Funding facilitates Indigenous-friendly education environments

Thunder Bay, Ont. — Three Indigenous training, skill development and innovation initiatives received funding totalling $2,123,675 from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario (FedNor), to move more people through education and job placement in and around Thunder Bay.

Patty Hajdu, minister of Indigenous Services, minister responsible for FedNor and member of Parliament for Thunder Bay-Superior North, was joined by Marcus Powlowski, member of Parliament for Thunder Bay-Rainy River, for the announcement at the Matawa Training and Wellness Centre on Friday.

Matawa Training and Wellness Centre will receive $1 million through the Jobs and Growth Fund to support its Increase Skills Development Project.

Rosemary Moonias, president of Matawa First Nations Management, said since renovations of the 108,000 square-foot, former Dawson long-term care facility began in 2020, construction costs have increased, resulting in a greater need for funding support.

“The investments today will enable renovations to the third floor of another part of this building, including the construction and upgrading of five classrooms, a computer lab, multi-use trading rooms, a resource centre, client program area and an apprentice streaming workshop," Moonias said. "We are now able to make these classrooms smart classrooms.”

The centre will act as the hub for students attending remotely in their First Nations innovation centres, and the smart classrooms will act as portals to training providers such as Google, Microsoft, SpaceX, Tesla and other corporations and industry leaders, Moonias said. It will link Matawa First Nation communities to the world.

“When it is all completed, this building will have a large commercial family teaching kitchen, community gardens, a child-minding centre, life skills, programming spaces, and health clinic,” she said.

“By bringing the services and supports under together under one roof, we are allowing students, family members and patients to improve their social, physical or mental health wellbeing as well as their education and skills in the same location.”

Moonias called this a wraparound approach.

Confederation College will receive $889,975 through the Jobs and Growth Fund to support the Evergreen Outdoor Classroom project. Kathleen Lynch, president of Confederation College, says this investment aligns with the college’s vision and strategy aim to create respectful and affirming spaces for Indigenous students, families and communities at all eight of their campuses.

“It also aligns with our sustainability strategy,” she said. “This space will use sustainable design and construction methods, and allow year round access for staff and students."

She says the “area will evolve” with a fully accessible learning site, additional seating, medicine gardens, a pathway to the river, and integrated technology to enable connections to First Nations and all of their regional campuses.

The funding will also support the college’s Indigenous and new language programs.

Lakehead University will receive $233,700 through the Regional Economic Growth Through Innovation program to support the university in establishing the Centre for Healthy Ecosystems and Environmentally Conscious Economic Development.

Andrew Dean, vice-president of research and innovation at the university, says they have had success and partnerships with FedNor. He said obtaining funding for this type of equipment will allow them to expand analysis of things in the mining, agriculture and forestry sectors to understand the risks with exploration.

“As environmental explorers or people doing extraction, it’s absolutely essential that we do this in a good environmental way and a lot of that’s done through analyzing,” he said. "This investment is basically a setting of a whole suite of different equipment, but also training for students.”

Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal