments, and the Strategic Plan Progress Report and Capital Budget Fiscal Amendments Update for the first quarter of 2020.

The next scheduled Council meeting is June 23, 2020.