Bashaw town council has forwarded an application for a First Nations family wellness centre to various agencies for their opinions and comments. The decision was made at the May 2 regular meeting of council.
The application from Dr. Tony Mucciarone, James Carpenter, Lucy Smolcic and Audrey Ward to rezone 5430 51a Street has been at council since 2021; since the site is zoned “direct control (DC),” town council has authority on development permit applications.
Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller stated in her agenda memo that the town has sent the applicants six “incomplete letters” noting the application didn’t include all the information councillors needed to make a decision.
Bashaw notified the applicants of 12 sections of information missing from the application, including confirmation of exact uses to be included on the site, confirm the number of beds for overnight guests, age of guests, business plan and more.
Another issue facing the application is that applicants asked that development permit information be kept confidential, while town council heard at an April council meeting development permit information is usually available to the public.
Fuller stated the applicants provided hundreds of pages of information as of April 21 in response to the latest incomplete letter; she noted that an April 20 letter from the applicants acknowledges the information will be made public.
At previous council meetings applicants gave the impression the family wellness centre will focus on First Nations youth and in fact one of the applicants, Ward, is executive director of Young Spirit Winds, a program located at Maskwacis which is described on the Youth Solvent Addiction Committee (YSAC) website as a “treatment program” including the following topics: Communication and self-awareness; Addictions and assessments; Cultural identity; Health and awareness; Grief, loss and recovery; Self-esteem and peer pressure; Anger management and cycle of violence; Family and community; NAAAW; Addictions and relapse prevention; Coping skills and change.
On page 11 of the new information the proposed centre is described as “Maskwacis Family Wellness Centre.”
Readers should note, due to the sheer amount of information it’s impossible to summarize everything included.
Some information pertinent to the application will be quoted here, but the entire sheaf of information within the May 2 regular meeting agenda on the Town of Bashaw website.
Under the heading “Confirmation of exact uses,” a portion of the applicant response stated, “Some researchers acknowledge the linkage between Indigenous culture and healing from substance abuse as rooted with traditional knowledge keepers and communities.
Alfred shared that the central problem for Indigenous health rests on ‘the effect of colonially-generated cultural disruptions’ and he and others connect the subjugation of Indigenous cultures, including the exploitation of Indigenous lands, specifically to substance abuse.
Dell et al. add that ongoing suppression of First Nations culture has significantly contributed to the problematic use of substances among recent generations of First Nations youth.
“As communities heal from the symptoms and illnesses of cultural disconnect, more First Nations are establishing culture-based intervention programs that, by reconnecting an individual to his/her culture, aim to heal the root cause of many addictions and explore and implement awareness and preventative techniques and methods through cultural teachings.”
Under the heading “Confirm the number of beds for overnight guests,” the applicants responded, “An average of 30 to 40 clients to sleep at the centre.”
The applicants stated at a previous meeting clients may have family members with them as well. On page 13 it was also stated, “The centre will become a hub for all First Nations in Alberta with its primary and initial focus being the four distinct Nations of Maskwacis.
Under the heading “Confirm the age of guests, duration of stay etc.”, the applicants stated ages would run the gamut from infant to elder and duration of stay was “...estimated at 90 days.”
Fuller stated the application has been deemed complete so it can now be considered by councillors.
She noted the Municipal Government Act (MGA) requires a decision made on the application within 40 days of the “complete letter” being issued; the town and applicant can agree on an extension, however.
Councillors asked why staff were recommending the application be forwarded to other agencies for comment, including AHS, Battle River School Division, Bashaw & District Support Services, Camrose & Area Lodge Authority, Camrose County and RCMP.
Liz Armitage, a consultant hired by the town to assist with this application, noted the MGA gives Bashaw the authority to forward the application to other groups who may be impacted by the proposal and ask for their input, “...and ultimately it is the right thing to do,” she said. Typically the agencies return their input within 21 days.
Councillors also discussed their own timetable to examine the material which Armitage described as a core of about 50 pages with about 1,000 supporting pages.
Councillors decided they will move their regular May 16 meeting to another night and discuss this application instead. It was noted they’ll probably need another night as well.
Coun. Kyle McIntosh noted that at a previous council meeting it had been agreed Bashaw Mayor Rob McDonald would talk with First Nations leaders from Maskwacis about this application and wanted to know how that was coming along.
McDonald answered he hadn’t had any further contact with Maskwacis leaders but stated he would reach out to them for an update.
Councillors also discussed how a public consultation on this application would be conducted, and Armitage recommended write-in comments and a public meeting to reach as many people as possible.
Councillors passed a number of resolutions related to this application, including sending a letter to the applicants that the application is deemed “complete,” that this application be sent to referral agencies for comment and that Bashaw council meet May 16 to review this application.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review