WINNIPEG -- The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC), Cree Nation Tribal Health (CNTH) and the Swampy Cree Tribal Council are calling on the Manitoba government for immediate funding for the completion of the Northern Healing Lodge, an addictions treatment and recovery centre near The Pas, Man.

At the start of the pandemic, work on this $20-million, 50-bedroom project stopped after the completion of Phase 1. The centre was set to be a facility for healing, rooted in traditional First Nations healing approaches.

Now, the groups say, it is up to the province to keep up the momentum on this project.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Frank Turner, assistant director of the CNTH, the health component for the Swampy Cree Tribal Council, said the pandemic has only increased the need for the Northern Healing Lodge.

“We are watching more and more people die from addictions, metal health illnesses, while the healing lodge remains unbuilt,” he said. 

He noted the goal of the lodge is to provide a variety of holistic treatments.

“By supporting the family unit as a whole, the Northern Healing Lodge supports northern families,” he said.

AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas said addiction is one of the main issues for northern communities.

“Addiction is something that has a stigma, that has a variety of issues and is always hidden in the shadows, but the pandemic has actually thrown it out into the light,” he said.

He said it seems natural for the province to invest in this healing centre, which would be located near the former Guy Hill Residential School.

“It is residential schools that have allowed a lot of this historical trauma to impact our communities,” Dumas said.

He urged the province to make investments on behalf of people, Manitobans and First Nations, and champion this initiative. 

In a statement, a government spokesperson said a proposal for a northern healing lodge has not been submitted yet to either Manitoba Health and Seniors Care or Manitoba Mental Health, Wellness and Recovery.

“Both (departments) are pleased to review an application once it is received, through the regular process,” the spokesperson said.