Waiting for a new home
Tree of Peace continues to lobby for new centre

by Jeff Colbourne
Northern News Services

NNSL (Oct 22/97) - Yellowknife's Tree of Peace is one step closer to getting a new home.

Friendship centre staff announced earlier this month at its annual general meeting that the territorial government would co-sign a loan for up to $1 million to help in its construction.

"The building project will be the top priority in the forthcoming year," said Tree of Peace executive director Tom Eagle.

The building, under the holding company Ts'Ito Inc. (Dogrib) is expected to cost $3,211,500 to construct.

Eagle said before they can get loans from a bank the centre has to get support from the territorial and the federal governments.

Ts'Ito Inc. has asked the Government of Canada to participate with a fixed-dollar contribution, a loan with a low interest rate and to underwrite a loan guarantee. They have yet to respond

Ts'Ito has been successful in getting piece of land for the building, a legal survey of the property completed and registered at city Hall, project design and drawings done as well estimates and construction costs.

"Ts'Ito Inc. and the aboriginal community in Yellowknife strongly believe that this new facility will give us an excellent opportunity to enhance our growth," said Eagle.

Tree of Peace's building project has the support of Heritage Minister Sheila Copps, said Eagle.

At a minister's meeting late last month Copps said she would set up an inter-departmental committee to seek out programs to try and find necessary funds to get the building off the ground.

"She'll be coming back with a response to us next month," said Eagle.

When Copps comes to town in November, Eagle said she will be touring the Tree of Peace Centre at which time they plan to promote the new building.

While Tom Eagle continues to hold out hope for a new friendship centre, he is frustrated with the department of Education, Culture and Employment over their unwillingness to pay for classroom space for students at the Tree of Peace.

Eagle said the centre is having to dip deep into their building fund to pay for space.

"The GNWT's Department of Education's refusal to pay for the Adult Education classroom space is absolutely unacceptable," said Eagle to those attending the Tree of Peace AGM.

"The Tree of Peace is the only education program to operate in the NWT that has to pay for classroom space."

Cate Sills, Adult Education Consultant with the Department of Education, Culture and Employment at the AGM appeared to take the heat for the department.

Despite attacks against her department she could not promise funds for classroom space to the centre.

"I'm not sure really where it's at in the political system," said Sills.

Eagle said he wants Education Minister Charles Dent to respond to the Tree of Peace's concerns.

"I've always been a strong supporter of civil servants. (But) I take exceptional views of a politician who hasn't got the guts to make changes," he said looking at Sills.

"I'm not after you," he said, "I'm after that minister."