Economic renewal takes root on First Nations land in Esquimalt

Songhees Nation involved in marine training, wellness centre development

Songhees Nation Coun. Ron Sam sits in a classroom at the Industrial Marine Training and Applied Research Centre

When Songhees Nation leaders first heard about Seaspan’s $8-billion shipbuilding contract, they knew an unprecedented economic opportunity was taking shape.

The late Chief Robert Sam and councillors began talks with the federal and provincial governments in 2011, looking at ways to take advantage of the Songhees’ proximity to the neighbouring Esquimalt Graving Dock.

On Tuesday, their hard work and negotiations came to fruition with the opening of the Industrial Marine Training and Applied Research Centre, a 1,200-square-metre education facility on Maplebank Road, and more importantly, on Songhees land.

“For too many years, we’ve been excluded from this land,” Songhees Coun. Ron Sam said at a joint press conference that included IMTARC executive director Alex Rueben, Seaspan president Malcolm Barker, B.C. Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Ida Chong, and Lynne Yelich, the federal minister of state for western economic development.

“We’re entering into a relationship of mutual benefit,” Sam said.

The training centre, comprised of two classrooms, a computer lab and offices, can handle about 50 students at a time and will provide customized curriculum, ranging from safety certifications to project management for the shipbuilding and repair industry.

By leasing land for the project, the Songhees were able to secure funding for its planned $16-million wellness centre, a health, administration, tourism, education and recreation facility set to open next year.

“It’s going to be our economic engine, part of our nation,” Sam said later in an interview. “There’s going to be a lot of business development through the centre that will spur on a lot of economic development for our people.”

While Songhees band council is still ironing out marketing and facility management details, the wellness centre will serve as an anchor for community services and schooling, said Fran L’Hirondelle, education co-ordinator.

“We’re going to bring all of our classes, K-12, under one roof,” she said.

The project is on budget and scheduled to open Jan. 22, 2014, said Richard Mandy, project manager.

Mandy has been making the rounds at various chambers of commerce and municipal councils over the past few months, scoping out potential tourism, marketing and other business partnerships.

“We know there’s got to be a balance of renting it out and keeping time open for band members, but we have to find that balance yet. It’s still a work in progress,” Sam said.

For now, there is an abundance of interest from Songhees members who want to get into the training centre at an entry level.

“We have members who are very keen to get into this school,” he said. “We hope in working with Alex (Rueben) and his team, our members will have thriving careers in shipbuilding.”

dpalmer@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Hundreds rally in support of horse carriages outside Victoria City Hall

Crowd angry with Coun. Ben Isitt’s motion to ban local horse carriage industry

Rifflandia Festival cancelled for 2019

Early Bird tickets can be refunded at point of purchase, or held and redeemed for 2020

Five-month bridge closure poses early impacts on drivers during rush hour

Construction began Tuesday on the crossing commonly known as the Bay Street bridge

Several hundred SD 62 students team up to clean the shoreline

Effort aimed at keeping Esquimalt and Albert Head Lagoon trash-free

New virgin queen headlines ‘Bee Day’ at Saanich sanctuary

Taste bee spit and check out the hive at Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary this Sunday

VIDEO: Canadian, U.S. Coast guards run oil spill response drills

20 vessels were on the water to practice international response methods

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of May 21

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Were you satisfied with the Game of Thrones series finale?

Millions gathered in front of their televisions Sunday night to watch the… Continue reading

Raptors beat Bucks 105-99 to move within 1 game of NBA Finals

Leonard scores 35 as Toronto takes 3-2 series lead over Milwaukee

B.C. Supreme Court dismisses review around ferry workers’ right to strike

B.C. Ferry and Marine Workers’ Union collective agreement expires November 2020

Young Victoria distillery earns prestigious Scotch awards

Scottish influences range from techniques to ‘kilted tours’ at award-winning business

Municipalities protest after B.C. declares marijuana crops ‘farm use’

UBCM president seeks answers in letter to John Horgan government

CMHC defends mortgage stress test changes amid calls for loosening rules

Uninsured borrowers must now show they could service their mortgage if rates rose two per cent

Brewpub offers ‘boat valet’ for paddlers during Surfrider celebration tonight

Free ‘Surf Formal’ evening features a local art auction, door prizes, live music

Most Read