Cultural centre, solar panels part of $12.5M announced for Inuvik, Fort McPherson

The Northwest Territory communities of Inuvik and Fort McPherson (Teetł'it Zheh), are receiving $12.5 million for two green energy buildings.

'These projects will generate economic activity,' says MP Michael McLeod

A portrait of five people smiling.
From left: Inuvik Mayor Clarence Wood, Teetl’it Gwich’in Chief Wanda Pascal, Mary Teya, MP Michael McLeod and Joanne Snowshoe. (Karli Zschogner)

The Northwest Territories communities of Inuvik and Fort McPherson (Teetł'it Zheh) are receiving more than $12.5 million for two green energy projects.

The announcement was made Wednesday afternoon by MP Michael McLeod in Inuvik's Midnight Sun recreation centre. 

Part of the funds — more than $5.5 million — will be used to install 1,000-kilowatt solar panel upgrades and battery backups to help offset energy costs and use of diesel and natural gas at the Midnight Sun Complex, McLeod said.

"We need to continue to invest in these type of facilities as we work towards our goal of achieving zero emissions by 2050," he said.

The rest of the funds — more than $7 million — will go toward the construction of a new cultural wellness centre in Fort McPherson, in part to promote land-based knowledge sharing and preserve cultural history.

The cultural centre will provide spaces for residents and visitors to promote land-based knowledge sharing, preserve cultural history, socialize and participate in a variety of programs, a news release reads.

It will feature a "large architectural Teepee entrance," with three learning rooms for tutoring, adult education, and skills development, and a place for the community to host cultural events.

"In addition to providing Inuvik and Fort McPherson residents with access to much needed community spaces," McLeod said, "these projects will generate economic activity."

Model for other Indigenous communities

The announcement was made alongside Inuvik Mayor Clarence Wood and outgoing Teetl'it Gwich'in Chief Wanda Pascal.

Wood said the investment for solar panels at the Midnight Sun Complex aligns with the community's energy plan to reduce GHG emissions by 50 per cent or 363.2 tonnes.

A woman speaks at a podium.
Teetl’it Gwich’in Chief Wanda Pascal speaks at a funding announcement on Wednesday, July 27, 2022. (Karli Zschogner/CBC)

And Pascal said she had been advocating for the wellness centre project for more than three years. She said she hopes the net-zero building will inspire other Indigenous communities to follow suit.

"The net-zero building was included as part of the energy plan to demonstrate our part to lesson our reliance on diesel consumption, to increase the use of clean energy and to be the model for other Indigenous communities to follow," Pascal said.

She said the building will face the Richardson Mountains.

Both projects are set for construction in the spring of 2023. The funds are part of the federal government's Green and Inclusive Community Buildings program, which allows successful applicants to make large retrofit and new build projects ranging in total eligible costs from $3 million to $25 million.

With files from Karli Zschogner