Thunder Bay Council to Vote on LOI with Matawa for Youth Education Centre

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THUNDER BAY – Thunder Bay City Council will consider authorizing a Letter of Intent with Matawa First Nations Management at the Committee of the Whole meeting on August 28.

The report recommends that the City grant the former Grandview Lodge building and property to Matawa for the purpose of redeveloping it as a Student Education and Care Centre for high school students from Matawa First Nations.

Matawa First Nations Management is a tribal council with nine member Ojibway and Cree First Nations, including Aroland First Nation, Constance Lake First Nation, Eabametoong First Nation, Ginoogaming First Nation, Long Lake #58 First Nation, Marten Falls First Nation, Neskantaga First Nation, Nibinamik First Nation and Webequie First Nation.

Matawa’s vision for the Centre is a safe and caring environment, where the emotional, physical and academic needs of Matawa First Nations Students are met. Upon graduation, the students will have a quality education, strong life skills and a path to greater education.

“We recognize the significant importance of this project, its benefits and how Matawa intends to execute it,” said Councillor Iain Angus, who has been acting as the liaison on the proposal. “Recommendations from the Seven Youth Inquest have reinforced the need for adequate student housing for First Nation students who choose to come here for an education.”

Matawa, already in the planning stages of such a project at the time of Grandview becoming available, expressed interest in acquiring the property in December, 2016.

“We have been working on the concept of a Student Education and Care Centre for years now, and Grandview is an ideal building and location, particularly due to the City’s existing and planned recreational amenities nearby,” said Matawa CEO, David Paul Achneepineskum. “Granting this property to Matawa demonstrates the importance of our project to the City and will also allow us to leverage that towards additional funding from other orders of government to move this project forward and achieve our vision.”

The grant of the property is being recommended due to the current rare circumstances where the City owns a unique surplus building, which is ideal for this project; the Seven Youth Inquest recommends that safer accommodation is needed for First Nations youth; and that Matawa is in a position to pursue this project.

“Recent tragedies over the last number of years in our community have brought to the forefront that First Nation students from remote communities living in Thunder Bay need safe and supportive accommodation,” added Angus.

“We look forward to continuing our strong relationship with Matawa, and I am confident that this proposal has the potential to be a major first step in overall student safety.”

Subject to Council’s approval, the City and Matawa will sign a Letter of Intent and negotiate an agreement, then transfer the property to Matawa.

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