Eskasoni First Nation in Nova Scotia will soon have a new long-term care facility and high-speed internet.
The new infrastructure investments were announced by federal, provincial and First Nation leaders in the Mi’kmaq community Tuesday.
Once built, the new care facility will house up to 48 elderly and disabled residents.
It will be called Kiknu, the Mi’kmaw word for ‘our house’.
Ottawa is contributing $19.7 million for the home, with Nova Scotia chipping in $6.6 million.
Eskasoni Chief Leroy Denny joined Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil and federal Minister of Rural Economic Development Bernadette Jordan for Tuesday’s announcement.
He said the facility will embrace Mi’kmaq language and culture, from design to the delivery of services.
“The new elder care facility will allow the Mi’kmaq to carry on the tradition of caring for our own within our community,” Denny said, adding the Kiknu “will be a place where our elders will feel at home and continue to have community and cultural connections.”
McNeil said his government wants to ensure culture is an integral part of delivering services.
“This is an important part of how we build community,” he said. “One of the things though that we’ve learned early on, working with chiefs and community members, is the importance of culture.”
Currently, elders such as Lottie Johnson have to leave the community for long-term care.
“It’s like you’re almost gone and forgotten,” she said Tuesday. “But here it’s on the reserve and people—your family, relatives—would be able to drop in to see you. So I think that’s really a good thing.”
Kiknu is expected to create around 70 jobs, with a goal of employing people within the community so they will stay in Eskasoni and embrace Mi’kmaq language and culture by caring for elders.
“They still get to learn from the elders,” said Johnson, adding Eskasoni is “really rich in the culture and the language, and we’ve maintained that.”
The facility will be built on part of the 200 acres of land recently acquired by Eskasoni First Nation through the federal Addition to Reserves process.
Denny said one day the new land could also house a high school that the community hopes to build.
McNeil said this announcement is a step towards reconciliation.
“We took them in care, we ripped them right out of their communities, out of their culture,” he said. “And I wanted to make sure that we corrected that.”
He said ensuring the importance of culture is important in terms of governments delivering services.
“It’s an opportunity for elders to grow old and have their foundation in community at the same time want to make sure the young people see this as an opportunity for jobs an opportunity for them to build a life for themselves in community,” said McNeil.
The feds and province concurrently announced funding for fibre-optic services in the community, which will better connect Eskasoni residents online.
Ottawa will contribute more than $2.5 million to the development, with Nova Scotia contributing just over $800,000.