Indigenous-led community centre coming to Waterloo region

Waterloo region is partnering with Anishnabeg Outreach to create an Indigenous-led child and family centre, a first for the area.

Anishnabeg Outreach to help develop Indigenous-focused cultural programs for child and family centre

Anishnabeg Outreach currently operates out of this space at 151 Frederick St., and plan to rent another facility for their new Indigenous child and family centre. (Google Street View)

Waterloo region is partnering with Anishnabeg Outreach to create an Indigenous-led child and family centre, a first for the area.

"I'm extremely excited to provide this service to the region," Stephen Jackson, executive director of Anishnabeg Outreach said.

"It's needed and I think it will go a long way toward moving the community in a positive direction."

Anishnabeg Outreach will receive $467,500 in 2018 and $300,000 in 2019 through the province's Journey Together reconciliation initiative to fund the project.

The centre will have Indigenous-focused cultural programs in addition to the traditional child and family programing. It will also offer employment services and focus on spirit building and ways to move forward.

"Instead of looking at guilt or rehashing the past or past problems, we're looking at building and moving forward," Jackson said, adding that the centre will look to build programing around people's needs.

Anishnabeg Outreach will work with the YMCA, the region's children's services and other early years partners to help guide the creation of their own programs.

A beacon for Indigenous people

Jackson, who is Métis, said there is a big need in the community for an Indigenous-focused child and family centre.

There are 19,285 Indigenous residents in Waterloo region, according to the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network.

Jackson said there are few Indigenous centres in the region and he hopes the new Indigenous child and family centre will become a central place for Indigenous people in the area.

"I would say this is going to be a beacon for Indigenous in the area, who maybe haven't identified or haven't participated for a variety of reasons," he said.

A recent assessment from the Healing of Seven Generations identified that many Indigenous families in the region did not feel comfortable going to mainstream child and family centres.

"[Families] did not feel like they belonged, did not feel like they were in a program that reflected them and reflected what they needed to be able to grow and develop," Barb Cardow, director of children services for the region told CBC News.

"This child and family centre is in direct response to that identified need. Many families for the first time will be able to access the kind of program they have wanted, but hasn't been available."

Jackson plans to seek other Indigenous partners to provide additional services, and hopes the centre will be ready to open in coming months.