From art work to health care, there will be a significant First Nations presence in the new mental health and addictions treatment centre in what was the Dunsmuir Lodge in North Saanich — which will be renamed Raven’s View once it reopens later this year.
Ontario-based Homewood Health announced this week that the sale of the property had been completed with the University of Victoria. At the same time as the company was finalizing the deal for the facility’s 28 acres — the buildings and land immediately surrounding them — the Pauquachin First Nation acquired from UVic the remaining 72 acres.
Chief Rebecca David told the News Review that while the negtiations were, at times, difficult, the outcome for her community was positive overall.
The Pauquachin, with the support of the WSANEC Nation (which includes the neighbouring Tsartlip, Tseycum and Tsawout communities) purchased the 72 acres as fee simple land in a deal that was finalized with the University December 29. The land will not be added to their federal reserve land. In making that deal last year, the Pauquachin addressed people’s concerns over potential development by signing covenants with the District of North Saanich.
“We’re never going to develop it,” Chief David said. “It’s worth more to us that what we did (pay for it).”
She said the land will protected as a spiritual and sacred green space and be used for their traditional practices. David added they have created a new society, charged with care-taking the property, as well as collecting data, historical documents and local history.
“It will all be used to educate people about the Pauquachin and area First Nations,” she continued.
North Saanich Mayor Alice Finall said she is pleased that the sale of the property has been completed, adding she looks forward to working with the Pauquachin on a variety of issues surrounding the land. Finall noted that the two covenants in place already, assure the District that there will be no development on the 72 acres owned by the First Nation.
In working with Homewood Health, David said the Pauquachin have entered into a collaboration with the company. What that will bring to her community, David said, is the fast tracking of mental health, addictions and suicide assessments.
“This was a major point,” she explained. “Our people have been waiting 18 to 24 months for assessments and these issues need to be addressed sooner.”
The facility has not only agreed to recognize their 28 acres as originally First Nations territory, but will also integrate holistic healing into its care services. As well, there will be employment opportunities offered to people from the Pauquachin at all levels of the new treatment facility.
“The Pauquachin were integral to this,” said Robert DeClark, the General Manager of the new, private facility. “Honestly, this land wouldn’t have happened without them.”
DeClark said demolition and complete renovation of the interior of the old Dunsmuir Lodge buildings has already begun. Room will be created for up to 99 patients but he said when the facility opens (expected in the fall in 2018) there will be 55 to 60 full-time equivalent employees serving between 80 and 85 patients to begin with. At full capacity, DeClark said they will employ up to 97 people.
Being added to the residential treatment facility are new medical offices, treatment rooms, a patient lounge, industrial kitchen and dining room. The existing footprint of the buildings on site will not change.
It’s a complete circle in the history of the facility. The lodge was originally built in 1974 as an addictions treatment facility before it was donated to UVic in 1985 and was operated as a conference centre until it closed in 2009.
“Demand for these services is, unfortunately, quite high in B.C. and across Canada,” DeClark said, adding they’ve already had many inquiries from potential patients but have not been able to start intake.
David noted that the facility will be renamed Raven’s View, in recognition of First Nations culture in the region.
Trail access will change
With the 72 acres of land now owned by the Pauquachin, access to a series of trails will change. Homewood Health and North Saanich have agreed to build a wide, linear trail connecting McTavish Road with the nearby John Dean Provincial Park.
When the sale of the property was being debated in 2016, residents who use a series of long standing trails lamented their loss, after the First Nation announced it would look to restrict access to sensitive areas of their spiritually-significant land on Mount Newton (LEU’WEL’NEW Mountain). As a result, most trails on the First Nation’s property will be closed.
Access to the area, said Chief Rebecca David, will not be lost — only controlled by her community.
“We just want to be respected, we don’t want to have trespassers,” she noted, adding that the land has been private property for years, even when it was owned by UVic.
David said they are closing off some land to the public due to its spiritual significance but said if people, including School District 63 (Saanich), come to them, create a relationship and allow them to lead educational tours, access would still be granted.
“We can give them a much better experience,” she said.