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Indigenous wellness centre proposed
Organization requests four-acre gift of land for building

Jessica Davey-Quantick
Northern News Services
Friday, February 17, 2017

There may soon be an indigenous healing centre in Yellowknife.

NNSL photo/graphic

Dr. Nicole Redvers makes a presentation to council on Monday, requesting a land gift for the creation of an indigenous wellness centre. - Jessica Davey-Quantick/NNSL photo

The Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation made its first public presentation to council on Monday, asking the City of Yellowknife for an approximately four-acre land gift in the form of a 30-year lease, including waiving city property taxes.

The centre would include a traditional healing facility serving Dene, Inuit, Metis and other indigenous groups in both Yellowknife and surrounding communities. The plan also includes education and training for the next generation of healers, traditional counsellors and research into indigenous medicine systems.

The project involves people from across the NWT and Nunavut.

In her presentation to municipal services committee, Dr. Nicole Redvers explained the need for the centre.

"We're on the brink of extinction in NWT but also in Nunavut for our traditional health services that were used for thousands of years," she said, drawing on examples such as addiction, homelessness and youth in crisis. "We're losing out on opportunities to utilize the wisdom and history that we have before us to help bring solutions to these problems."

Redvers presented a map and plan for the proposed centre, which would be located adjacent to the Multiplex and Fieldhouse.

This area was selected by council last year as an appropriate space to house approximately 150 workers building the new Stanton Territorial Hospital after a plan to set up a camp in another area of Kam Lake was nixed following a public outcry. In September, Clark Builders announced they would no longer require a camp, instead opting to "use local vendors" to house the workers.

The proposed wellness centre would include a healing centre, traditional Inuit house, sweat lodges, wooden arbour and tipi.

Redvers said there has been interest from farming groups to help create a sustainable source for traditional healing plants in a greenhouse, as well as built-in "buffer zones" to ensure privacy for prayer and ceremonies.

The property was selected for its proximity to the hospital and downtown, as well as natural elements like easy access to the water needed for ceremonies.

Redvers also mentioned the proximity to North Slave Correctional Centre, which she said the wellness centre would hope to engage with as well.

The proposed site is already zoned as Public Service, so no new zoning would be needed.

The plans for the building also do not exceed bylaws and have been approved by a development officer.

"We are 30 years behind the other jurisdictions in Canada," she said, adding project planners have toured similar facilities across the country.

"Realistically we should have been doing these programs a long time ago. It was a wake-up call, I think, for the need of how important this project is in the North but also for the communities that surround us."

Redvers said she is hopeful the city will partner with the centre.

"This has the capacity to reach not only Yellowknife but also the surrounding communities," she said. "This is not a gift, this is a sustainable investment."

Redvers said in her presentation that a centre like this, with a focus on tradition and culture, is the only way to address the issues in Northern communities.

Council responded with a round of applause, with councillors expressing support for the project. Coun. Julian Morse and Niels Konge did raise concerns about the potential of a pool being built on the property instead, but Morse added he did support the project.

"The need is very clear for something like this in Yellowknife, and I very much appreciate this initiative," said Morse. "It's extremely necessary."

Mayor Mark Heyck plans to craft a motion on Redvers' presentation in the coming weeks and bring it back to council for consideration.

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