With gold-paint-sprayed shovels and a tobacco offering to the four directions, the earth and the sky, the T’it’q’et Community broke ground Aug. 24 for a new health and community centre.
The 20,000 square-foot project is scheduled to be completed in December 2013 at a cost of $8 million.
The new centre will be constructed in the former ball field behind Julianne Hall, while the current site of Julianne Hall will be a parking lot for the new facility.
The building will comprise a health centre funded by Health Canada and a community hall, administration offices and community facilities funded by T’it’q’et.
Chief Kevin Whitney and former Chief Mike Leach officiated at the groundbreaking, giving the tobacco offering and turning over the ground with the shovels.
During the ceremony, the contributions of many people were acknowledged, including Mike Leach and another former chief Bill Machell, who spearheaded the project; community elders; political chief Shelley Leach; and health manager Frannie Alec.
“It never ceases to amaze me what our community is capable of,” Chief Mike Leach told those who gathered for the ceremony. “This will be one of the biggest projects this community will put into place. Many years of work have gone into this…I never looked at the process as frustrating. I always looked at it as if there’s a change we need to make, let’s look at the change and move the project forward.”
He concluded, “This is just not about a building. This is about us as a community and us as part of a larger nation called the St’at’imc…Our building will be owned by the people, run by the people and looked after by the people.”
“Your dream is coming true, Frannie,” said Health Canada representative Lorraine Plummer, acknowledging the contribution of T’it’q’et health manager Frannie Alec. “There have been a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of discussion around how to incorporate the culture of the territory with the building and to create a multi-purpose facility.”
Plummer continued, “Today, I hear people talking about how this building will be the heart of the community. When you come to this facility, you will have choices for things that are important to your life. Not only will it be a health centre for health prevention services, but it will be a multi-purpose centre for weddings and celebrations and all the things the community wants to do.”
Chief Whitney introduced architect Jennifer Marshall, a partner in the Vancouver Urban Arts architectural firm. Heatherbrae Builders is the contractor on the project, with Tim Knight serving as project manager and Lee Coombs as site manager.
Commenting on the blue skies, sunshine and cooling breeze blowing across the flat at T’it’q’et, Tribal Chief Shelley Leech told the News, “It’s a beautiful day for the ground-breaking ceremony. This will give us a brand new, bigger place to meet and get together as a community.”
She said the new project reflects the fast-paced changes underway at T’it’q’et, including new economic development initiatives and “getting our land and resource business under control through referral processes.”
Chief Leech said the planning for the new project shows the effectiveness of T’it’q’et’s three-council governing system.
“It allows us to move forward and focus on the things that need to be done.”
One council, headed by Chief Whitney, looks after internal matters, such as program services, at the community level.
Chief Leech is head of the P’egp’ig7lha Council, which deals with matters within the St’at’imc territory, including forestry, fisheries and political issues.
The third council, the Elders Council, focuses on topics such as community justice, heritage and culture and language.
Construction work on the project begins this week.