With Ottawa’s new budget poised to bring back the office remodeling business, the chief executive of a First Nations community in Manitoba says the city is trying to turn a profit, not destroy the culture.
“I don’t want to ruin the history,” said Paul Martin.
“But we have to stop being a pawn.”
Martin has been spearheading a campaign to save the First Nation’s headquarters on Parliament Hill and has launched a petition drive for the rest of the community.
The office of the aboriginal affairs minister is also set to lose millions of dollars after it is remodeled.
The first building to be demolished was the old Capitol Hill, which closed in 2006, and a new building is being built next door.
Martin said he would like to see the office of aboriginal affairs and the legislature renovated so it can function as an academic centre.
He said the first building’s design, and the current design of the building, were done at a cost of more than $50 million.
“We’re not going to pay that much, especially with a $30 million budget,” he said.
Martin is also calling for a $25 million annual savings in funding for First Nations organizations.
Martin said the cost of rebuilding is going to be prohibitive, especially for the community of Dauphin and surrounding First Nations communities.
“If you want to see us have a healthy society, we have a responsibility to the people we serve and we have an obligation to the planet,” he told The Globe and Mail.
“And to the culture of the people, we need to protect it, not ruin it.”
The First Nation was founded in 1867 by the French settlers who took over the land from the Métis in the 1830s.
The first buildings built on the site are from the era, but some of the original structures remain.
The new buildings have an additional $40 million cost, according to the province’s budget.
A new building in Winnipeg’s north end was expected to cost $100 million.
The city’s budget is also facing questions about the proposed budget cuts to aboriginal affairs.
Martin called on the provincial government to commit to maintaining funding for aboriginal organizations.
“The city needs to protect the cultural heritage of the First Nations people.
We’re going to continue to fight to protect that.
If we can’t do that, we’re going out of business,” he added.”
It’s a pretty steep price to pay.”
The city also needs to save money on office furniture and furniture for seniors and students, as well as the cost to maintain the office, he said, and to put money toward other important projects like a new sports stadium and a community centre.
“What we need is to save $30 to $40 (million) and put that money toward the maintenance of the office,” Martin said.
“We’re talking about the cost.
We need to make it a viable business, not just an office.”
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