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Native centre site hunt continues

Slow but steady progress is being made to secure a location for the Red Deer Native Friendship Society’s long-awaited affordable housing and cultural centre.

Tanya Schur, the society’s executive director, has been meeting weekly since November with a task force made up members of city staff and Councillors Paul Harris and Tara Veer.

“It is painfully slow but we are still at the table meeting,” said Schur.

“I think that’s the big thing. We are consistently meeting with our aboriginal building advisor, the city councillors and the city planners to move quickly as soon as we can.”

A few locations in Red Deer are being given serious consideration but nothing has been finalized.

“We’re doing evaluation work on it,” said Harris. “We’re not ready to talk to the community in depth about any of the sites or even release what sites they are.”

In October, city council voted against changing the bylaw that would have allowed the project to be developed in Clearview North.

The vote followed much backlash from the community, including the largest public hearing in recent memory where many voiced their concerns and outrage at being left in the dark about the project.

Harris said there was a lot of misunderstanding about the type of development and that sparked the controversy. He hopes this time around there will be no doubts in the community.

“We just can’t go there again,” said Harris.

Red Deer’s aboriginal community expressed hurt and disappointment with council over the decision. The aboriginal community erected a teepee on the failed site to mourn the loss. In order to repair the relationship, members of city council sat with the community in a healing circle.

Both Harris and Schur said they believe the aboriginal community and the city are now on the same page.

Schur said there will always be competing interests but she believes that council, through the two task force’s two councillors, will understand the project and its benefits for the entire community.

“I know there is a shared vision that may not have been there before,” said Schur. “In the end, we will create a better solution for appropriate aboriginal housing in Red Deer. I just hope it doesn’t take four years.”

In the meantime, Schur has gone back to provincial government funders to find avenues to pay for the entire project. The society received roughly $2.6 million for only the housing component. The society is planning for 32 housing units.

Schur said there’s no point in doing the detailed design work until a site is secured.



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