Kitchener-Waterloo

Activists urge regional council to invest in local Indigenous community hub

Members of the local Indigenous community are asking the region to invest in a proposed Indigenous community hub that would offer a variety of services. 

Proposal suggests former Charles Street Bus Terminal an option for hub location

This is a blueprint of the Indigenous community hub created by Enoch Liu and Niara van Gaalen, University of Waterloo architect students. This image outlines what the hub could possibly look like at the former Charles Street Bus Terminal. (Submitted by Enoch Liu and Niara van Gaalen)

Members of the local Indigenous community are asking the region to invest in a proposed Indigenous community hub that would offer a variety of services. 

Amy Smoke and Bangishimo Johnston, co-founders of the Land Back Camp, pitched the idea to regional council at a 2022 budget meeting on Monday. 

"We are people that are constantly displaced in our homelands. We do not have a physical building to call our own home. We do not have an Indigenous community centre. We do not have a friendship centre. We do not have an Indigenous community hub," Johnston said. 

A hub would offer a space for gathering as well as support services including child care, safe consumption and transitional housing, the proposal suggests.

It calls on the region to allocate $15 million, designated for Black and Indigenous initiatives, for an Indigenous community hub, Smoke and Johnston said.

The proposal suggests the former Charles Street Bus Terminal could be transformed into a hub; however, the proposal indicated the community is open to other locations as well. Smoke said they can consider land the region deems as surplus that is also accessible. 

"The land acknowledgement you gave at the very beginning that was read, recited out, at the beginning of this meeting … that's wonderful. But if we are acknowledging the stolen land that we are on, what is the region doing to actively give that land back?" Smoke said at the virtual meeting on Monday. 

You can watch the full public budget meeting below:

Council approves consultations 

Smoke and Johnston said they worked with University of Waterloo architecture students to come up with blueprints for what the hub could look like. It would include a space for a fire, a garden to grow food and medicine, a youth centre and spaces for ceremony.

Coun. Tom Galloway asked whether staff could evaluate some vacated daycare centres to be considered as a location for the hub. 

"I'm wondering whether or not those facilities are the kind of thing that might be the candidates for this kind of use," he said.

Ultimately, council agreed to ask staff to begin consultations with local Indigenous organizations about what their needs are in relation to this proposal. 

"We want this conversation to start happening," Johnston said.

A breakdown of what the hub could look like at the former Charles Street Bus Terminal. (Submitted by Enoch Liu and Niara van Gaalen)

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