Thunder Bay First Nations centre would welcome all youth

The Thunder Bay Indian Friendship Centre has set its sights on a new youth centre — but to get to its goal, it says it needs some big dollars from Thunder Bay city hall.

Some neighbours concerned about Intercity-area location

Thunder Bay's Indian Friendship Centre wants to redevelop the former Prosvita Hall on South High Street into an inclusive centre for youth. (Gord Ellis/CBC)


  • Neighbours concerned about facility's location

The Thunder Bay Indian Friendship Centre has set its sights on a new youth centre — but to get to its goal, it says it needs some big dollars from Thunder Bay city hall.

The youth centre would be built as the first step in a three-phase conversion of the former Prosvita Hall on south High Street near Memorial Avenue.

The cost is estimated to be $3 million.

Bernice Dubec, the executive director at the Friendship Centre, said young people have told her they need their own space to hang out.

"There's been many studies, research and community forums where the youth have said they want to have an inclusive, safe building that they could go to,” she said.

The new centre would be open to all young people.

"I think it's very important that we promote an environment that is inclusive, and also an environment where we can learn from each other."

Eventually the Friendship Centre would move its offices and Family Resource centre to the new facility, Dubec said.

That would bring the overall cost to $10 million.

The bulk of the funding would come from the provincial and federal governments, she said, but the city is being asked for $2.5 million.

City council will receive a report on the project at its meeting on Monday. Council won't make any decisions immediately, but may consider the spending in its 2014 budget.

Centre 'in the wrong area'

Meanwhile, a group of homeowners near the proposed youth centre is expressing concerns about the location.

Michael Lemesani, who lives in the neighbourhood of the former Port Arthur Prosvita on South High Street, said renovations and additions the Indian Friendship Centre is proposing for the building won't fit in with the area.

“As residents here are saying, we're not against the youth centre,” he said. “We do believe there should be a youth centre. But we do believe that the youth centre that is picked is in the wrong area."

Lemesani said residents are concerned about young people walking the streets because they're unable to locate the building.

"There is a lot of concern with regards to the security, safety, vandalism, [and] graffiti. We already have graffiti in our area."

He also said immediate neighbours will also lose green space to a proposed parking lot.


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