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Multi-million dollar First Peoples' Gathering House to be built at SFU
The Simon Fraser University campus is pictured in April 2019. (Gary Barndt / CTV News Vancouver)
VANCOUVER -- A First Peoples' Gathering House will be built at Simon Fraser University, B.C.'s advanced education minister announced Friday.
Melanie Mark, minister of advanced education skills and training, made the announcement alongside SFU's president, Andrew Petter and B.C.'s minister of state for child care, Katrina Chen.
The $15-million gathering house, which will be used as a ceremonial space to celebrate Indigenous knowledge and culture, will open in 2023 and will be 15,000 square feet.
The space will be able to host events with up to 300 attendees and will include a dressing room, an Elders' room, a classroom, a wellness room and a food service kitchen.
The provincial government is contributing $6.4 million and the university is giving $8.6 million to the project.
"This is going to be an amazing building," Mark said. "It's going to be a building that we can celebrate our culture, celebrate our identity, come together support each other to cross the finish line."
During her announcement, Mark, who is Indigenous, explained she was the first person in her family to graduate from university.
"Education didn't have the best impact on our history," she said, saying that members of her family were sent to residential schools.
"What this means to me is beyond words. Our determination as Indigenous people is to not only survive but thrive against the conditions that have been put in front of us."
The announcement comes two days before National Indigenous Peoples Day.
"There is profound racism going on right now and people are fighting for their lives. They're fighting for freedom and a sense of pride," Mark said.
"I want to see light in our communities … so when we think about National Indigenous Day, it's not on Indigenous people. It's not up to us to change the world's view."