The Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre in downtown Halifax is one step closer to building its new home with the announcement Thursday of $28.8 million in federal funding to help with construction costs.
"We can actually build a friendship centre today," said Pam Glode-Desrochers, executive director of the centre, during a news conference at the centre's interim building on Brunswick Street.
The friendship centre has moved three times since it started in 1972 and lack of funding was cited for its latest move in January. The Mi'kmaw Native Friendship Centre says the new location will allow them to better serve over 7,000 Indigenous people living in Halifax.
Earlier this year, the centre received $4 million in federal funding from the major infrastructure fund of the Urban Programming for Indigenous Peoples program.
The money announced Thursday will come from the Indigenous Community Infrastructure Fund.
Glode-Desrochers is not sure when construction on the project will start but a location has been chosen at Gottingen Street close to the Halifax police station.
Plans for the new facility aim for the building to have net zero emissions, have accessibility options, provide gardens and to continue to provide over 55 programs for the urban Indigenous population ranging from job and skills training, to early childhood development and social programming, and language supports.
Early renderings of the building show it will be in the shape of a turtle and will include a Mi'kmaw eight-pointed star in the design.
Glooscap First Nation Chief Sidney Peters, co-chair of the Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi'kmaq Chiefs, said the centre is important because it provides support for First Nations people heading to Halifax seeking employment, schooling and housing.
"There's a lot of work to be done yet and us at the assembly are there to support you all the way through it," said Peters at the news conference.
Halifax MP Andy Fillmore said the funding is about supporting one of the fastest growing demographics in the country.
"When First Nations community members come into Halifax, for example, they leave behind a network of supports in their own communities and they really depend on friendship centres to bring those supports to them in the city," said Fillmore at the news conference.
He said he and Glode-Desrochers have been working on this file for eight years and look forward to when the centre will have its new building.