National Indigenous Cultural Expo asks city for $200K sponsorship

In a bid to connect with their peers and talk about how to re-engage Indigenous youth to preserve their culture, Indigenous elders from across Canada met for the first-ever National Gathering of Elders in Edmonton on Sept. 11, 2017. Global News

The Edmonton Expo Centre will host the National Indigenous Cultural Expo at the end of September, however, the event being awarded to the city of Edmonton is both good and bad news, according to a city councillor.

Scott McKeen says the expo is another sign of Edmonton’s growing reputation as a place to host gatherings and events, but the event also comes with an unexpected $200,000 funding request.

“It feels out of the blue,” McKeen said of the $200,000 request. “We have to weigh that against other priorities.”

“As work continues to develop improved relationships with Indigenous peoples, administration has heard from many Indigenous event organizers that Edmonton is being viewed positively as not only a key services hub, but also a centralized location for hosting Indigenous events in the province and Western Canada,” reads a report headed to next week’s community services committee meeting.

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READ MORE: First-ever national gathering of Indigenous elders underway in Edmonton

The expo would come on the heels of last year’s inaugural National Gathering of Elders, which had approximately 5,000 people in attendance.

Organizers are also seeking $600,000 in funding from both the federal government and the province to go towards a $1.7-million budget.

McKeen said he agrees with the report’s proposal to only provide city money if it’s “subject to” the other levels of government contributing as well. The money could come from city council’s contingency fund.

“That is at $400,000, so this would eat up half of that, so that’s not a small bite,” McKeen said.

But McKeen noted the positive impact that hosting such events can have on Alberta’s capital.

“Given that Edmonton will soon have the largest Indigenous population of any city in Canada, that’s what we need to strive for. We need to be a city of inclusion where our Indigenous citizens are uplifted. Because if we don’t do that, that’s going to be trouble.” ​

Another factor in favour of the organizers is the revenue the event could generate for the Expo Centre, which is now run by the city through Edmonton Economic Development Corporation.

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“It’s an in-and-out accounting,” McKeen said. “So the Expo Centre will win, so that reduces the pain a little bit too.”

Edmonton Tourism pegs the economic impact at $6 million for Edmonton, the report says.

READ MORE: City councillors vote to approve plan to ‘transition’ Expo Centre to the City of Edmonton

The gathering of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people will present “the best of Indigenous culture to Edmonton through a national powwow, a national Indigenous fashion show of Indigenous designers, a Northern and Southern hand-games tournament, a trade show and several competitive events,” the report says.

The 2017 National Gathering of Elders was covered by a $50,000 grant by the city. However, this time around the administration isn’t supporting the city being the sole sponsor because the event has grown.