Province doubles funding for First Nations Cultural Centre 

Opening of $20 million facility pushed back to 2007

With another $3 million injection from the provincial government, the First Nations Cultural Centre is back on track and preparing for a mid-2007 opening.

The centre, located in the Upper Village on the land opposite the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, was to open in 2006 but funding shortfalls have pushed back that date.

"The date changed because of our funding," said Squamish Chief Gibby Jacob after a traditional ceremony on the site Monday. "We didn’t have enough funding to start with the construction so our best thing to do was to waylay it until we did have the correct amount of money to do the construction, so that’s why it was pushed back a year."

Monday’s $3 million announcement on the grounds of what will become a $20 million facility showcasing Squamish and Lil’wat Nations culture and heritage was welcome news, he added.

Premier Gordon Campbell announced the new funding, bringing the provincial government’s contribution to $6 million to date.

"This is the first time, the first time in Canada, where two First Nations have come together to share their history, to share their culture, and to share their excitement about their future with everyone else," said Campbell to the crowd.

"We are going to commit $6 million to be sure this can be the best it can possibly be for everyone who’s involved."

This provincial contribution puts the total funding for the centre at $13.7 million – $6 million from the province, $4.7 million from the federal government and $3 million from corporate sponsor Bell Canada.

There is still a ways to go said Jacob, especially given the steadily escalating costs of steel and concrete, among other things, but he remains optimistic.

"We’re going to make it through," he said, standing amid construction workers and machinery for site excavation.

A symbol of that optimism was a scroll, signed by dignitaries, and placed in a hermetically sealed tube then covered in concrete. The concrete block will be part of the entranceway to the centre.

Campbell read aloud its message, which said in part: "In celebration of the enduring culture and history of the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations and in recognition of their commitment to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games, these partners and the government of Canada have come together to establish a unique landmark, a facility that will stand as a lasting legacy of the promise of a shared vision of prosperity and opportunity for all."

A replica of the scroll will hang inside the centre, as the original remains incased in concrete.

Lil’wat Chief Leonard Andrew spoke briefly of his skepticism of the project when he came on board midstream, after winning the Mount Currie election in March of 2003. The project had been started under Chief Allen Stager.

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