New Indigenous well-being centre in Hamilton ‘set to build’ in east end

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Published July 6, 2022 at 11:32 am

The longtime site of De dwa da dehs nye>s Aboriginal Health Centre on Main St. in Hamilton.

A health and well-being centre that will serve Indigenous residents of the Hamilton area has a physical space.

The Biindigen Well-Being Centre will be in the east end McQuesten neighbourhood at 785 Britannia Ave., with the intent of transforming Indigenous health care throughout the region. With the creation of the centre, De dwa da dehs nye>s Aboriginal Health Centre (DAHC), Niwasa Kendaaswin Teg and Ontario Aboriginal Housing Services will all be on the site. The McMaster University family medicine department will also team up with DAHC to provide additional primary care services to the all residents in the neighbourhood, regardless of culture or background.

Biindigen is an Ojibway word that means “welcome” or “come in.” Six per cent of the population in McQuestion are Indigenous, relative to 3.3 per cent across the entire city.

“Many of the Indigenous population do not trust mainstream healthcare providers as they don’t feel safe or welcome… the centre will be a place that acknowledges Indigenous culture and is welcoming to all,” Pat Mandy, chair of the Biindigen steering committee, said in a press release.

A celebration of Biindigen being “set to build,” as De dwa da dehs nye>s phrased it, will be held on July 15 (one week from Friday). The centre will be built at a site that was home of St. Helen elementary school until 2009, and has been a neighbourhood hub ever since. The city has owned the property, but last month it signalled its plan to transfer 785 Britannia to land-owning partners of Biindigen.

“This centre will enable a once-in-a-lifetime experience and will be seen as the epitome of what reconciliation means to the City of Hamilton and the Canadian people as a whole,” Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger stated.

The area’s elected representative, Ward 4 Coun. Sam Merulla, said there is a collective benefit to all when access to Indigenous-led supports is improved.

“Services geared toward the urban Indigenous population by Indigenous healthcare providers is necessary for the community and for the City of Hamilton simultaneously,” Merulla said.

In a release, DAHC added that a number of non-Indigenous organizations have reached out about contributing their programs and networks to Biindigen Well-Being Centre. That could help with creating a comprehensive hub of health and social services.

“Each partner has come to this circle to increase meaningful access to culturally relevant programs and services for Indigenous people in Hamilton,” DAHC stated.

All three levels of government have contributed to the creation of Biindigen. The Ontario Ministry of Health announced $10 million in funding in April.

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