'Game changer:' N.S. canoe clubs get nearly $1.5M in government funds

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The boat house of the Cheema Aquatic Club in Waverly. (Haley Ryan/CBC - image credit)
The boat house of the Cheema Aquatic Club in Waverly. (Haley Ryan/CBC - image credit)

Two Nova Scotia canoe clubs say new government funds will help them bring more people on the water.

The Cheema Aquatic Club in Waverly has been granted about $1.1 million for facility and program enhancements between the federal and provincial governments.

Over in Lake Echo, the Orenda Canoe Club has received about $380,000 between all three levels of government.

"It's a game changer for the youth of our community and the work that we do here at Cheema," club commodore Nadine Lamontagne said Saturday outside their facility on the shore of Thomas Lake.

"We're just thrilled."

Lamontagne said they will be lifting the roof of their existing boat house to add an extra floor, creating new program spaces and expanding the gym.

Simon Sankey/ EastPoint
Simon Sankey/ EastPoint

They are also making the entire facility accessible. This means Cheema can soon welcome para-canoe athletes with various disabilities, and are in the midst of buying new boats, paddles and adjusting the docks to better fit people's needs.

She said construction should start this September.

More physical space means they are hoping to welcome new members, and Cheema is soon launching a program aimed specifically at urban Indigenous youth.

Lamontagne said their club name comes from the Mi'kmaw word for paddling.

"Our heritage is in the Mi'kmaw culture, canoeing is in the Mi'maw culture. We're on unceded Mi'kmaw territory," Lamontagne said.

"We want to be good stewards of that tradition and that culture and be part of reconciliation."

CBC
CBC

Cheema also has an impressive professional legacy with sprint kayaker Michelle Russell becoming their eighth paddler to head to the Olympics when she goes to Tokyo in July.

Orenda is also home to five Olympic champions. They will use the funds to finish expanding their clubhouse and enhance ongoing programs, according to a release.

Darrell Samson, MP for Sackville-Preston-Chezzetcook, made the announcement on behalf of the federal government Saturday.

They are handing $600,000 to Cheema, and $160,000 to the Orenda club as part of the ongoing Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.

CBC
CBC

"Here we are, small canoe clubs in Nova Scotia, in small communities, and we're competing ... with the world, we're competing with the best, and we're achieving at the highest level," Samson said.

"That's what's impressive, and that's why we need to continue to support these community groups."

The province's funding portion breaks down to $200,000 for Orenda and $500,000 for Cheema.

The Halifax Regional Municipality is contributing $20,000 to the Orenda Canoe Club.

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