After decades without a community centre, Kuujjuaq mayor launches fundraiser

·2 min read
Kuujjuaq Mayor Sammy Koneak is fundraising for a community centre.  (Submitted by Sammy Koneak - image credit)
Kuujjuaq Mayor Sammy Koneak is fundraising for a community centre. (Submitted by Sammy Koneak - image credit)

Kuujjuaq, the largest of 14 communities in Nunavik, has never had a community centre since it became a municipality in 1980. It's something that Mayor Sammy Koneak says "in itself is a crime."

"The community centre is the focal point of the community where activity happens. People congregate at this centre. They go play sports, they get together for meetings and special programs," said Koneak.

"Anything that will get people together and to be happy about life."

The community in Northern Quebec has been trying to get funding for the project from the provincial government for almost four years, but kept hitting a brick wall, said Koneak.

The community centre would include a gymnasium, a youth drop-in centre and an indoor pool.

Now, the municipality is depending on the generosity of people at large through a GoFundMe fundraising page to bring the project to fruition.

Koneak said his community of about 3,000 people has been hit hard by an increase in suicides over the last decade and a community centre would contribute to overall well-being.

"Every child has a right to play in a safe environment … we can't even really provide that because the municipality does not own a community gymnasium," said Koneak.

"That is so sad to say."

Kuujjuaq has an outdoor ice rink, but because not everyone plays hockey or likes ice skating it's crucial to have other activities available like choirs, ballet, sports and music programs, said Koneak.

"Not having the capability of providing recreational services really hurts me as a mayor because I'm a recreation kind of person," he said.

"We are very much striving for a better life for our community. We deserve better."

It would cost about $30 million to get the Kuujjuaq community centre running. The money would be used to acquire the building and equipment, and pay for operational costs such as heating, salaries and maintenance.

Koneak said Kuujjuaq has asked the provincial government for infrastructure money. A few years ago, representatives came to visit and discuss the community's wants and needs, but to this day he says he hasn't heard back.

A statement from the office of Ian Lafrenière, Quebec's minister responsible for Indigenous affairs, said the government hadn't heard of the project before. They will be looking into it with the municipality, the Kativik regional government and Makivik, a legal representative of Quebec's Inuit, it said.

Though lack of funding has been the main obstacle in getting a community centre running, Koneak said he is feeling "so optimistic" about what the fundraiser, and government funding, could bring in.

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