Ile-a-la Crosse Friendship Centre turns 20

by Rhonda Cooper

The Northern Village of Ile-a-la Crosse celebrated the grand opening of its new Friendship Centre Feb. 29. Local dignitaries and residents were joined by visitors from La Ronge, Buffalo Narrows and Saskatoon to not only officially open the new facility but also to commemorate the centre’s 20th anniversary in the community.

Martin Durocher, who was part of the steering committee to get the Friendship Centre established in the village, emceed the event.

“There were many people who were a part of establishing the Friendship Centre here,” he said. “Some of them are no longer with us but they were an integral part of making it happen. After some tragic events, our community came together and decided we needed to have something for our youth. We have come a long way.”

Ile-a-la Crosse mayor Duane Favel noted the project was a long-time coming but much progress has been made.

“The Friendship Centre in partnership with the board has established some good relationships,” he said. “Those are allowing us to offer programming not only in Ile-a-la Crosse but also throughout Northern Saskatchewan.”

Athabasca MLA Buckley Belanger recalled the difficulty in establishing the centre because it was initially met with much resistance.

“Buffalo Narrows favoured having a satellite centre here,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for their support, the Friendship Centre may not have happened.”

Belanger encouraged the residents of Ile-a-la Crosse to not get comfortable in their own zones and to continue to keep progressing and start to shift their focus to the business sector.

“Never think your work is done,” said Belanger. “You need to keep building.”

The role of the Friendship Centre within the community was spotlighted by Ile-a-la Crosse’s director of education Lon Borgerson and CEO of Keewatin-Yatthé Health Region Richard Petit.

“Our paths cross wherever there are students,” said Borgerson. “The highly successful Store Front and Headstart programs are examples of the work the Friendship Centre does.”

Petit recalled, “I was on the Buffalo Narrows Friendship Centre board when Ile-a-la Crosse started and now this centre is the envy of the Northwest with how you all work together to offer programming for your community.”

Following words from provincial representatives of the Aboriginal Friendship Centres of Saskatchewan and the presentation of commemorative plaques and artwork to Durocher, he cut the ribbon ending the official part of the ceremony.

“We have eight full-time and two part-time staff,” said Myra Malbouef, executive director of the Friendship Centre. “In this new 32×80 building we provide the Kids First, prenatal, parent mentoring programs as well as offices for the court workers. We also are in charge of the recreation and youth centres as well as the pre-school.”

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