Opaskwayak Announces a New, Affordable Apartment Block in Downtown Winnipeg
Opaskwayak Chief and council were in Winnipeg on Jan. 11 to celebrate a “ground-breaking” announcement.
Opaskwayak, along with the federal and provincial governments announced a combined $17.4 million investment that will fund the construction of 69 new apartment units in downtown Winnipeg.
The 7-storey concrete/steel apartment block, owned and operated by Opaskwayak, will provide quality and affordable living for students, young families and Elders living in Winnipeg when it opens in the summer of 2024. The building will be energy efficient and have heated underground parking and free water and high-speed internet for every unit.
“This is a symbol of economic reconciliation,” said Chief Sidney Ballantyne. “It’s an example of municipal, provincial and federal government and our Cree Nation coming together to tackle the housing crisis in this city, our province and among First Nations people.”
The new downtown building located at 380 Young Street is a one-minute walk to the University of Winnipeg, nearby all major bus routes and will be a mix of affordable living with over 40 percent of the rental units being offered at highly discounted rates.
“The lower rent will ease the financial stresses of Opaskwayak students, along with other Indigenous students,” said Chief Ballantyne. “It will allow them to focus on their schoolwork and their career paths.”
“When young people leave Opaskwayak and come into the city, we know that that is a point of vulnerability,” said Manitoba Families Minister Rochelle Squires. “We know now that they are going to have a safe place to call home, wrapped in their own community.”
The Celebration Ceremony
The announcement was preceded by a Pipe Ceremony for Opaskwayak Chief and Council and staff at the OCN Child & Family Services Building.
After the Pipe Ceremony, Opaskwayak joined city officials, Paragon Design Build, CMHC, Community Leaders, the media and stakeholders at the Axworthy Health & RecPlex.
The celebration began with a drum song performed by Clinton Whitehead and Robert Obey and an opening prayer from Elder Irene Young. Michael Hutchinson, former host of APTN and CTV Morning News, emceed the event and introduced the speakers: Hon. Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion; Hon. Daniel Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs and Minister responsible for Prairies Economic Development Canada; Minister Squires; Chief Ballantyne; and Nigel Furgus, CEO of Paragon Design Build.
During Chief Ballantyne’s speech, he presented Chief Gordon Bluesky of Brokenhead Ojibway Nation and representative of the Treaty One Nation with a star blanket and yellow print and thanked him for welcoming Opaskwayak to do business within Treaty One territory.
At the end of the celebration, everyone was invited to the project site across the street for a land blessing, honour song and sod turning.
An Investment in our Future
Ginger Martin, Executive Director of Business Enterprises, stood to the right of Chief Bannatyne at the sod turning, to help break the ground before the building is constructed.
Martin spent the last two and a half years as the 380 Young Street Apartments project lead for Opaskwayak. She has worked alongside Paragon Design Build, CMHC, OCN leadership and Pitblado Law to see the project from idea to execution and will continue working with the leasing management company after the apartment officially opens.
“The vision of past leadership is to be acknowledged as this project is the first of its kind for this nation,” said Martin. “The continued support of current leadership has built the experience and strong partnerships which has enabled us to walk through this process confidently.”
Martin’s role includes ensuring that revenues and benefits from the apartment go back into the community on reserve and in Winnipeg. The generated revenue will be invested into funding similar future projects and developing housing initiatives on the reserve.
“380 Young Street is a stepping stone for this generation and the next,” said Martin. “Projects like this will allow Opaskwayak to continue as an independent and progressive First Nation.”
This project reflects a great deal of work from many dedicated people:
Chief and Council: Tapwe Kiche for recognizing and supporting a positive vision for our community.
The Business Enterprises Branch: Tapwe Kiche for your work on securing this apartment block over the past two years: this would not be possible without your hard work and dedicated staff.
Our Funding Partners: thank you to the federal government, through the National Housing Strategy’s National Housing Co-Investment Fund and the provincial government, through Efficiency Manitoba. This is a concrete example of economic reconciliation.
Paragon Design Build and CMHC: You are bringing quality and truly affordable housing to this city’s downtown core, the University of Winnipeg, and of course, Opaskwayak.
“Opaskwayak has so much to be proud of, to be thankful for and to be hopeful about,” said Chief Ballantyne. “Tapwe kiche to the members of Opaskwayak. This is an investment made with you in mind.”