Actions and Commitments

Call to Action # 21: Health (18-24)

Ottawa invests $13M in Indigenous health centre set for east Hamilton

March 12, 2024

Health services within the new Biindigen Well-Being Centre will have ‘profound impact,’ says DAHC board chair

Two people embrace behind a podium.
Federal minister Filomena Tassi and Pat Mandy, former chair of De dwa de dehs nye>s Aboriginal Health Centre hug at a funding announcement in Hamilton. (Justin Chandler/CBC)

CBC Indigenous: Federal funding announcements aren’t always as emotional as the one Monday morning in Hamilton’s east end.

People teared up, hugged and expressed their appreciation for one another’s work on a long-term Indigenous health and housing project. 

“To see a place that is representative of Indigenous people and run by Indigenous people is so empowering,” said Alex Jacobs-Blum, vice-chair of De dwa de dehs nye>s Aboriginal Health Centre (DAHC), one of several Indigenous organizations that will be running the project. 

MPs Filomena Tassi, Chad Collins and Lisa Hepfner were in attendance to announce the government is investing $13 million in a health centre set to be built in Hamilton’s McQuesten neighbourhood, within the larger, new Biindigen Well-Being Centre. The complex will also include family, social and housing services. 

Biindigen Well-Being Centre in Hamilton receives $13 million from Ottawa

24 hours ago, Duration 1:03

The Biindigen Well-Being Centre in Hamilton will receive $13 million from the federal government to develop a new Indigenous health centre.

Click on the following link to view the video:

The funding will allow more people in Hamilton’s urban Indigenous community access to “culturally sensitive” health-care and wellness services “that they not only need, but they deserve,” said Bryanne Smart, DAHC board chair.

“Let’s not lose sight of the profound impact that this health facility will have on the lives of countless individuals and families,” Smart said, her voice breaking. “That’s why we’re here.”

‘It’ll be a beautiful space’

Smart, a member of Six Nations of the Grand River from the Seneca Nation, Turtle Clan, was one of several community and political leaders to speak Monday in a room at the Biindigen Community Hub, currently housed within the former St. Helen Catholic Elementary School.

“Biindigen,” which will also be part of the new centre’s name, is an Anishinaabemowin word that means “welcome” or “come in.” 

Eventually, the existing building will be demolished and replaced with three facilities, Jacobs-Blum told CBC Hamilton.

A sign on a building reading Biindigen Well-Being Centre.
The new Biindigen Well-Being Centre will have three parts: health, daycare and housing services. (Justin Chandler/CBC)

DAHC will run the new health centre, with a focus on preventive and primary care. In the fall, CBC Hamilton reported the plan is for Niwasa Kendaaswin Teg to provide daycare services and Ontario Aboriginal Services to build between 80 and 100 residential units.

The project previously received $10 million in funding from the province, DAHC said in 2022.

“I think it’ll be a beautiful space where everybody can feel safe and welcome,” said Jacobs-Blum, a Wolf Clan member of the Lower Caygua Nation of Six Nations.

There aren’t many spaces like that in the city, Jacobs-Blum said. She lives in the east end and said growing up, she didn’t know how to access them. Being part of this announcement made her feel emotional, she added.

Another goal is for the health centre to be a one-stop-shop where people can receive care for their physical, mental and emotional needs, said Jo-Ann Mattina, DAHC acting CEO.

The organization follows the Seven Grandfathers Teachings, a philosophy for living well including the principles of respect, love and courage.

“The patient is always at the centre of everything that we do,” Mattina said. “They direct how they want the services, where they want the services, whether or not they want to try some traditional medicines as opposed to Western medicine, and see if they can complement each other.”

Pat Mandy, a former DAHC board chair and health-care executive who currently chairs Hamilton’s police board, emceed the morning announcement.

She told reporters the current school building will likely be demolished in the coming months and existing programs will be relocated.

Mandy said there will be a clearer timeline once work with architects begins.


Justin Chandler, Reporter

Justin Chandler is CBC News reporter in Hamilton. He covers all sorts of stories but has a special interest in how public policy affects people. Justin covered current affairs in Hamilton and Niagara for TVO, and has worked on a variety of CBC teams and programs, including As It Happens, Day 6 and CBC Music. He co-hosted Radio Free Krypton on Met Radio. You can email story ideas to justin.chandler(at)cbc(dot)ca.