After years of efforts, lobbying and myriad phone calls, Tetl’it Zheh Gwich’in Band Council is getting its own building — and it’s a net-zero building too.

Speaking on behalf of Infrastructure Minister Dominic LeBlanc, NWT MP Michael McLeod made the announcement in Inuvik July 27. In addition to the funding for the new building, which will stand opposite of the Northern Store in Fort McPherson, the federal government is also chipping in $5.5 million to cover the costs of installing a solar array and battery system for Inuvik’s Midnight Sun Complex. Both of these projects, McLeod said, would aid the North in doing its part to help Canada reduce greenhouse gas emissions a full 40 per cent by 2030, and to be completely carbon-neutral by 2050. In total, the two announcements add up to $12.5 million.

Tetl’it Zheh Chief Wanda Pascal said she was grateful for the announcement.

“Hai choo to Canada,” she said. “And thank you to Michael McLeod for his endless support to my endless calls.

“Right now we’re just jumping from one place to another.”

Dubbed the Community Wellness Centre, the net-zero building, which Pascal said will be the first in Fort McPherson, will also serve as a cultural gathering space for children’s groups, Elders and community celebrations. Designs are in place and construction is hoped to begin next spring.

Harnessing the power of the Midnight Sun

Meanwhile, the Town of Inuvik wasn’t left out of the announcement either. McLeod said part of the funding is going to retrofit the Midnight Sun Complex to draw power from a solar array.

Calling it “an important milestone towards reducing greenhouse gases and the town’s reliance on diesel,” Mayor Clarence Wood praised the announcement.

“Thank you to Infrastructure Canada for investment in our remote Northern community,” the mayor said. “The significant contribution of $5.5 million for the construction of the 1,000-kilowatt recreational centre solar and battery storage project aligns with our community energy plan.”

Wood added the retrofits, which are anticipated to be installed next spring, would cut the Town of Inuvik’s annual emissions by 363.2 tonnes.

With her term as chief wrapping up, Pascal noted she gleaned a great deal from the experience about how to squeeze infrastructure dollars out of Ottawa, and much of it comes back to persistence.

“Something that I learned over the past six years is you will have to practically claw at something if you want it,”she said. ”It’s just like hunting caribou — you have to go and get it.”

Eric Bowling

Your source for all things happening in the Beaufort Delta. Eric jumped at the chance to write for the Inuvik Drum after cutting his teeth in Alberta. He enjoys long walks, loud music and strong coffee....

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