Traditions, legacy and thankfulness were the watchwords at an unusual groundbreaking ceremony today (Aug. 10) where people laughed, joked and sang as dignitaries spoke from the hearts.
With a stunning view of Coquitlam River as a backdrop under a blazing summer sky, officials joined members of the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm First Nation (KFN) in a blessing for the construction of a 14-unit housing development on their land.
“Our goal is for housing so you can come home,” said John Peters, a councillor who manages the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm housing portfolio, in speaking to elders and other KFN members who attended the event.
Acknowledging past challenges, Peters said the land had been flooded several times in the past, and would again if it not for the foresight of a previous chief who built the property up to withstand high waters.
The multi-use housing project will be built on the KFN’s ancient village site, now called slakəya'nc (meaning "young sockeye").
Chief Ed Hall told the Tri-City News it’s taken four years of work to build partnerships with various levels of government to obtain the funding and support for the project.
“You can see dreams coming to fruition,” said Hall, of the $2.9-million project for which the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm are contributing $1.7 million in land value.
Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson, who is also B.C.’s finance minister, called the project “historic” and said it’s important to have housing so people can “age with dignity and grace.”
“As the first province to invest in on-Nation housing, our government is proud to be partnering with the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm First Nation to deliver these safe and secure homes for Indigenous people, families and elders,” Robinson said.
Among the highlights of the event was a blanket ceremony and gifting of partners and an introduction to the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm language.
Emcee Stephen Armstrong also called witnesses representing youth, adults and seniors to share the story of the proceedings and what the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm “are doing for us to move forward as a family.”
kʷikʷəƛ̓əm's Lot 16 development is the first to be constructed in the Lower Mainland with the support of the Indigenous Housing Fund — a 10-year, $550-million investment.
Through its new Indigenous Housing Fund, the province has provided $2.9 million to the project and will provide approximately $58,500 in annual operating funding. KFN Housing Society will operate the new affordable homes.
A federal contribution is being made through Indigenous Services Canada, which is providing a subsidy of $825,000 under its Housing Support Program.
The homes are also the first to be built by the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm First Nation under their new Land Code – passed in 2020 – which transfers the management of reserve lands from the Canadian government back to the KFN.
The management of these lands has been in federal government hands since 1876.
These affordable homes will include energy-saving features, such as solar panels on the roofs.
Construction on the three-building development will start on Aug. 16, with completion expected within 18 months.
As part of the Nation's efforts to revitalize traditions, language and culture, members of the kʷikʷəƛ̓əm First Nation will decide on a name for this housing project in their hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ language later this year.