Darius Elias wants a new community centre in Old Crow.
The community has invested its own time and money into planning the project, and now all they need is a commitment from the territorial government that the funds will be available.
The MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin brought the matter up to Community Services Minister Elaine Taylor on three occasions in the legislature over the last two weeks.
The minister didn’t make a firm commitment to the project. But she did repeatedly say that the government is committed to working with Old Crow to ensure that their infrastructure needs are met.
Taylor listed investments the government has made in Old Crow and other communities in recent years.
“I just came home from our community of Old Crow and the minister keeps referencing the water well and the new waste oxidization unit in the dump, but I didn’t see signs on those two buildings saying, ‘Hey kids, come play in here,’” said Elias.
The community is the only one in the Yukon without access to safe recreation facilities, he said.
A community hall built in 1984 was condemned earlier this year for health and safety violations.
Recreation opportunities are crucial to the health and sustainability of the community, said Elias.
When people move away from the community, it’s always one of three reasons, said Elias.
Either they seek employment, education, or recreational opportunities for their children.
“When I see the migration of the young families from my community it just hurts my heart.”
The Vuntut Gwitchin government first called for planning for a new recreation centre in 2000.
The elders cautioned the community not to ask for a handout, but to do the work themselves, said Elias.
“Historically, if we wanted a church, we built it ourselves. If we wanted a community hall, we built it.”
So they put thousands of volunteer hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars from a trust fund belonging to the people of Old Crow into designing and developing the plans for the new centre.
Now, they have schematic designs showing what the facility would look like, they have a feasibility study completed.
“We’re shovel ready,” said Elias.
He is hopeful that his efforts to sway the hearts and minds of the legislative assembly will pay off.
Taylor’s most recent response to him showed promise that the government will make this a priority, he said.
“Rest assured, we will continue to work with the Vuntut Gwitchin government on priorities, as identified with Vuntut Gwitchin government, through an inter-governmental accord that is currently underway between the premier and the chief and council,” said Taylor.
“We certainly recognize the very importance of this initiative to the citizens of Old Crow. We applaud the work that has been done, and we will continue to work to ensure that this does become a reality in days to come.”
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