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Signs of Hope in La Loche as GDI receives Federal Funding

Sep 2, 2016

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By James Oloo

On January 22, 2016, many Canadians were shocked when they heard the news that four people had been killed and seven others injured in a shooting spree in La Loche. On August 16, 2016, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall recently noted that, “Since the terrible events of last January, the people of La Loche have inspired us with their resilience, unity, and optimism.” This month, the Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan made key announcements regarding La Loche. Gabriel Dumont Institute was an active partner at the two events. This article examines some of the key announcements, as well the role played by the Institute in La Loche.

According to the 2011 Statistics Canada Census data, almost seven out of every 10 people (68%) in La Loche self-identify as Métis.

GDI has operated in La Loche over the past several years to provide educational, employment, and cultural services to the Métis community. The Institute currently has seven employees in La Loche: Peggy Chartier, Amanda Tobin, and Victoria Murray (GDI Training and Employment), Jeannie Murray, Ernestine McNeil, and Taryn Ward (Dumont Technical Institute), and Lloyd Janvier (Gabriel Dumont Institute). Arlene Lemaigre joined the GDI Training and Employment team this month as an Employment Counsellor. Arlene takes over from Amanda Tobin who will be going back to school in the fall to work towards her bachelor of education degree through the Saskatchewan Urban Native Teacher Education Program (SUNTEP).

Over the past two years, the GDI La Loche Centre has had a total enrolment of 146 (97 in Adult Basic Education and 20 in various skills training programs including two clients in the GDI Aboriginal Apprenticeship Project). During the same period, the Institute funded 80 Métis people in La Loche to enable them get knowledge and skills that would make them more competitive whether they transition to higher education or labour market. Among the funded clients, 30 got jobs, 27 went for further education, and two started their own businesses.

On August 19, 2016, the Honourable Ralph Goodale, the federal Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, announced a $33.1-million post-secondary infrastructure investment at the University of Saskatchewan, the Gabriel Dumont Institute, and Carlton Trail College. Minister Goodale, who began his speech by declaring that, “It is good to stand here on Treaty 6 Territory and Homeland of the Métis,” stated that:

“Gabriel Dumont Institute will receive $880,000 for an expansion that will provide additional space for skills training and adult basic education to the community of La Loche. The Institute is providing an additional $100,000 for this project.”

The federal funding is allocated through the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund, and is intended to enhance and modernize research facilities on campuses across the country and improve the environmental sustainability of those facilities. Gabriel Dumont Institute Director of Finance and Operations Cory McDougall and the Institute Facility Manager Greg MacLeod did a commendable job in preparing a funding proposal within a very tight timeline. The proposal was approved for the funding announced by Minister Goodale.

On behalf of the Institute, Gabriel Dumont Institute Board Vice Chair Glenn Lafleur expressed his appreciation for the funding. He noted that, “The Gabriel Dumont Institute has provided 445 adult basic education seats in La Loche since 2010. As a result of the federal funding, an improved and expanded GDI La Loche Centre will provide capacity for increased enrolment in employer-driven skills training programs, helping the Institute to fully meet its skills and training mandate in the community of La Loche.” Also present at the announcement event held at the University of Saskatchewan were Gabriel Dumont Institute Executive Director Geordy McCaffrey, and the Director of Dumont Technical Institute Brett Vandale.

A few days before the funding announcement by Hon. Goodale, Government of Saskatchewan officials led by Premier Brad Wall returned to La Loche for an official visit. Premier Wall announced new initiatives and investments for the community. These included:

The Saskatchewan Housing Corporation will build a 14-unit affordable rental housing project in La Loche, based on a $1.4 million funding agreement between the Governments of Canada and Saskatchewan.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of the Economy has invested $465,000 in two new training programs in La Loche. Dumont Technical Institute and Northlands College will offer new Adult Basic Education, and skills training programs.

The Government of Saskatchewan has partnered with the First Nations University of Canada to offer a new Dene Teacher Education Program (DTEP). The four-year bachelor of education program will train local university students to teach at the local schools.

The Ministry of Health has hired an additional community mental health nurse, who will be providing counselling and around the clock on-call services. There is also a new suicide prevention worker/community wellness worker who has been hired.

Two new positions, Victims Services Coordinator, and Community Justice Coordinator, have been established by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice.

We would like to thank the Institute staff in La Loche for the great job you do and your service to La Loche.

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