Louis Bull First Nation spokesperson Wayne Moonias appeared before Bashaw council as a delegation to speak about a development permit for the Bear Hills Family Wellness Centre. ECA Review/S.SalkeldStu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 23, 2022 at 14:18

By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

First Nations from the community of Maskwacis spoke at Bashaw town council’s regular meeting June 14, and at least one spokesperson didn’t seem too happy by the way a development permit application has been handled. The council meeting was held at the Bashaw Community Centre.

Louis Bull First nation spokesperson Wayne Moonias appeared before town council as a delegation to speak about a development permit for the Bear Hills Family Wellness Centre. At previous meetings and in applicant documents the proposal has also been called the Maskwacis Family Wellness Centre.

The Town of Bashaw received a development permit application for the facility located at 5430 51a Street, the applicants named in previous meetings as Dr. Tony Mucciarone, James Carpenter and Audrey Ward, with the facility in question located in the direct control (DC) zone. This means town council acts as the development authority, not the development officer, and has final say over the application.

Several requests were sent by the town to have the proposed uses clarified and the applicants recently sent through hundreds of pages describing a centre dedicated to First Nations youth programming. 

Ward herself is executive director of the Young Spirit Winds program at Maskwacis which has been described online as a treatment program.

Moonias introduced himself and noted Louis Bull is one of four First Nations located at Maskwacis and he was speaking to Bashaw council in an attempt to come to terms with “our wishes,” adding that the development permit process “…experience unpleasant so far to say the least”. Moonias stated the town has appeared to treat the application with indifference so far.

Moonias stated that he’s been sober for many decades and has been a successful tradesperson for decades too, and sobriety has allowed him to fulfill his full potential. Moonias said he wanted to dispel misconceptions about his people.

Historically, Moonias then stated that government treaties with First Nations had been breached, which was followed by the placing of Indigenous people on reserves so the country could be opened up. However, he noted the rights of Indigenous peoples are protected in Canada’s Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Moonias then stated the proposed Bear Hills Family Wellness Centre in Bashaw would help future generations with healing in the current generation. 

He pointed out the wellness centre will host only people who are there of their own free will and the healing model used will promote independence. 

He further described the family wellness centre as having a school-based environment while offering therapy with 24 hour a day support on site.

Further, Moonias stated programming will take a holistic approach recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the theme will be healing, and that it will also abide by Health Canada guidelines. 

He also stated the Maskwacis community has officially voiced support for this centre.

Referring to the development permit process with the Town of Bashaw, Moonias stated the application has been consistently rejected after multiple applications. The Louis Bull spokesperson stated it took 480 days for Maskwacis representatives to be invited to council and the delays have resulted in a lot of lost time and lost help to the Maskwacis community. He noted requests to meet about the Bear Hills proposal, “…have been ignored.”

Moonias stated the development permit process has been, “…demeaning, insulting, humiliating,” referring to Town of Bashaw questions such as weapons, supervision, consequences, safety of neighbours/residents and others. Moonias stated requests like these and others infringe on Indigenous culture.

After the presentation Coun. Kyle McIntosh stated he had a rhetorical question, and asked the Maskwacis representatives if they could describe, in a nutshell, what is envisioned for Bear Hills Family Wellness Centre. 

Samson First Nation spokesperson Shay Yellowbird stated that addiction is everywhere, that the centre would be a multi-stakeholder approach including both the provincial and federal governments in partnership with the Town of Bashaw and the centre would use healing models similar to those already is use in certain pars of B.C.

At the end of the meeting Bashaw Mayor Rob McDonald noted to the crowd of about 15 people that town council review this feedback, await a consultant’s report on the entire development permit application and then make a decision.

In a phone interview June 16 Bashaw Chief Administrative officer Theresa Fuller noted the town has received comments from referral agencies regarding this application but they have not been presented at a council meeting yet.

This item reprinted with permission from East Central Alberta Review, Coronation, Alberta