Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, rallies to support youth in wake of devastating fire

·3 min read
The remains of the Cambridge Bay youth centre after a fire destroyed the building earlier this week. The hamlet's chief administrative officer likened the loss to the community to Toronto losing the Air Canada Centre.  (Jane George/CBC - image credit)
The remains of the Cambridge Bay youth centre after a fire destroyed the building earlier this week. The hamlet's chief administrative officer likened the loss to the community to Toronto losing the Air Canada Centre. (Jane George/CBC - image credit)

Municipal officials and people in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, continue to reel from the shock of the loss of their youth centre to fire on Monday morning.

"We're a community of about 2,000 people. The significance of the youth centre facility and the role that it plays in the community, it would be similar to Toronto losing the Air Canada Centre," said Cambridge Bay's chief administrative officer, Jim MacEachern.

"That's how important the facility is to the community. This is a huge loss for Cambridge Bay, especially for the youth in Cambridge Bay."

Offers of help have poured into the municipality to help cope with the loss, he said.

"I just would like to thank everyone locally and across the territory and across the country that has reached out and offered support for Cambridge Bay," MacEachern said.

Jane George/CBC
Jane George/CBC

These include offers to contribute financially to a new facility.

But MacEachern said first they must wait to see what the requirements of the insurance will be.

However, he said he intends to "investigate every possible funding source available."

RCMP have already closed their investigation into the cause of the fire. In a Facebook post Wednesday, they said there are "no criminal charges pending or applicable," and thanked community members for sharing tips.

They also thanked municipal partners for their help providing security on the ground as the fire burned.

Companies, businesses contribute

To cover the lack of the youth centre in the shorter term, Agnico Eagle Mining Corp., which owns the nearby Hope Bay gold mine, has offered its office's boardroom to be used for youth.

The Canadian High Arctic Research Station, run by Polar Knowledge Canada, has also reached out and offered some of their space for programming.

And Sabina Gold and Silver Corp., whose Back River gold mine project is located southwest of Cambridge Bay, has offered up whatever space the company can for programming.

Jane George/CBC
Jane George/CBC

"That's just a few of the examples," said MacEachern, adding that "all of the businesses in the community have offered any assistance they can provide."

The youth centre was housed in one of the oldest buildings in Cambridge Bay which was built in the 1950s as housing for the Ministry of Transportation. But it had been renovated several times, most recently in 2018,

Designing, ordering materials and building a new youth centre will take at least two years, MacEachern said.

"I don't think it would be realistic to have a building designed and the materials ready for the barge this season, which means that we'd be on hold until at least the 2023 sealift season just to receive the materials," MacEachern said.

"And then we have a very short construction window. So we'll have to use the time in between to identify the location for the new facility and then have the site prep work done ahead of time so that as soon as the barge arrives, they can begin construction."

In the meantime, the community hall will serve as the hub for the lunch and breakfast meal programs for children.

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