Hudson’s Bay Company | Donating a building to a First Nations group as an act of reconciliation

(Winnipeg) The Hudson’s Bay Company, North America’s oldest company with roots in Canadian fur trade and indigenous peoples, is calling for the donation of its iconic Winnipeg building to a First Nations group as an act of reconciliation.

Posted at 11:19 am

Brett Bundale
The Canadian Press

On Friday, the retailer announced the donation of the massive, nearly 100-year-old limestone building to the Southern Chiefs Organization.

“We are very proud that the Hudson’s Bay Company can help lead the way in reconciliation,” said Richard Baker, governor and executive chairman of the 352-year-old company, in an interview. The Hudson’s Bay Company and Indigenous Peoples of Canada have worked together for many years, and this is a new era of collaboration and partnership. We shake hands with our former partners and build a relationship for the future. »

Grand Chief Jerry Daniels called the donation a “historic and monumental” step towards reconciliation in Canada.

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

The powerful symbolism of having a colonial store in the hands of indigenous people will be a “beacon of hope,” according to Daniels.

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

A history linked to colonial expansion

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

Its complex history is closely linked to colonial expansion as it established a monopoly on trade and exploitation with indigenous peoples.

The fur trade created a dependency on European-made products and introduced diseases that ravaged native populations.

Hudson’s Bay also claimed sovereignty over much of the land, which it sold to the Canadian government after Confederation as part of its retail expansion.

The company’s Winnipeg store opened in 1926.

“The Hudson’s Bay Company made a lot of money dispossessing western Canada,” said Sean Carleton, an assistant professor of history and indigenous studies at the University of Manitoba. The downtown store… is something of a symbol of that. »

A zero dollar building

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

It was designated as a heritage site in 2019, but an appraisal that same year found the building to be worth $0 due to the high investment required. The Hudson’s Bay Company permanently closed shop in 2020.

“The offer of a worthless building (to the aborigines) is also somewhat reasonable in relation to what is offered at the end of this process,” Carleton 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 of the project is Wehwehneh Bahgahkinahgohn, which means “it is visible” in Anishinaabemowin.

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

There are also plans for a health center that will include both western and traditional medical practices, as well as a roof garden.

The historical facade of the listed building is preserved, while the interior renovation promotes low-carbon materials and the reduction of energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

It will also be the future home of government for the Southern First Nations chiefs, representing 34 Anishinaabe and Dakota nations.

The extensive renovation is expected to create significant long-term jobs during the construction phase and after the work is complete.

Federal and state investments

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

“By redeveloping the iconic Hudson’s Bay Company building in the heart of downtown Winnipeg, the Southern Chiefs Organization is helping to preserve this historic building while creating nearly 300 homes for First Nations people in southern Manitoba who are in dire need ‘ Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement.

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said her administration is proud to “support this unprecedented act of reconciliation by working in partnership with the Southern Chiefs Organization and Canada on this housing and unparalleled social project by and for Indigenous Peoples “.

The province’s investment consists of US$10 million earmarked for the creation of affordable housing, while US$25 million is available through the construction fund for the preservation of heritage features.

The federal amount will be a $55 million forgivable loan from the National Housing Strategy. The remaining 10 million will be a soft loan.

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