Arson suspected after blaze at aboriginal cultural centre
Second time Aboriginal Experiences on Victoria Island must rebuild after fire in 2010
An aboriginal cultural centre on Victoria Island has lost artwork, traditional dress and other sacred items in a fire police are investigating as arson.
The Aboriginal Experience cultural centre spent years rebuilding after a fire in 2010, and will now have to pick up the pieces once more, said executive director Trina Mather-Simard.
"My first thought was, 'Again?' We suffered a very large devastating fire in 2010 and lost our longhouse and most of our cultural displays at the time. So I was frustrated," she said.
Staff estimate the fire caused at least $50,000 in damage but artistic director Rhonda Doxtator said much of what was lost had sentimental importance that's difficult to measure in dollars.
"It was very, very sad to see that a lot of the sacred items were either singed or burnt altogether or melted. So that was very disheartening," Doxtator said.
"When you lose an entire regalia, hours and hours are put into designing and creating and sewing and beading, quilling. So with all that energy spent and put into these regalia, it feels a lot like losing someone close to you."
Victoria Island has been a meeting place for the Algonquin nation for thousands of years, and the centre is been a popular tourist attraction for more than 15,000 people a year.
Mather-Simard said she plans to meet with the elders' council from Kitigan Zibi to figure out how to secure and protect the land in the future.
The centre opened for the season two weeks ago. It will continue to accommodate visits but not without challenges, she said.
"It's gonna really impact what we have to do to continue to offer the kind of experience that we do to our visitors," she said.