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Hudson’s Bay Company | Building donation to the First Nations Group as an act of reconciliation

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Maria Gill
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(Winnipeg) Hudson’s Bay Company, North America’s oldest company with roots in the Canadian and Aboriginal fur trade, is calling for a donation of its iconic Winnipeg Building to the First Nations Group for a work of reconciliation.

Posted yesterday at 11:19 am

Brett Bundal
Canadian Press

On Friday, the retailer announced the donation of the massive, nearly century-old limestone building to the Southern Leaders Organization.

“We are very proud that Hudson’s Bay Company can help be a pioneer in reconciliation,” Richard Baker, governor and CEO of the 352-year-old company, said in an interview. For many years, Hudson’s Bay and the Indigenous Peoples of Canada have collaborated, and this is a new time of collaboration and partnership. We shake hands with our former partners and build a relationship for the future. »

Senior leader Jerry Daniels described the donation as a “historic and important” step toward reconciliation in Canada.

“The vision is really to create as many opportunities as possible,” he said. We are really focused on economic reconciliation. »

According to Daniels, the powerful symbolism of a colonial storehouse in the hands of indigenous peoples would be a “beacon of hope”.

“It will be a place where Indigenous peoples come together and work collaboratively to put our children first,” he explained.

A history associated with colonial expansion

The Hudson’s Bay Company, now a holding company with real estate, department stores, and e-commerce operations, started in 1670 as a fur trading business.

Its complex history is closely linked to colonial expansion, creating a commercial and exploitative monopoly with indigenous peoples.

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The fur trade created dependence on products made in Europe and introduced diseases that devastated the indigenous population.

Hudson’s Bay also claimed sovereignty over a large portion of the land, which he sold to the Government of Canada after union as part of retail expansion.

The company’s store opened in Winnipeg in 1926.

“Hudson’s Bay made a lot of money from looting in western Canada,” said Shaun Carlton, associate professor of history and local studies at the University of Manitoba. The downtown store…kind of an icon for that. »

0 dollar building

The Winnipeg building – one of the company’s “top six” flagship stores – has been in decline for many years.

It was given a heritage designation in 2019, but an appraisal in the same year found the building to be worth $0 due to the significant investment required. The Hudson’s Bay Company permanently closed the store in 2020.

“Providing a building that is of no value to (indigenous people) is also somewhat appropriate in terms of what is offered at the end of this process,” Carlton said.

He added that the building has a lot of potential to be transformed into something that meets the needs of the community.

300 affordable housing units

The working title for the project is Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn, which means “it’s visible” in Anishinaabemowin.

The six-story building in downtown Winnipeg will be converted to include nearly 300 affordable housing units, a nursery, a museum, an art gallery, and restaurants.

There are also plans for a wellness center that will include Western and traditional medical practices as well as a roof garden.

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The historic facade of the heritage building will be preserved, while the interior renovation will promote low-carbon materials and reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

It will also become the future home of the Southern First Nations chiefs, who represent the 34 nations of Anishinaabe and the Dakota.

The extensive renovation is expected to create jobs during the construction phase and important long-term jobs once the works are completed.

Federal and provincial investments

The federal and Manitoba governments, respectively, announced investments of $65 million and $35 million Friday to help create these new affordable housing units.

“By reimagining the iconic Hudson’s Bay Company building in the heart of downtown Winnipeg, the Southern Chiefs is helping preserve this historic building, while creating nearly 300 homes that first nations desperately need in southern Manitoba,” Justin Trudeau said in a statement. .

Manitoba Prime Minister Heather Stephenson said her government is proud to “support this unprecedented work of reconciliation by working in partnership with Southern Leaders Organization and Canada on this unparalleled housing and social project, by and for indigenous peoples.”

The county’s investment will consist of $10 million earmarked for affordable housing, while $25 million will be provided through the Construction Fund to Preserve Heritage Landmarks.

The federal amount will be a $55 million revocable loan from the National Housing Strategy. The remaining 10 million will be a low-cost loan.

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