Métis Cultural Center of Sault Ste. Marie ready for the grand opening

The Sault Ste. The Métis community of Marie is preparing to open the doors of its new cultural center along Fort Creek on Saturday.

Having a cultural space and a place where the city’s Métis community can gather has been in the works for a long time, Mitch Case, regional councilor for the Huron Superior Métis community, told CBC News.

“It was by no means easy,” Case said. “It took many years to write grant proposals, some of them being funded, some not. Some of them were funded, but not enough.”

“But I’m just really proud of this community,” Case said. “I’m proud of the leaders here who persevered and succeeded. And I’m thrilled the community has this new home.”

Case brought Métis concerns into the public arena for many years. In April, he was part of a contingent of First Nations, Inuit and Métis who met with Pope Francis and shared their experiences of Canada’s residential school system.

At the time, Case said the Vatican could have gone further because Pope Francis did not apologize for the Catholic Church’s overall role in Canada’s residential school system.

But in Sault Ste. Marie, Case said, the community sees a “monumental step forward,” as the Anglican Diocese of Algoma returned a former cemetery and three buildings to the Métis community in 2017 as a sign of reconciliation.

Case said the new center — which will include a museum, archives, performance space and recording studio across its three buildings — was renovated in part by the Diocese, a group that Case says is “finally putting his money where his mouth is”.

Mitch Case is the Provisional Council of the Métis Nation of Ontario (PCMNO) Councilor Sault Ste Marie, Superior East, Huron North Shore (Submitted by Mitch Case)

“They acknowledged that they had been involved, complicit and in some way helped guide the loss of our lands by settlers in the 1800s,” Case said.

“And they wanted to do something good. And as one of our youngsters says, ‘how can they really show up for us?’ And they showed up. They showed up for us.

While the old church is converted into a cultural center, the memorial hall will continue to serve as a memorial for First World War veterans and serve as a community meeting space for the Métis community.

The former rectory on the grounds has been converted into a service center to provide a central point of access for Métis Nation of Ontario citizens and community members to access health, education, to housing and other services, the Council said in a press release.

James C. Tibbs