The Government of Canada is helping fund a new community hall for the Port Alberni-based Tseshaht First Nation after its former hall, “a pillar of the Tseshaht community,” was deemed unsafe for use and torn down.
The federal government said Friday that it was investing more than $3.4 million, on top of the First Nation’s $1.1-million investment, to build a 7,000-square-foot building to replace the former Somass Hall that was demolished in 2019.
In a news release, the government says the new hall will include commercial kitchen facilities, breakout and storage rooms, washrooms, modern HVAC and electrical systems, a parking lot, and landscaping around the site.
Tseshaht First Nation Elected Chief Councillor Ken Watts (Wahmeesh) calls the investment “a welcome signal of hope” for children, elders, community members, residential school survivors and others amid challenging times.
“Our Nation is experiencing the compounding impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the difficult work we must undertake with respect to the Alberni Indian Residential School (AIRS),” said Chief Watts.
“A new Somass Hall is a great investment that supports Tseshaht and Nuu-chah-nulth communities … and has broader positive economic impacts for the City of Port Alberni and our entire region.”
The federal government says the hall will be a “cornerstone” of the growing community once complete, providing cultural opportunities and giving residents a space for gathering, learning and recreation.
The funding comes from the Community, Culture and Recreation Stream of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program and will provide 75 per cent of project costs as the Nation provides the remaining 25 per cent.
“Connecting with elders, youth and family members is a key part of building a strong and healthy community,” said Josie Osborne, MLA for Mid Island-Pacific Rim.
“The new Somass Hall will bring people together for ceremonies and celebrations, for storytelling and sharing food, and it will create lasting memories. Investments in infrastructure are truly an investment in people, and I’m so glad to see this project become a reality for the Tseshaht First Nation,” added Osborne.
There’s no word on when construction will start.