Indian and Métis Friendship Centre robbed again, as community hub faces uncertain future

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There’s uncertain future at the Indian and Métis Friendship Centre, a North End community hub that had been used by thousands of people until it closed in October.

Two weeks ago the space was ransacked and damaged. Toilets, pipes and electrical wiring were ripped out, tossed around or stolen.

READ MORE: North End resource centre ransacked while closed

Bear Clan Patrol executive director James Favel said he learned this week vandals got to the building again.

Favel said someone broke into a shipping container on the property, got a ladder, climbed on the roof, and stole copper wiring from heating units, causing $90,000 in damage.

“They continue to go back and victimize that centre. It’s getting to the point where it’s seriously offensive,” Favel said.

“Whoever’s doing it feels bold enough that they can get away with it.”

The Manitoba Association of Friendship Centres (MAC) represents friendship centres in the province and allocates funding. It’s president David Gray told CTV News in a phone call Saturday the board of the Indian and Métis Friendship Centre was dysfunctional and it’s membership and funding were both suspended in 2018.

INDIAN AND MÈTIS FRIENDSHIP CENTRE BOARD

“Heart wrenching that it’s in the shape that it’s in,” said Norman Lagimodiere who has been on the board of the centre for two years and is the current president.

Lagimodiere said the board didn’t always agree with MAC.

He said the centre has close to $700,000 of debt but has been negotiating to get it back to the way it was.

“We’ve talked to a First Nation, and a First Nation has come forward and showed interest in keeping it a friendship centre and moving forward.”

FUTURE FRIENDSHIP CENTRE

Friday night community activist Kyle Mason helped organize a meeting about the centre and other lost community space in the North End.

Mason said he’s aware Thunderbird House has been struggling, and Neechi Commons and the North End Family Centre also closed.

“A number of us said, enough is enough, let’s have a conversation and find solutions,” said Mason who is a board member at the North End Community Renewal Corporation.

Mason said another meeting about community spaces and next steps is being planned.

MAC said it’s preparing to launch a request for proposals to establish a Winnipeg based friendship centre. The process is expected to launch in April.

“On February 6, 2019 a Notice of Motion was sent to the Indian & Metis Friendship Centre to advise them that a Motion to terminate membership is to be made at the March 8 & 9, 2019, MAC Quarterly Board meeting to be held in Dauphin, MB,” said MAC in a press release sent to CTV News.

“The purpose of MAC is to unify the member Friendship Centres of Manitoba into one strong voice addressing issues at the local, Provincial and National levels for the betterment of Indigenous people. The target groups are the Friendship Centres in the Province, which are originally intended to provide programs and service to Indigenous people who migrate from rural to urban settings.,” the release added.

James Favel believes some sort of friendship centre will come back, but not in the same building.

He said the Bear Clan Patrol is helping about 100 people a day at its officers on Selkirk Avenue.

“What I’m hearing is they are going to start a new friendship centre in Winnipeg, but we don’t know where in Winnipeg, and we need it here,” he said.

Norman Lagimodiere and James Favel both say they’re checking on the security of the Indian and Métis Friendship building daily.

They say they reported the vandalism and theft to Winnipeg police.



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