The McMurray Métis are officially breaking ground on their new cultural centre on MacDonald Island.
A ceremony was held on Wednesday where members of the provincial government, Wood Buffalo council, and community celebrated the official start of the project.
The centre has been in the work for decades and will highlight the history of the Métis across the region.
“It’s going to be the hub for this community, the Métis community and it’s going to bring in international tourists,” said Bill Loutitt, McMurray Métis CEO. “It’s really going to be something once we get it finished.”
It will be in the shape of an infinity river and include an art gallery, a fire circle, a conference centre, a greenhouse, a room for youth programming, and more.
Wood Buffalo council approved the sale of 7.8 acres of land for the project back in June.
The McMurray Métis will allocate $5.5 million for the project, while the federal government is covering the remaining $16.5 million through a grant.
“I’m pleased that federal funding is helping bring the long-awaited Métis Cultural Centre in Fort McMurray to life,” said Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. “As someone who is passionate about the environment, I’m also excited that the centre will feature energy-saving devices that help promote a green future.”
MacDonald Island was the ideal location for the centre.
The McMurray Métis have been looking to acquire land around the Clearwater River for multiple years in return for the past injustices at Moccasin Flats.
In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, Indigenous residents were forced from their homes along the Clearwater and Athabasca junction to help further develop the urban service area. The area is now home to the Syncrude Towers.
As part of a recent report made on Moccasin Flats, the transferring of land in the area for a cultural centre was highlighted as one step towards reconciliation.
Loutitt believes this is a strong step forward to helping more people understand their history – all the good and bad.
“There’s such a rich history of the Métis, people will have a hard time believing that in the 1700s the Métis were here long before Canada was Canada and this is why MacDonald Island was important because this is where they always had to come to work.”
The McMurray Metis expect the project to create hundreds of jobs through construction and maintaining the facility once it’s open.
It’s expected to be open to the public in 2023.
-With files from Steph Seidel