Mi'kmaq Confederacy plans new building on Charlottetown waterfront

A large new three-storey building planned for the Charlottetown waterfront by P.E.I.'s Mi'kmaq Confederacy is getting some attention, and will go before a public meeting next week.

'It's a win on every front, from the First Nation perspective'

The new Mi'kmaq Confederacy building planned for Charlottetown, P.E.I., would hold offices, a friendship centre, retail and a car rental agency and more. (CBC)

A large new three-storey building planned for the Charlottetown waterfront by P.E.I.'s Mi'kmaq Confederacy is getting some attention, and will go before a public meeting next week.

The building would be an Aboriginal friendship centre, and be built on a parking lot at the corner of Stan MacPherson Way and Water Street. It would cost between $2 million and $3 million dollars, the organization said. 

"It's an opportunity where the off-reserve community who can't make the trek to Lennox Island or Scotchfort has the ability in an urban centre to access services to advance their outcome," said Don MacKenzie, the Confederacy's executive director, noting those services could range from employment to counselling and health. 

The Confederacy represents both on and off-reserve members of the Abegweit and Lennox Island First Nations on P.E.I..

Cultural marketplace

The location on the waterfront would also allow the Confederacy to showcase First Nations culture to thousands of tourists, especially those visiting from cruise ships that dock nearby. 

The new building 'is about First Nation ownership' says Don MacKenzie, executive director of the Mi'kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I.. (CBC)

The move is also about self-determination. 

"Right now the Confederacy offices in Charlottetown, we pay rent to a private landholder. So it's about First Nation ownership, where the rent payments will ultimately go to the First Nations that we serve," said MacKenzie.

The deal is almost done — the Charlottetown Harbour Authority has signed a deal with the Confederacy for the sale of the property.

Public meeting Tuesday

But first, it has to be rezoned from port zone to waterfront zone, and the city must approve a zoning change to allow a car rental service the Confederacy is also proposing. Cruise ship passengers would be the target market for that. 

The Confederacy would like to move ahead with the project quickly.

A public meeting to discuss the rezoning of the property will be held July 26 at Charlottetown City Hall.

"It's a real win-win-win for the First Nation community: It's economic development through band ownership, it's programs and services to the off- reserve community; it's a location and an avenue for Mi'kmaq craftspeople to sell their wares. So it's a win on every front from a First Nation perspective," MacKenzie explained. 

With files from Nancy Russell