Ontario Construction News staff writer
Algoma University is embarking on an infrastructure project on the Shingwauk site in Sault Ste. Marie with $7.1 million from the federal government and $5.9 million from Ontario. The university is contributing more than $4.7 million to the overall cost of the almost $18 million project.
Mukqua Waakaa’igan is being called a “centre of cultural excellence” that will attract visitors from around the world. A recent economic impact study concluded the facility will generate $36.4 million for the Sault Ste. Marie economy over 10 years.
“Today marks a momentous occasion in the history of the Shingwauk site and for Algoma University and the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association (CSAA),” said Shelley Schell, chair of the Algoma University Board of Governors.
“On behalf of the Board, and our community, I would like to sincerely thank the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario for their significant infrastructure investments and ongoing support of this important project.”
The centre will showcase historical and contemporary displays, exhibitions and gallery areas and archive the life’s work of the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association, a committed group of residential school survivors and their descendants. Once complete, the facility will also serve as the new home for the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre Archives and Aboriginal Healing Foundation Collection.
In Anishinaabemowin, Mukqua, the bear, is a carrier of medicine, and as such a healer; Waakaa’igan refers to its lodge or den, a home – so in this way, Mukqua Waakaa’igan is to bring healing and medicine in a safe and welcoming place through the sharing of cross-cultural knowledge and understanding.
“Mukqua Waakaa’igan will provide a safe space for important dialogues about the past, the present and the future. With over 50 countries currently represented at the university, the site’s potential contribution to combating racism and building the capacity of people to live harmoniously, together is unprecedented in Canada,” said Asima Vezina, President and Vice-Chancellor, Algoma University.
“The facility will provide better access to culturally appropriate spaces for the local urban Indigenous population and surrounding rural First Nations. Mukqua Waakaa’igan is intended to serve as a Centre of Excellence helping to advance the Calls to Action put forward by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”
The Algoma University campus in Sault Ste. Marie is home to Shingwauk Hall, the only residential school left in Ontario that you can still visit today. The Children of Shingwauk are the survivors of this dark period in Canadian history and they have worked tirelessly to speak the truth of what occurred in Canada’s residential schools.
“This announcement is so much more than the construction of a large infrastructure project in Sault Ste. Marie,” said Sault Ste. Marie MP Ross Romano, minister of colleges and universities.
“This $18 million project will house the largest set of residential school archives in the country and serve as a destination for people to learn more about our history and our truth and will form a critical step towards reconciliation. This is an incredibly special way to preserve and showcase our history and it is a commemoration of Algoma University’s evolution, and identity as a University in Canada.”