Town councillors sitting on the fence want more information on finances and the facility's use before deciding whether or not to provide short-term financial support for the Cochrane Indigenous Placemaking Centre.

On October 24, Stacey Loe, executive director of protective and community services, presented town administration's recommendation to cover the full lease in 2023, 75 per cent of it in 2024, and 50 per cent in 2025.

Total support for the three years would be $72,000 and is expected to be the extent of the financial support provided by the town.

The proposed location is the current visitor centre, 521-1st. W., that is being relocated to The Station on Railway St.

The support would come with the condition a member of town council is appointed to the centre's board of directors.

The Cochrane Rotary Club, a supporter of this initiative, had requested the location be provided free of charge for the full three years, however, town administration preferred a phased approach to the funding.

Councillors Alex Reed, Patrick Wilson and Morgan Nagel sought a more detailed business plan, and Nagel specifically wanted a better understanding of its use.

Having only received some of the details the same day, Councillor Reed wanted more time to dive into the financial plan. Over the years, he's heard from other disenfranchised, marginalized, and persecuted groups looking for a gathering space.

"Again, not wishing to appear insensitive or to minimize the historical trauma that our neighbors have experienced, but each of these groups has a legitimate claim to looking for a gathering place," said Reed.

"A common gathering place for all groups, a place where we could celebrate our values and our differences, a place where all groups could gather to partner, to heal, to collaborate, to share, to educate, to learn, you know, partnership opportunities as opposed to just creating just another cultural silo is something I would prefer."

Councillor Marni Fedeyko supports the proposal, calling it the next step forward.

"If we're not choosing to put out that olive branch, if we're not supporting this initiative, where does that lead us to? I think that a broken bond is much bigger than the cost of money associated to it," said Fedeyko.

"We spent a lot of money on a lot of things in town, and if we're about to shut something as important as moving social culture forward, I think we're making a big mistake."

Councillor Patrick Wilson came into the meeting in opposition to the proposal because of the cost to taxpayers and limited scope. After the presentation, he left the crack open a bit to be convinced to support the expenditure. He favoured how they will leverage any municipality funding provided.

"I'm a big unabashed supporter of that. When I see our municipal funds being leveraged that really is meaningful to me, that softens my stance a bit."

The additional financial information sought by these three councillors is pointless, believed Councillor Susan Flowers, who supports the initiative.

"Being crystal clear about a new program, that never happens," Flowers said. "I've helped start so many groups in Cochrane--Seniors on the Bow, Boys and Girls Club, Victim Services, Affordable Housing--and you're never crystal clear. You go into with the faith that you want to make a difference, knowing it's the right thing to do. Not all of the details are there and some of it you're making up because you're trying to imagine what it's going to be like."

Loe told council providing space for the Indigenous community is one of the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

"I think the complete absence of recognition of our Indigenous history in Cochrane is exactly part of what this will solve by having this place," said Loe. "It is about creating a space and a place for and about our Indigenous history and what our Indigenous relationship is going to look like going forward."

Seeing the vote was heading to a 3-3 tie, Mayor Jeff Genung sided with the councillors seeking more information to keep the discussion alive.

The Indigenous Placemaking Centre is envisioned as a not-for-profit company, providing community educational programming and services with a focus on promoting Truth & Reconciliation principles for residents, visitors, and other stakeholders and organizations within Cochrane and the surrounding area.

The business plan states it will have business activities that provide a revenue stream to support the annual operational costs. Grant opportunities will be sought out to support relevant programming and annual fundraising activities will supplement additional needs.

It evolved out of discussions and relationships established with Elders, Cochrane and Morley residents, and community groups like Rotary and other allies. 

The Indigenous planning team has conducted interviews and has reviewed historic community needs assessments. It has held two community conversation circles that brought together Indigenous residents within Cochrane and Rocky View County, Iyethka (Nakoda) from (Mini Thni) and community allies. Feedback was gathered from 35 Indigenous Cochrane residents, five Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers, and 12 Cochrane allies.

According to Statistics Canada, there were 1,065 people who identify as Indigenous living in Cochrane in 2016. The current number is believed to be closer to 3,000.