Historic Sault Ste. Marie Métis Council is planning to establish Ontario's only Métis cultural centre in a former Anglican church on John Street.
The 24-year-old group, representing more than 3,000 local Métis, is planning to renovate and repurpose three buildings at 134, 136 and 138 John St.
The buildings are the former Church of St. John the Evangelist, a church hall and a rectory.
The Anglican Church of Canada returned the properties to the Métis Nation of Ontario in July 2017 after St. John's parish merged with neighbouring St. Matthew's parish.
The three buildings were constructed on a burial ground used originally by local Métis and later by the North West Company's fur-trading fort.
"In 1901 the land was transferred to the diocese, though it was so overgrown that those involved may not have been aware of its history," the Ven. Harry Huskins wrote last year in the Algoma Anglican newsletter.
"The land and buildings have now been returned to the Métis Nation of Ontario as part of the diocese's ongoing work of reconciliation," Huskins reported.
"The church will continue to be used as a spiritual and cultural centre with Anglican worship continuing on special occasions."
The City of Sault Ste. Marie agreed this week to provide $30,000 in local economic development funds to support the project, which is expected to be accessible and financially self-sustaining.
The Métis Nation of Ontario has contributed $100,000 and additional funds are being sought from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and the Canadian Heritage Fund.
In a report to Mayor Christian Provenzano and city councillors, Tom Vair, the city's deputy chief administrative officer for community development and enterprise services, says the new Métis cultural centre will become:
- the only permanent Métis cultural centre in Ontario (fourth in Canada) and will house and display a professionally curated collection of historic Métis artifacts
- a space to celebrate Métis visual and performing arts
- permanent physical space for the Historic Sault Ste. Marie Métis Council's ongoing community, cultural and reconciliation-focused activities within Sault Ste. Marie
- a space for the broader Sault Ste. Marie population to host community and reconciliation-focused events that aim to preserve the Métis traditions and educate others
- a tourism destination for Ontario’s more than 80,000 Métis
- the delivery site for the Métis Nation of Ontario’s education and training, health and wellness promotion and seniors and justice system support programs.