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Lanaudière Native Friendship Centre slated to relocate and expand

A vigil that took place in memory of Joyce Echaquan in Joliette, QC., on Tuesday, September 29, 2020. Sylvain Trudeau/Global News

The Government of Quebec is spending $3.1 million to relocate and expand the Lanaudière Native Friendship Centre in Joliette.

The larger centre will allow the organization to increase its service, says Ian Lafrenière, Minister Responsible for Indigenous Affairs.

It will house a community kitchen and provide space for the promotion of indigenous history, arts and culture. It will also accommodate social and economic development projects and include early childhood care, a day nursery, and a games room.

The announcement follows the death of Joyce Echaquan, 37, an Atikamekw woman who died in a Joliette hospital in September 2020. At the hospital, Echaquan suffered degrading insults from a nurse and a hospital staffer. Echaquan filmed the scene and the video has been widely circulated, leading to outrage and calls for reform.

Read more: Quebec looks to improve health-care services for Indigenous patients

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The relocation and expansion of the centre will provide members of the Indigenous community, especially the Atikamekws, a welcoming place to meet friends, where they will be treated with kindness and respect, Lafrenière says.

It will be a place where the region’s Indigenous population will feel welcomed with dignity, adds Jennifer Brazeau, executive director of the Lanaudière Native Friendship Centre,

The construction site of the new centre is expected to be completed in the fall of 2022.