Major project at Algoma U. gets City support

From left, Shirley Horn, Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association, Joel Syrette, Director of Makwa Waakaa’igan and Asima Vezina, President and Vice Chancellor Algoma University.

A multi-faceted facility deemed a Centre of Cross-Cultural Excellence to be constructed at Algoma University is a step closer to reality.

City Council last night unanimously approved a motion tabled by Ward 4 Coun. Marchy Bruni and seconded by Ward 3 Coun. Angela Caputo for the city to contribute $600,000 from the Community Development Fund toward the $43.5 million complex. The funds will be dispersed in annual instalments of $200,000 over the next three years.

Formally known as the Algoma University Makwa Waakaa’igan Project, the planned centre will feature a Mental Health and Addictions Research and Training Institute, in partnership with the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM).

algoma u

“It’s a pretty exciting project for this university,” Asima Vezina, President and Vice Chancellor of Algoma University, told council. “It’s the first major capital build we’re embarking on since the CC building (Convergence Centre). The centre ishome to classroom and lab space and various research institutions including Health Informatics and the Invasive Species Research Instititute. Vezina says it’s hoped a shovel is in the ground for the project in the spring of An Indigenous-led site search on AU’s campus will be conducted, she added.

The new complex, which would create at least 11 new full-time jobs, will also include Archives for the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre (SRSC), Community Gathering and learning spaces, and outdoor event spaces. Its projected to attract 35,000 visitors annually.

“‘It’s a place that will welcome everyone, Indigenous and non-Indigenous,” said Vezina. Two-thirds of the $600,000 will be drawn from previously approved CDF funds for a School of Business and Economics, which didn’t materialize.

Algoma University’s founding campus resides on property once home to the Shingwauk Indian Residential School. The university is a close partner with Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig (SKG), one of nine of Ontario’s recognized Indigenous institutes.

The university is a close partner with Shingwauk Kinoomaage Gamig (SKG), one of nine of Ontario’s recognized Indigenous institutes. The purpose for the Makwa Waakaa’igan project is to establish a nationally recognized centre of cultural excellence attached to the original, historic Shingwauk Hall building. A new building supporting a broad range of programming will also be constructed.

The Makwa Waakaa’igan project aims to create a nationally recognized centre of cultural excellence, an entirely welcoming and inclusive place building cross-cultural understanding, teaching, learning, healing and reconciliation.

In supporting the motion, and prior to the vote, Mayor Matthew Shoemaker told Council, “What Algoma University is proposing to us, is to build community on their campus, by expanding the offerings the City of Sault Ste. Marie can provide to students within or outside the city and by advancing the cause of

Shoemaker noted the city is being asked to contribute less than one and a half per cent of the project’s total cost and made it clear it only makes sense to do so as Algoma U. is one of Canada’s fastest-growing universities.

“This makes total economic sense in my view, it makes total community-building sense, and a healthy and prosperous Algoma U. translates to a healthy and prosperous Sault Ste. Marie.” The city’s Economic Development Report says the funds help fulfill targets identified in the community’s strategic plan and demonstrates commitment to supporting the University, First Nations, and Residential School Survivors.

The $600,000 requested will assist the facility in promoting Indigenous history, art and culture.

Barring any hitches in current plans, Makwa Waakaa’igan is expected to be completed in mid-summer, 2026.


  • Ron Jokelainen

    Ron has returned to writing and reporting after 27 years with Ontario Lottery & Gaming. He began as a staff writer with OLG in 1994 before moving to Sports Marketing in 1997. He retired as a Senior sports analyst in 2021. Prior to OLG, Ron worked in radio and print journalism in the Sault and Simcoe. Folks may remember Ron "Williams" with CFYN-CHAS in the early 90s A graduate of Windsor's St. Clair College Journalism program, Ron lists drumming, gardening and walking among his favourite hobbies.

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