Cochrane town council has voted unanimously to provide structured three-year financial support for the establishment of an Indigenous Placemaking Centre in the heart of the community.
The town will be providing an estimated $72,000 over the course of three years to pay a lease at the current location of the Cochrane Visitor Centre, 521-1st. W. It will cover 100 percent of the lease in Year One at a cost of approximately $32,000, $24,000 in Year Two (75 per cent), and $16,000 (50 per cent) in the final year.
Thereafter the centre's board of directors would either assume the full lease and costs associated with it. Failing that, the lease would be terminated or further representation can be made to town council.
Councillor Suan Flowers, council representative on the Rotary Indigenous Placemaking Initiative, put the motion on the floor.
"I know that many Cochrane residents are anxious to get involved with this project," said Flowers. "They're looking for training, information, and new relationships. They want to be involved in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls for Action."
She says a lot of that work is already underway.
Patrick Wilson was lukewarm to the funding at the last council meeting but says the additional information provided allowed him to check off all of his boxes and was fully satisfied to move forward.
"This is something that is justified for municipal funds, at least for the short-term nature of it. I have to say that I'm excited to think of where it could go and I hope that in three years, once the sunset clause takes effect and it's no longer municipally funded that this is succeeding and thriving."
Councillor Marni Fedeyko restated her support for the centre funding and sees it as a starting point in social culture change. She saw value in educating Cochranites on our Indigenous neighbours and the opportunities it will create for Indigenous tourism.
On Oct. 24, the decision was delayed by a 4-2 vote when some councillors sought more information and to have time to examine the information received. Fearing a split decision on the vote, with Councillor Tara McFadden absent, Mayor Jeff Genung joined the undecided but voiced his support for the initiative.
Genung said he was glad that council waited to take a vote. He believes the unanimous support speaks volumes about the work that the town is willing and wanting to do.
"We said that were interested in being in this space, and now we're actively doing that, not just with our CEDI involvement or even just our own relationship building with Stoney Nakoda and other Indigenous groups in Alberta, but also with this initiative and having actual bricks and mortar in our community."
Councillor Alex Reed was appalled by the personal attacks he was subjected to after seeking a pause in the discussion in October and believes some used it to fuel their agendas.
"It was met with contemptment, anger, bullying, sexist comments, and overall an unwelcoming and unpleasant negative response," he said at last night's meeting.
He considered it ironic that none of the principles of what this centre is supposed to provide were applied when he and other councillors asked for a pause for more information.
He says he understands this is an emotional issue and doesn't make light of it. He reiterated that he has a great deal of respect and sincere appreciation for those neighbors and citizens affected by issues of reconciliation and that he has had several productive experiences in numerous Indigenous communities throughout his professional career.
"My questions and the motion simply was to pause. It was out of respect, out of curiosity, out of learning and collaboration."
He says he received a letter of assurance from Cochrane Rotary president Clark Drader stating the comments of a few doesn't represent the great work of the whole.
He also applauded Councillor Flowers for championing the cause.
More details were provided by the centre's planning team and board of directors on the proposed programming and business plan.