The chair of the Stanton Territorial Health Authority Elders' Advisory Council says land the territorial government set aside in Yellowknife for an aboriginal wellness centre is being blasted to lay the foundation for the new Stanton Territorial Hospital.

"In June [2015], we were told by the minister [of Health and Social Services, Glen Abernethy] that we would be given a wellness centre, and the land was identified," said Francois Paulette.

"And here this whole hill was just clear cut. I was wondering, 'What is going on?' The site that they were clearing was the site designated for the wellness centre."

The awarding of a contract to build a new hospital was announced last September. The territorial government didn't initially plan to build an entirely new hospital, instead putting out a request for proposals to update the existing hospital. But Boreal Health Partnerships, the winning contractor, submitted a plan for an entirely new hospital to sit beside the existing building.

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Francois Paulette, chair of the Stanton Territorial Health Authority Elders' Advisory Council, says the council hasn't heard from the territorial government since last summer.

Paulette said the elders' advisory council, which last met in December, hasn't heard from the territorial government since last summer. He said a letter addressed to Abernethy after the blasting began last fall has also received no response.

"Bad communication, bad politics, bad leadership," he said.

'Very early days'

Derek Elkin, an assistant deputy minister with the Department of Health and Social Services, says it's still possible for the wellness centre to be located between the site of the new hospital and the shore of Frame Lake.

"As we were doing the planning for the overall campus [for] the new hospital, we made sure that when we asked for proposals from the potential partners, that they allow for space within the site to accommodate a potential aboriginal wellness centre" said Elkin.

But Elkin said a location for the centre has not been determined.

Sue Cullen, CEO of the Stanton Territorial Health Authority, said planning for the centre is still in "very early days."

She said one of the chief challenges of the project is making sure it meets the needs of the territory's many aboriginal groups.

The elders advisory council has envisioned the centre as a place where aboriginal people from the territory could go for traditional ceremonies such as smudging, food, language, medicines and healers. Some of those activities, such as smudging, could not take place in the new hospital because of fire regulations, Cullen said.

Another facility is further along the planning process: the territorial government has included a 18-bed extended care facility in its 2016-2017 capital plan. No capital estimate has been cited (a builder hasn't even been chosen yet), but it's hoped construction will wrap up by 2019 — the same year the new hospital is scheduled to open.

The government hasn't selected a location for that facility either.