Kenjgewin Teg celebrates grand opening of trade school

Anishinabek Skills and Innovation Research Centre Trades Manager Dave Hall gives a thumbs up as he takes visitors on tours of the facility. photos by Michael Erskine

M’CHIGEENG – Kenjgewin Teg (KT) president Stephanie Roy deftly wielded a set of bolt cutters to cut the chain for the grand opening of the school’s new Anishinabek Skills and Innovation Research Centre and celebrating another step forward for the organization.

Beverly Roy acted as master of ceremonies for the grand opening and introduced two key cultural components of the ceremony: drumming by Martin Panamick, a student of the Trades Fundamentals Program, and elder Josh Eshkawkogan, who delivered the Ngo Dwe Waangizid (constitution) in Anishinaabemowin “to start us off in a good way.”

“Boozhoo, it gives me great pleasure to officially open our brand new Anishinabek Skills and Innovation Research Centre,” said Ms. Roy. “Today is the culmination of work that started in the spring of 2016 when we received our first funding proposal approval.” Ms. Roy noted that construction of this phase began in 2017, a part two grand opening adding to that of the main facility that opened in 2011.

“We here on Manitoulin, along with many of our community partners, started discussing a trades centre around 2007, at that time it was called an Apprentice and Trades Strategy,” she recalled. “It was little more than a vision and a dream for us here on Manitoulin, envisioning that one day we will support and launch trades people to enter trades and become certified through our access pathway training opportunities—and 10 years later, here we are. This capital expansion to KT will serve to provide the trades and apprenticeship skills training for Mnidoo Mnising to support new career opportunities for the new mobile Indigenous workforce.”

The new facility will add 9,000 square feet to the existing 16,000 square feet, she noted. “This space adds functionality and improves the quality as it is a specialized training facility built to meet the projected and growing industry needs in the trades sector, including resource development, small business, tourism and cultural growth,” said Ms. Roy.

While the centre will provide educational resources that are lacking on Manitoulin, it will also help to ensure that, when it comes to doing research on Indigenous peoples going forward, “no more research about us, without us,” said Ms. Roy. “We will play an integral role in research in the North.”

The new Anishinabek Skills and Innovation Research Centre includes a pre-trades space which includes a suite of courses including electrical, plumbing and carpentry, a fully outfitted welding space and a technology classroom space. “A theory-based classroom located adjacent to the workshops will provide a flexible space for learning and various other activities,” said Ms. Roy. “Along with these trades spaces, an informal café/lounge located at the main entry provides a gathering space for students and a cultural welcome for visitors and members of the community.”

In addition to the new training building, other features include an outdoor learning area located across from the new facilities, adding to the depth of practical training offered, said Ms. Roy, who noted that the site “has been designed to accommodate future growth and expansion of the Anishinabek Skills, Innovation and Research Centre and is centred around hands on learning.”

The flexible 21st Century technology classroom provides different furnishing and learning zones within the classroom including barrier-free accessibility throughout the school; a combination of pre-engineered and site built steel structures; and high insulation (R-values) in the walls, floors and ceilings to reduce the carbon footprint of the building and energy consumption.

Ms. Roy stressed that the Anishinabek Skills, Innovation and Research Centre will be an asset for all Island communities, will “welcome and enrol both Indigenous and non-Indigenous adult learners into various short and long-term programs within a continuous cycle.”

Ms. Roy also took the opportunity to provide thanks to “the many people who have been instrumental in helping us get to this point of the opening of our trades centre.”

“Our funders, who with your investment in capital and infrastructure, have brought us here to this momentous day,” said Ms. Roy. “Those funders include: the provincial Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation ($1,000,000), the federal Ministry of Indigenous Relations ($500,00); Kenjgewin Teg (100,00); Strategic Investment Fund/Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada ($2,050,000); Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada ($529,999); and the M’Chigeeng First Nation.” Ms. Roy also noted a contribution by FedNor for non-construction items such as furnishings and equipment of $611,556.

“Our leadership from Manitoulin, especially M’Chigeeng First Nation, who provided the water/sewer infrastructure and Aundeck Omni Kaning, Sheguiandah and Sheshegwaning, who respond willingly and have provided their support in many government meetings,” she said.

Ms. Roy paid special tribute to Bill Debassige and his family.

“Bill Debassige and his family allowed us to purchase the land,” said Ms. Roy. “His late father was a well known entrepreneur and businessman who operated for many years in M’Chigeeng and was known throughout Manitoulin and the surrounding area. (We want) to recognize the generosity of this gesture of allowing us to purchase the property. We have a classroom dedicated to Lloyd Debassige-ba, along with an annual scholarship to a trades student in his memory. Thank you again to Billy Debassige and family for allowing us to purchase this property. I hope you know that this facility is intended to train your young people who are seeking skills development and trades training and hopefully create entrepreneurs who will also run their own trades businesses one day. Something you and your family have worked hard doing, over the many years of you and your father’s business called Lloyd and Sons. Your dad’s legacy will continue in our construction trades classroom.”

Ms. Roy also thanked the project manager, Summer Majeski from Colliers, “whose expertise and fierceness for follow up and timelines kept the project on-time and on budget. I feel a debt of gratitude and admiration for a project manager for her skill, caliber and expertise in project management.”

She also thanked the “internal staff team of Dave Hall, Francis Johns, Melanie McGregor, Brenda Francis and Beverley Carter. Our team was supportive of each others contributions to get this project finished,” she said. “The other members included team members from the successful construction contractor who was awarded the contract, LAARI Construction, and the architect, Mike Laddick.”

“I also want to thank our board of directors, who provided the oversight for this $4.8 million project over two years,” she said, calling for the directors to rise. “Their due diligence and ensuring reporting and updates were provided regularly also helped us get to today.”

The gathering heard messages of congratulations from Hazel Recollet, CAO of the United Chiefs and Councils of Mnidoo Mnising; Anishinabek Nation Lake Huron Regional Deputy Grand Council Chief Scott McLeod and Carol Hughes, NDP candidate and incumbent Member of Parliament for Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapaskasing.

Gift presentations were made to NOHFC’s Kristin Louma who brought a message from Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines Rickford; Architect Mike Ladyk of 3rd Line Studios; Colliers Project Leaders Principal Andrew Wall and president of Laari Construction, Joel Tarvudd. The gifts were icon images of pine trees in metal silhouettes created by M’Chigeeng’s own OneKwe.

Elder Josh Eshkawkogan delivered a teaching on the directions, complemented by the creation of tobacco ties (semma) with the traditional colours of the directions, assisted by Dean Hare (alumni); Martin Panamick (new ASIRC student); Dave Hall (trades manager); Stephanie Roy (KT president); Hazel Recollet (UCCMM); Anna Marie Abitong (chairperson) and Billy Debassige (community).

Following the ceremonies, Mr. Hall conducted tours of the building and a light feast was enjoyed by those attending.