Mi'kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. breaks ground on Urban Indigenous Centre

​The Mi'kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. (MCPEI) has broken ground on its new Urban Indigenous Centre in Charlottetown.

The 18,000 square foot, three-storey building will house a cultural centre, programming and services for Indigenous communities, and retail space.

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It will also provide MCPEI with a space to develop its service delivery, promote cultural tourism and offer employment services to members of the Island's Indigenous communities. 

During an announcement in Charlottetown Friday, the federal government committed to contributing $750,000 toward the project through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA). The province has already committed to investing $2.2 million in the construction of the centre.

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Senator Brian Francis, who was at the announcement, has been working on the project for several years. He said it is an example of how different levels of government can work together toward reconciliation.

"Our Mi'kmaq people have been here for 10,000 years," Francis said.

"To actually have a spot right on the waterfront that we can call our own building to showcase our programs and services and our proud culture to Prince Edward Islanders and to people from outside P.E.I. as well, is really a proud moment."

Doors expected to open next fall

Senator Francis said the centre will also provide employment opportunities for members of the Island's Indigenous communities and allow MCPEI to expand and develop its programs and services.

Don MacKenzie, executive director of MCPEI, said the new building will also help serve the needs of Indigenous people living in downtown Charlottetown.

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"It will also be a proper centre and venue for enhanced social programming and services which is so desperately needed for the off-reserve Indigenous community," MacKenzie said.

He said having a central landmark on the Charlottetown waterfront is symbolically very important for Mi'kmaq communities and creates a central hub for Indigenous arts and culture.

"Whether it's a cultural display or Indigenous entrepreneurship, to have 100,000 cruise ship passengers walking by in the course of a season to get exposure to Mi'kmaq culture, to be able to potentially purchase Mi'kmaq arts and crafts. That's a tremendous bonus for the Mi'kmaq community," MacKenzie said.

Brittany Spencer/CBC

Previous estimates for the overall cost of the project have been between $2 and $3 million, but MacKenzie said he expects the final budget to be slightly higher.

MacKenzie said in addition to funding provided by the federal and provincial governments, MCPEI is also waiting to hear back from other funding applications and the costs of construction will be substantially covered through all these sources.

He said the project is expected to be complete by this time next year.

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