The sounds of kids jumping, laughing and playing filled the air for the opening of a sparkling new recreation facility on the Saulteaux reserve.
Roughly 150 people including youth and Elders took part in the grand opening of the new Youth Recreation Cultural Centre in a special ceremony Friday.
Justin Gopher took advantage of the new facility by trying out a treadmill.
“It’s nice; it’s good to have one of these around the reserve,” Gopher said. “I’m pretty out of shape but I’m sure I’ll get better now that all this equipment is here.”
Saulteaux First Nation chief Kenny Moccasin said the facility was a long time coming.
“These facilities will help change the lives of our young people,” he said. “It’s a real good investment in our youth.”
The reserve received funding from the federal government through Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada in the late spring and came together to plan for the facility.
A number of reserves throughout the province received federal funding for recreation and culture projects.
The Saulteaux reserve created the youth centre and upgraded its arena with $150,000 in local revenue, combined with about $550,000 in federal funding.
“There should be no excuses that our people, our youth and elders, have nothing to do,” Moccasin said. “I feel proud of this grand opening because this is what people have talked about for years. Today we made it a reality. This is one way of promoting health and bringing the people together."
Moccasin said he hopes the youth will utilize the centre now that it's here, and not waste their time using drugs and alcohol or taking part in gang activity.
Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Chief Bobby Cameron described the new centre as a healthy environment for youth.
“It’s all about the youth. It’s encouraging them and reminding them that they are loved and valued,” said Cameron. “Saulteaux is doing that.”
The 4,000-square-foot centre includes a full gym with treadmills, steppers, weights and stationary bicycles, as well as a games area including pool tables and table tennis, a large seating area with a big screen TV, and a computer station with WiFi to help job seekers and for skills training. The facility also includes a full kitchen and bathroom.
The centre also features a space for the Elders to spend time with the youth, and several movie nights have been planned to bring people together.
“This is the perfect facility for building quality of life for youth,” Cameron said. “This is a place where people can take advantage and better their lives.”
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