by Phil Ambroziak

The federal and provincial governments, along with the Meadow Lake Tribal Council (MLTC), are teaming up to assist victims of domestic violence.

Friday afternoon marked the date for the official sod turning at a vacant Centre Street lot, the future location of the new Waskoosis Safe Shelter that, once completed, will serve as a six-bedroom facility to ensure the safety and security of women and children fleeing domestic violence.

“I am pleased to be here on behalf of my colleague and very good friend Paul Merriman, who is the minister of social services, to celebrate this event here today,” remarked Meadow Lake MLA Jeremy Harrison during the sod turning ceremony. “We are celebrating the construction of this emergency shelter so it can continue to hold up to 21 women and children who are victims of family violence. This new building will replace the ageing one, which has served the community for decades. As your MLA, I am delighted this project will serve Meadow Lake and the surrounding area for years to come.”

The federal and provincial governments are jointly contributing more than $1.2 million toward the new women’s shelter, which will be wheelchair accessible and include office and additional programming space, as well as improved security precautions for those who reside there. Meanwhile, an additional $80,000-plus is also being contributed to the project through Service Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy.

“This project would not have been possible without the vision and the leadership of MLTC,” Harrison continued. “The tribal council has been operating the Waskoosis Safe Shelter since 1992 along with many other services for this community including primary care, community development, domestic violence outreach and family support… To me, this is about the commitment of this community and region to help families during times of need… it’s about recognizing a need and getting the job done no matter what challenges come our way.”

ccording to MLTC chief Eric Sylvestre, the Waskoosis Safe Shelter opened in 1992 and MLTC’s health board assumed oversight in 2012. Meanwhile, Meadow Lake mayor Gary Vidal, who was also in attendance Friday, commended all involved for the work they’ve done to be able to break ground for the new facility.

“The safe shelter has operated in our community for more than 25 years, providing a valuable service to vulnerable residents in Meadow Lake and the surrounding area,” Vidal said. “We’re proud of the work you have done here and are happy to support you as you grow beyond your current facility. Unfortunately, there is no single building that can end the problem of domestic violence.”