Kitcisakik project, Québec

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Project details

Emergency Architects of Canada, with the initiative of architect Guillaume Lévesque, wish to build upon their skills and professionalism in order to improve, in a hands-on manner, the Kitcisakik Nation’s quality of life and the condition of the one hundred or so dwellings located outside of reservation land. This work has been undertaken in close consultation with the Anicinabe (Algonquin) Nation, with the goal of developing Native skills and expertise, as well as promoting the transfer of knowledge and greater autonomy.

The areas in which we focus our intervention are the following: children’s health; overcrowded dwellings; water access; sustainable development and salvaging materials; self-sufficiency for construction lumber with a saw mill; and reinforcing expertise as well as the acquisition of new skills for the local Native workforce.

Around 14 Native laborers work on the jobsites in order to improve their community’s living conditions and durability of the houses. These workers are supervised by the project leader architect. The project is rolling out in the spirit of expertise sharing, self-sufficiency, and individual autonomy. Architect Guillaume Lévesque acts as project leader and consultant from the Emergency Architects of Canada, in contrast with the first two years where he was a volunteer project leader. Volunteers are also invited to work on the jobsites with the community workers during the summer months.

Solidarity

Our actions have given rise to a virtual solidarity movement within the community by mobilizing both private businesses and government alike and have restored confidence and pride to the members of the Kitcisakik Nation. In under 5 years (2009–2014), 30 houses were renovated. In October 2010, the Kitcisakik elementary school was dedicated, allowing young children to attend school within their village rather than living out the school year with foster families in Val-d’Or for their education. In addition, the jobsite training that some of the Native workers acquired allowed them to obtain (following due process) qualification cards from the CCQ (Commission de la Construction du Québec) and the opportunity to earn their living outside their village.

Partnerships

The involvement of the Native community was critical to the project’s success. Two saw mills were installed, thanks to the collaboration of the Frontiers Foundation. A local housing corporation was created to follow through on the renovations. Not only were the community members trained to participate on the worksites, but their dwelling needs were taken into account when renovation development plans were produced by the project leader. Under the aegis of the project leader, many local manufacturers and merchants combined to provide over $350,000 in construction materials. In December 2009, while the first two renovated houses were being dedicated, the SHQ (Société d’Habitation du Québec) announced support to the Mikwam building fund managed by the community in the form of a million dollars earmarked for a renovation program for 30 houses. At the same time, the federal arm committed a million dollars to allow the construction of the elementary school.

Native participation

Native contribution is critical to the success of the project. By demonstrating their interest in working, the construction laborers encouraged the younger ones to persevere and obtain training. As well, this gave them the opportunity them to secure employment that will allow them to be financially independent and provide them with a sense of pride. They are also playing a role in their future—a brighter future that will provide independence for a Nation that strives to be self-sufficient.

The project targets the development of local expertise by transferring knowledge and fostering autonomy among members of the community.

Project: 30 renovated houses
Training: 13 carpenters
City: Kitcisakik, Québec
Area: 875 sqft / house
Budget: 3,1M$
Years: 2009-2014
Partners: Kitcisakik community, Emergency and Development Architects, Frontiers Foundation, Volunteer university students and interns.
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