Hamilton celebrated on Friday as various community organizations announced a future state of the art multi-purpose Indigenous well-being centre in the city’s east end that will provide much-needed primary care to underserved populations.
The much-anticipated Biindigen Health Centre will be built at the site of the now-shuttered St. Helen’s elementary school in the lower city’s McQuesten neighbourhood, where about six per cent of the population identifies as Indigenous.
Biindigen means “come in” or “welcome” in the Ojibwe language.
“This is what we want to tell or do,” said Pat Mandy, chair of the Biindigen Well-Being Centre Steering Committee and member of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation.
The City of Hamilton purchased the land from the school board to house the new centre, going public with the land acquisition on June 22. The land will be transferred to the partners of the Biindigen Well-Being Centre, which include De Dwa Da Des Nyeh>s Health Centre, Niawasa Kendaaswin Teg, and Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services.
It will serve as a central hub of health and social services, not just for the city’s Indigenous population, but the rest of the population, as well.
Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger came out for the kick-off ceremony, saying, “This centre will enable a once-in-a-lifetime experience and will be seen as the epitome of what reconciliation means to the City of Hamilton and the Canadian people as a whole.”
In addition to the city of Hamilton, the centre is supported by other partners, including McMaster University’s Department of Family Medicine, the McQuesten Community Planning Team and the Hamilton Community Foundation.
The centre will be located on Britannia Ave. just off Main St. Near the Red Hill Valley in what’s been referred to as an underserved neighbourhood when it comes to health care.
The well-being centre will provide primary health care services, in addition to various cultural and social programming services, including child care, skills development, training programs, after-school programs and neighbourhood programs, says Monique Lavallee, executive director of Niwasa Kendaaswin Teg.
“To address the on-going harms of colonization, it will be a centre that reflects and values Indigenous cultures and ways of knowing, connects with the land, and cultivates a strong sense of community,” said Lavallee. “Biindigen could be a model for other communities to follow. Working together and alongside each other is one of our teachings.”
Partners have already received $10 million to go toward the construction of the new centre.
The centre is being touted as a distinct and forward-thinking Indigenous-led collective care model “unique to Canada” with “tremendous potential” to be a model for future integrative health care.
The centre will help serve Indigenous people in the city on miles-long waiting lists for primary care physicians in the city.