Bernadette Marshall says it has always been her dream to have a centre just for Mi’kmaw women in Nova Scotia. Now, the president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association says that dream will become a reality.
The NSNWA has announced it will soon begin construction for a Mi’kmaw resiliency centre that will support Indigenous women, girls, two-spirited LGBTQIA people and their families in Nova Scotia.
“We’re going to have a safe place for women. We’re going to have healing for women there. We’re going to have so much and we’re still continuing to develop what programs we’ll have there,” Marshall said following the official announcement for the centre on July 29.
The centre, which will be located in Millbrook First Nation near Truro, N.S., will cost more than $8-million to build. The federal government is contributing $6.7-million while the Nova Scotia government is providing $1.4-million towards construction costs.
Construction of the resiliency centre is expected to begin in the fall and be completed by late 2023.
Plans for the centre were unveiled during a news conference in Millbrook on Friday. Jaime Battiste, federal Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Karla MacFarlane, Nova Scotia Minister responsible for L’nu Affairs and Millbrook First Nation Chief Bob Gloade joined the NSNWA board members and staff for the announcement.
“Through culturally appropriate programming, users will be able to heal, build resilience and reconnect with the customs and traditions that have defined our people for millennia,” Jaime Battiste said during the news conference.
“The services provided at this facility will be women-led, trauma-informed and culturally appropriate,” he said.
“A strong house for the women” – NSNWA President
Marshall said the resiliency centre is a step towards implementing the calls to justice listed in the 2019 final report on the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
“To me, it’s going to be a strong house for the women,” she said.
Some services the centre will provide include healing circles, family group conferencing and a daycare. The centre will have multi-use spaces for fitness, art therapy and other cultural workshops. It will also have cooking and kitchen spaces both inside and outside. The outside property of the building will have space for a sweat lodge and a sacred fire.
“We’ll be able to help (women) and to empower them,” Marshall explained.
The centre will be a safe space for Indigenous women who are escaping violent situations or sexual exploitation such as human trafficking, she added.
“Well, hopefully, with the programs that we introduce at that resiliency centre, it’ll all tie in, and that we’ll be able to help and bring more of an awareness (of violence and human trafficking) to all our communities,” she said.
Marshall said securing funding for the centre has been part of a multi-year plan to rebuild the NSNWA as an organization. She said the association had very little funding to operate six years ago and could barely cover the costs for volunteers to meet.
“We travelled in cars together. We shared meals together. We shared hotel rooms together. We had no money,” Marshall explained.
“Today, I never imagined it would come to this from seven years or six years ago to now and I’ve never been so happy,” she added.