Construction on the multi-million-dollar wellness centre for the Lower Kootenay Band (LKB) is expected to be completed in May.
On March 31, Chief Jason Louie of the LKB visited the site for the first time since the breaking ground ceremony held in October 2019.
“I have so many emotions,” he said. “I’m just amazed at this phenomenal building and the planning that went into it.”
The 13,365-sq.ft. building will house administration, the finance department, and health care services – including a registered nurse, a diabetic nurse, a dietician, and foot care.
Currently, those services are housed in the LKB administration complex, built in 1990. With approximately 245 members, Louie said the band has outgrown that location.
The costs for the new building were approximately $6.2 million, with $2.7 million in funds provided by the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) and another $3.5 from the LKB’s own-sourced revenue.
“The start-up funds from FNHA would’ve given us a basic structure, but we wanted to go above and beyond to give our community the very best,” said Louie.
The wellness centre has been built on the site of the original village and St. Peter’s Church, which was decommissioned in 2018. The community voted to have the church removed due to its difficult history with the LKB.
“We’re moving forward on a healing journey, and this is part of that reconciliation,” said Louie.
He hopes that the move back on to the village site is symbolic of the LKB coming back together to face a brighter future.
In recent years, their relationship with Interior Health has been strained. Many band members do not have a family physician, so they often land at emergency services. Chronic health conditions like diabetes are also common.
“It’s unfortunate that many of our people don’t believe that it’s their right to have top-quality health care,” said Louie.
It’s hoped that a celebration will be held when the wellness centre is ready to open, depending on what COVID-19 restrictions will allow.
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