CAIRS’ move to DQ will treat clients right

When the Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools moves into the old Dairy Queen building, you won’t be able to get a Blizzard.

When the Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools moves into the old Dairy Queen building, you won’t be able to get a Blizzard.

But the drive-thru might reopen.

“Come summer time, who knows?” laughed CAIRS executive director Kevin Barr.

“We are a non-profit organization looking to be self-sustaining. We might have some bannock at the take-out window.”

The organization offers culture programming to the community for aboriginal and non-aboriginals 18-years of age and older.

Open five days a week, CAIRS was originally set up by the national Aboriginal Healing Foundation, which still provides funding, to assist people through the residential school settlement process.

CAIRS singed a long-term lease that runs until March 2010. The move from its current centre at the Salvation Army should be completed by the end of October.

The need for a new, larger space has been on the minds of CAIRS employees for several years, said Barr.

New funding from the healing foundation has made expansion possible and will permit CAIRS to improve its services.

“We have a shop and a drop-in centre and do some group work, so in the past we’ve had to stop one program to make room for another one,” said Barr.

“When we’d start the men’s circle, the drop-in centre would not be open for that hour. Same for the women’s circle. Now we can have things run simultaneously.”

CAIRS provides counseling and advocacy for people affected by residential schools. It does community work outside Whitehorse and also offers art and music programs, hunting trips and lessons on tanning hides and making fish nets.

CAIRS carries art from local artists and clients, including handmade knives, mukluks, beadwork, rattles and drums, carvings, paintings and masks. The new location will improve the visibility of the artwork, said Barr.

“We will be able to have a better retail advantage in that central location,” he added.

“People downtown can stop by if they want a flavour of First Nations culture and get a mask or some soapberry ice cream.”

The Dairy Queen on 2nd Avenue closed in July after its owner failed to find a buyer.

The current space consists of a shop area and a large open space. Plans for the new location include a separate group meeting room and a private counseling office.

Funding had held back the expansion, but a chunk of a $25-million cash injection into the Aboriginal Healing Foundation came to CAIRS for the move.

Barr declined to say how much CAIRS will pay in monthly rent, but said it was the “going rate for a downtown property.”

Barr is hoping CAIRS will be open evenings and weekends at the new location.

“We’ve been looking to do that for sometime and it looks like we might be getting the funding to do it,” said Barr.

An open house will be announced later this month.

People can still contact CAIRS during the move at 667-2247, as employees will be checking messages to maintain operations.