FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION — It will cost in the range of $30 million to build the long-term care home that Dilico Anishinabek Family Care and Fort William First Nation want to establish on the reserve.
The project has been in the planning stages for a few years.
The cost estimate could still change, as the design concept isn't complete yet.
Chief Peter Collins hopes for a federal contribution of $10 to $12 million, however Thunder Bay/Rainy River MP Marcus Powloski calls this "new territory" for the government.
Powlowski said "Indigenous Affairs, historically, has not funded chronic care homes on reserves...I think our government realizes this is a desirable project, but it's a matter of finding the pot of money in order to back it up."
The MP said he is "absolutely" in favour of the project, partly because he believes federal participation would be in the spirit of reconciliation.
He noted that the project would employ 100 people during construction, and create a similar number of full-time jobs once the nursing home was operating.
Powlowski also cited a shortage of long-term care beds in Thunder Bay, saying the First Nation's project would alleviate the problem in the city.
Chief Collins said the proposed 96-bed facility already has the approval of Ontario's Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, which would support operating costs with a per diem contribution.
He said the project would be financed through a partnership agreement involving Fort William First Nation, Dilico, and the other communities that fall under the Robinson-Superior Treaty.
Making the facility safe for residents in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Collins said, would be a priority.
"If you look at what happened in Ontario, and how our elders were not looked after well, this is an opportunity for us to show them that we can do it, and we can do it in the right way."
Powlowski also feels that's an important consideration, saying "there's an increased realization in society that we have to do more for the elderly, that we need to put more money toward ensuring they lead the end of their lives better than they have in the past."
The proposed site for the nursing home is near the end of Little Lake Road, a few blocks east of the community centre and the arena.
Collins said Fort William First Nation members will vote on designating the site early next month.
He believes it's an opportunity to give elders a chance to live out their remaining years in a natural setting.
"If you are stuck in an urban setting, you're stuck in an urban setting for life. Here, you can get out in nature, and that's healthy." Collins said, adding that "it's secluded here, but not too secluded."
The Chief described Powlowski as 'a good ally' who's working behind the scenes, but said he has also personally discusssed the project with federal ministers such as Marc Miller, the Minister of Indigenous Services.
If funding is obtained, Collins said, the project could be shovel-ready spring.