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N.W.T.'s Aboriginal wellness centre will go ahead, health minister assures

Despite concerns that an Aboriginal wellness centre would not be included in Yellowknife’s new hospital, the N.W.T.’s health minister is assuring Indigenous leaders that it will go ahead.

Hospital's elders' advisory council raised concerns that new hospital being built on land set aside for centre

The new Stanton Territorial Hospital, currently under construction in Yellowknife. Indigenous leaders raised concerns in February that the hospital was being built on land set aside for an Aboriginal wellness centre. (Pat Kane/CBC)

Despite concerns that an Aboriginal wellness centre would not be included in Yellowknife's new hospital, the N.W.T.'s health minister is assuring Indigenous leaders that it will go ahead.

Earlier this year, Indigenous leader Francois Paulette, the former chair of the Stanton Territorial Health Authority Elders' Advisory Council, told CBC he was upset that the new Stanton Territorial Hospital is being constructed on land set aside for the wellness centre.

Health minister Glen Abernethy says that despite the new Stanton Territorial Hospital being built on land set aside for an Aboriginal wellness centre, the centre will be built. (Pat Kane/CBC)
But Glen Abernethy, the N.W.T.'s Minister of Health and Social Services, says the plan remains to create the centre.  

Abernethy said he's setting up a new advisory group that will oversee its planning.

"We haven't nailed all the details on that down, we're still working on that," Abernethy said.

"We will continue to work with [the advisory group] to come up with a plan for an Aboriginal wellness centre, whether it's incorporated into the building or on-campus but off-site," he said.

In addition to a wellness centre, Abernethy said the group will be responsible for implementing traditional healing programs throughout the health care system under the new territorial health and social services authority superboard.  

"I convened a group of Aboriginal leaders in May where we talked about things we want to do across the system, not just at Stanton, but across the system, to incorporate traditional healing and traditional knowledge," he said.

Paulette says that the new centre needs to be "culturally based, culturally appropriate, culturally designed." (Pat Kane/CBC)

Needs to be culturally based

Paulette said it's "good to hear" that the centre is still in the works. But said he hopes the territorial government will consult Indigenous people in all regions.

"It has to be culturally based, culturally appropriate, culturally designed in a way that meets the integrity of the Dene, and it has to have a spiritual component to it," Paulette said.

He said he's not sure if he'd be willing to join the new advisory group, if invited.

Abernethy said the group is still being assembled and it's too early to say when construction on the new centre will begin.