Indian Youth Friendship Society lobbies for Prosvita project

The Thunder Bay Indian Youth Society is urging the city to not give up on its plan for a youth centre despite issues with funding.

The city has said there aren't enough funds to purchase and renovate the Prosvita building

The former Port Arthur Prosvita hall in Thunder Bay's north end will eventually become a Wacky Wings restaurant — now that some issues have been settled between the developers and those opposed to the project. (Gord Ellis/CBC)

The Thunder Bay Indian Youth Friendship Society is urging the city to not give up on its plan for a youth centre despite issues with funding.

The group wants the city – as well as the Ontario government – to continue in a move to purchase the Prosvita building on High Street  in order to convert it to a multi-use youth centre.

“The province of Ontario has an obligation to provide crucial social services for all Ontarians, including Aboriginal people living off-reserve, and especially our youth,” said Bernice Dubec, executive director of the Friendship Society in a news release.

“All governments regardless of their constitutional mandates have a responsibility to ensure that Aboriginal people off-reserve have access to equal opportunities, program and services.”

The statement from the Society said the centre would require a capital investment of $1 million to purchase the building and another $2.3 million to make suitable renovations.

The city of Thunder Bay was prepared to contribute to the project, on the condition both federal and provincial funding was available

But the city recently announced the project could not proceed because the federal government had no specific funding for it, and the province would only contribute if the federal government participated. Mayor Keith Hobbs said this left the project "pretty dead in the water."

Hobbs added, however, that the city would look into other cheaper options for a youth centre, but the Friendship Society is hoping the purchase of the Prosvita building is still a possibility. 

Debbie Sault, president of the Society, says she commends the support of the city and community members to date, but "creating a healthy, vibrant and strong future for our youth and the broader community is worthy of all governments."