NationTalk: TROIS-RIVIÈRES, QC – The governments of Quebec and Canada and the City of Trois-Rivières today marked the official opening of the Waska Witcihitowin community living environment. Spearheaded by the Société immobilière du Regroupement des centres d’amitié autochtones du Québec (SIRCAAQ), this nearly $37-million project is intended for Indigenous students and their families. This project was conceived by and for Indigenous people, and the various partners are proud to support it.
This event was attended by France-Élaine Duranceau, Quebec Minister Responsible for Housing; the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry; Ian Lafrenière, QuebecMinister Responsible for Relations with the First Nations and the Inuit; Jean Boulet, Quebec Minister of Labour, Minister Responsible for the Mauricie Region, the Abitibi-Témiscamingue Region and the Nord-du-Québec Region and Member of the National Assembly for Trois-Rivières; Alys Quoquochi, Vice-Chief, Conseil des Atikamekw de Wemotaci; Claudia Newashish, Advisor, Conseil des Atikamekw de Manawan; Jean Lamarche, Mayor of Trois-Rivières; Christian Blanchette, Rector, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières; Éric Milette, General Director, Cégep de Trois-Rivières; Senator Michèle Audette; Laurent Odjick, Executive Director of SIRCAAQ; Tanya Sirois, President, Regroupement des centres d’amitié autochtones du Québec; and Maud Flamand, Executive Director, Centre d’amitié autochtone de Trois-Rivières.
The living environment features 42 affordable housing units, including a childcare centre (CPE), a junior kindergarten classroom (4-year-olds), collaborative workspaces, shared kitchens, outdoor areas for cultural activities and the offices of the Centre d’amitié autochtone de Trois-Rivières. The innovative concept enables Indigenous people pursuing post-secondary education or adult training to flourish alongside their families, ensuring a better chance of academic success. The first tenants moved in in September 2023.
Many partners contributed to the project, including the Government of Quebec, which invested over $22 million. This amount includes $11.1 million from the Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur, $5.2 million from the Société d’habitation du Québec (SHQ) and $3.1 million from the Secrétariat aux relations avec les Premières Nations et les Inuit. The SHQ is also securing SIRCAAQ’s mortgage loan.
The Government of Canada contributed over $14.6 million to the project, including $2.6 million from Indigenous Services Canada and $12 million through the first Canada-Quebec Rapid Housing Initiative Agreement, a program launched in 2020 to facilitate the rapid construction of housing and the acquisition of existing buildings for rehabilitation or conversion to permanent affordable housing.
The City of Trois-Rivières is granting the housing complex a 20-year tax exemption. Trois-Rivières is also providing a financial contribution of nearly $600,000, delivered through the tripartite agreements that the City signed with the SHQ and the Ministère des Affaires municipales et de l’Habitation.
“We’re doing more than just providing 42 homes. We’re providing a living environment entirely desiÈgned to meet the specific needs of these families. They will have access to a host of services on site, which is a significant benefit for better balancing their education and their personal lives. Having access to a healthy and affordable living environment is an essential condition for academic success, especially for students with young children. I’m proud of the involvement of our government and its partners in this project. In a housing crisis, we have to innovate, and this new model is already a success.”
France-Élaine Duranceau, Quebec Minister Responsible for Housing
“Through the Canada-Quebec Agreement on the Rapid Housing Initiative, our government is working hard to provide adequate housing for people in Trois-Rivières and across the country. We will ensure that this goal becomes a reality.”
The Honorable Sean Fraser, Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities and member of Parliament for Central Nova
“What a great example of a project conceived by and for Indigenous people! Like the one announced in Sept-Îles last week, it will allow families who want to return to school to do so in a location that meets all their needs. Culturally appropriate housing where they can meet, talk and cook in the comfort of their own homes, surrounded by their children and loved ones. The reason this project is important to me is that I understand what a real difference it will make in the lives of students and their families. Through these living spaces, I hope that First Nations and Inuit people will not only be able to dream about their future, but will be equipped to make it happen.”
Ian Lafrenière, Quebec Minister Responsible for Relations with the First Nations and the Inuit
“Everyone deserves a safe, affordable home. Under the Canada-Quebec Agreement on the Rapid Housing Initiative, we’re quickly building affordable housing for those who need it most, right across the country. Thanks to today’s announcement, more than 42 affordable housing units are now available to Aboriginal families in Trois-Rivières. We know there is still a lot to do, and we’ll continue to work hard for the people of the Mauricie region.”
The Honorable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry and Member of Parliament for Saint-Maurice–Champlain
“We opened the Nutshimit living environment in Sept-Îles last week, and here we are today in Trois-Rivières to officially open Waska Witcihitowin, the second of three Indigenous student housing pilot projects supported by the Ministère de l’Enseignement supérieur. These projects are unique and are a concrete example of cultural safety in education. It’s really something to be proud of! I’m certain that Waska Witcihitowin will contribute to the academic success of those who live there.”
Pascale Déry, Quebec Minister of Higher Education
“Aboriginal families who move to the city to study must be able to count on adequate, adapted, and safe housing. This is essential if Aboriginal youth are to have an equal opportunity to succeed. The project inaugurated today, which is created by and for Aboriginal people, will make a huge difference in the success of Aboriginal students.”
