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Local dignitaries break ground for McMurray Métis Cultural Centre

Last Updated Sep 2, 2020 at 7:02 pm MDT

PHOTO. The McMurray Métis, members of RMWB Council, and the government of Alberta at the groundbreaking ceremony for the McMurray Métis Cultural Centre on Sept. 2, 2020. MYMCMURRAY/Phil Wood

Representatives from all three levels of government joined the McMurray Métis at a groundbreaking ceremony on MacDonald Island.

McMurray Métis CEO Bill Loutitt said construction of the Métis Cultural Centre should begin in 2021.

“It’s been a long time in the making, but we finally completed this first part of it. The next part will be interesting, the construction and that.”

Loutitt said planning for the Métis Cultural Centre began in 1987.

MacDonald Island is the traditional home for the Métis people, including Loutitt’s grandparents and relatives.

“You see the gardens that grew on this property. You would not believe the carrots and the onions coming out of the ground looking like a basketball.”

He said the centre would be rich in history, and a great example of “Reconcili-action”.

Alberta Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda pledged the province’s support of the project.

Panda thanked the McMurray Métis, their supporters, and local MLAs Laila Goodridge and Tany Yao, for their advocacy.

“Your new Cultural Centre will be a pivotal place in the Wood Buffalo region as it will highlight the important role Métis have in Alberta and in Canada.”

As many as 18 projects across northern Alberta will receive $178-million in funding, including $30.6-million towards projects in Wood Buffalo.

“Alberta’s Recovery Plan commits to building infrastructure in every region of the province in order to get people back to work and build the infrastructure required to attract private sector investment.”

Panda said projects like the Métis Cultural Centre will create jobs for skilled tradespeople and build vital infrastructure for northern communities.

He expects the projects to create more than 1050 jobs.

The initial budget for the project is $22-million, but Loutitt said that could increase to $30-million.

McMurray Métis secured a $16.5-million grant from the federal government.

Unable to travel due to COVID-19 restrictions, Indigenous Relations Minister Marc Miller offered his congratulations in a video message.

“With its energy-saving and sustainable features, the McMurray Métis Cultural Centre will provide space for the community and youth to come together and share traditional knowledge, embrace the culture and language while supporting the health and well-being of so many as a gathering place.”

Miller said Métis farming and gardening inspired the Centre’s estimated 20,000 sq. ft. of rooftop greenhouse design.

He added the community gardens will serve to mitigate hardships of growing fresh foods many Indigenous communities face.

“In short, this innovative project will help to make the community stronger and self-sustaining.”

The Centre also plans to include a multipurpose room, dance studio, theatre, amphitheatre, communal kitchen, office space, exhibition and storage spaces, and outdoor workspaces.

RELATED: RMWB Council hears land request from McMurray Métis

Deputy Mayor Verna Murphy called it’s a great day for the McMurray Métis, Indigenous people, and the region.

“This project has been a long time coming, and it’s a testament to the power of relationships and the importance of partnership.”

Mayor and Councillors unanimously voted to sell the land for the centre on June 10, 2020.

RELATED: Proposed Métis Cultural Centre gets OK from RMWB Council

When asked about the number of phases, Bill Loutitt said they expect to finish construction in one phase.

“Once we start, we’re going straight through. We do have some [really] good partners that will probably have some innovative ideas; we got an Infinity group of companies that are huge and very strong companies that are going to help us through this.”

Loutitt said construction should be complete in 2023.