When Kanesatake witnessed their youth centre go up in flames in the summer of 2018, far was it for community members to imagine that a multi-complex building with even more programs would rise from the ashes, and replace it.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the new building took place yesterday at the site where the Kanesatake Youth of Today (KYOT) centre previously stood.
“Three years after the KYOT burned, we finally have the chance to rebuild,” expressed Mohawk Council of Kanesatake (MCK) chief John Canatonquin. “We are now taking the opportunity to make it bigger, better and with more services.”
With an emphasis placed on offering an inclusive space, and adapted to the needs of Kanehsata’kehro:non, the building will have, at its core, the prevention and protection of community families.
In addition to the returning services previously delivered by KYOT, the new facility will also accommodate programs to offer support in regards to addiction, food security, mental health, as well as counseling services.
Moreover, while the past location was primarily catered toward younger community members, the complex now has a goal to provide a space for the elders.
“The youth will have a recreational section in the building and our elders will be able to come in to have their lunches in there as well,” said MCK grand chief Simon Otsi Simon. “There’s very limited space at the Riverside Elder’s Home, but now, at the multi-complex, the elders will have a place to go again.”
The initiative, which is a result of collaborative efforts between MCK and the Kanesatake Health Centre (KHC), is estimated to cost an approximate $4.2 million.
Although insurance provided upwards of $500,000 following the loss of the KYOT building, this amount could not cover the entirety of the ambitious project underway.
“It started with around $2 million, but with the increase of cost for material and with the pandemic - the price went up by almost 50 percent,” explained Canatonquin. “To deal with those cost increases, I had to make a lot of phone calls to secure the money necessary.”
Funding for the soon-to-be complex was provided by different outside provincial and federal organizations, including approximately $2 million from the Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones and over $1 million from Indigenous Services Canada. At the local level, KHC contributed approximately $900,000.
While the building is a costly endeavour, Simon expressed how crucial these services will be for the entire community.
“All of these important programs are for the social benefit of the community,” he said. “They will be housed all in one building, while at the same time, the complex is also accommodating for emergency uses.”
As construction is imminent, community members can look forward to the opening by January 2022.
Laurence Brisson Dubreuil, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door