The Honorable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services and Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay-Superior North
“This is a great day for Indigenous students in Trois-Rivières. This innovative project will enable Indigenous students and their families to be supported along their academic path and develop their full potential. I’m proud of the close collaboration between the Government of Quebec and the various partners. I would like to congratulate the Société immobilière du Regroupement des centres d’amitié autochtones du Québec (SIRCAAQ) for its exceptional work.”
Jean Boulet, Member of the National Assembly for Trois-Rivières, Quebec Minister of Labour and Minister Responsible for the Mauricie Region, the Abitibi-Témiscamingue Region and the Nord-du-Québec Region
“I’m delighted to see this project to create a living environment for the Indigenous population come to life. Trois-Rivières has always been a welcoming city, and the creation of this housing will help strengthen the ties that unite our community with those of the First Nations. These units will enable many Indigenous students to flourish and pursue their studies in a safe environment that will contribute to their social and cultural well-being.”
Jean Lamarche, Mayor of Trois-Rivières
“We would like to congratulate SIRCAAQ and the Centre d’amitié autochtone de Trois-Rivières on this innovative and necessary project. We are particularly pleased with the opening of Waska Witcihitowin a few steps away from our university. This is an additional milestone in the cultural safety of Indigenous students, who can already count on our statement of principles at UQTR, the presence of an Elder in Residence and the creation of a position Director of Relations with the First Peoples. Let’s continue our joint efforts toward the student success of the First Peoples, and welcome home!”
Christian Blanchette, Rector, Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières
“The Cégep de Trois-Rivières is proud to collaborate on the Waska Witcihitowin project, an extraordinary lever for access to higher education. The opening of this new living environment, conducive to learning and close to our school, goes even further in supporting the achievements of 13 students in 6 of our study programs and is in addition to the CEGEP’s existing initiatives.”
Éric Milette, General Director, Cégep de Trois-Rivières
“Today, SIRCAAQ celebrates the official opening of Waska Witcihitowin in Trois-Rivières—the second community living environment dedicated to Indigenous students. We worked closely with all our partners to design and build this infrastructure, which reflects Indigenous cultures and is in harmony with the natural ecosystem. We believe that the official opening of the student residences in Sept-Îles and Trois-Rivières is just the start of a series of community projects dedicated to helping Indigenous communities in Quebec and Canada flourish.”
Laurent Odjick, Executive Director, Société immobilière du Regroupement des centres d’amitié autochtones du Québec
“We are thrilled to officially open the Waska Witcihitowin living environment and the new offices of the Centre d’amitié autochtone de Trois-Rivières. More than simply providing a home, this space offers a variety of services and facilities to create a safe and dynamic environment. This community will support the academic success of Indigenous students today and for generations to come.”
Tanya Sirois, President, Société immobilière du Regroupement des centres d’amitié autochtones du Québec and Executive Director of the Regroupement des centres d’amitié autochtones du Québec
“By moving to its new location, the Centre d’amitié autochtone de Trois-Rivières is taking root in a unique space designed by and for Indigenous people. Proximity to the community living environment allows us to offer culturally relevant and safe services to the members of the First Peoples in Trois-Rivières and its surrounding area, in addition to supporting the tenants. We are part of a project that is making a real difference in the educational career of Indigenous students and for their families.”
Maud Flamand, Executive Director, Centre d’amitié autochtone de Trois-Rivières
“I would like to thank the proponents of this project. Finding a home in the city is no easy task. This is our sad reality. However, we are resilient and we will always find a way. This is our strength. And this living environment will help us go further in our educational projects and toward achieving our dreams.”
Dave Cleary, student, President of UQTR’s Indigenous Students’ Association and resident of the Waska Witcihitowin living environment
- All eligible tenants can benefit from the Société d’Habitation du Québec (SHQ) Quebec Rent Supplement Program, which would ensure that they do not spend more than 25% of their income on housing. This additional assistance could reach $720,000 over 5 years. It is covered by the SHQ (90%) and the City of Trois-Rivières (10%).
- Funding for Indigenous student housing projects will help address Recommendation 11 of the Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Quebec(listening, reconciliation and progress) and Recommendation 25 of the Racism in Quebec: Zero Tolerance report.
- The living environment welcomes Indigenous students and their families. It offers 42 housing units (ranging from bachelor to 4-bedroom units), a childcare centre, a junior kindergarten classroom for 4-year-olds, a multipurpose community room, collaborative work spaces for students, a shared kitchen and much more.
- The offices of Centre d’amitié autochtone de Trois-Rivières are located in the building complex, enabling the organization to offer on-site services.
About the Société d’habitation du Québec
As a leader in housing, the SHQ’s mission is to meet the housing needs of Quebecers through its expertise and services to citizens. It does this by providing affordable and low-rental housing and offering a range of assistance programs to support the construction, renovation and adaptation of homes, and access to homeownership.
To find out more about its activities, visit www.habitation.gouv.qc.ca/english.html.
About Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation
As Canada’s authority on housing, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) contributes to the stability of the housing market and financial system, provides support for Canadians in housing need, and offers unbiased housing research and advice to all levels of Canadian government, consumers and the housing industry. CMHC’s aim is that by 2030, everyone in Canada has a home that they can afford and that meets their needs. For more information, follow us on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn and Facebook.
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