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$7.7 million boost for First Nations Cultural Centre


Federal, provincial governments back project for Squamish and Lil’wat Nations

Plans for a First Nations Cultural Centre in Whistler got a major boost this week when B.C. Premier Campbell and Robert Nault, minister of indian affairs and northern development, announced $7.7 million towards the project.

Both the premier and Nault spoke at a reception at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler on National Aboriginal Day, June 21, voicing their support for the building.

The facility will function as a cultural centre for the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations. It will be open to the public, and contain a museum, crafts market, high-tech theatre, restaurant, art gallery, and staging area for tours.

"This cultural centre is a turning point for all of us, an opportunity for us all to grasp, an opportunity for us to work together to build a brighter future for the people we serve," said Campbell.

According to Campbell, the province will kick in $3 million towards the construction of the centre through the Economic Measures Fund.

The fund was established to create new opportunities for First Nations to participate in the economy, including the oil and gas, forestry, tourism, and aquaculture industries, as well as the 2010 Olympic Bid. To date, 113 projects worth $25 million have been approved around B.C.

Campbell stressed the cooperative nature of the cultural centre, which has brought together the Squamish and Lil’Wat Nations, and local, provincial and federal governments.

He also pointed to the economic benefits, including 50 construction jobs, 15 year-round full time jobs, and 31 full and part-time jobs in the summer months.

Nault announced $4.7 million in federal funding through his ministry for the project, on top of $392,000 from the government of Canada to cover planning costs of the project.

According to Nault, the centre is a perfect fit for Whistler.

"The governments of Canada and B.C. have been proud supporters of this project since the initial planning stages," he said.

"(We) recognize the incredible value of this project, not just to B.C. but across Canada. It’s where we will showcase the best in aboriginal arts and culture to the world, adding to the strength and dynamism of the Olympic Bid."

Nault also acknowledged the role that the municipality of Whistler played in securing a site and zoning for the cultural centre and complimented Mayor Hugh O’Reilly for his ability to see the big picture, and forge partnerships with local First Nations.

The Squamish Nation was represented at the presentation by Chief Gibby Jacob and hereditary Chief Ian Campbell.

According to Chief Campbell, the cultural centre will help people, "in need of healing".