By Lisa Iesse
The Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation’s (MCFN) historic ‘Old Council House’ is about to get a face lift.
The MCFN’s council recently received a $500,000 Indigenous Tourism Relief Fund grant to help restore the building that has served as the community’s first political and social centre for over 100 years.
Since it’s construction in 1882, the Council House has been the centre of the community’s political and social life.
Until 1988, the Council House building hosted elected band council meetings, but also many MCFN programs and services.
“The building itself housed all of our programs of the day, that’s where we started out of,” community historian and former MSFN Chief Carolyn King said.
“And it has been a lot of things for the community, from meeting space to school,” said King who now works in the economic development department.
Councillor Ashley Sault said its had a lot of community use.
“It’s been used in the past for a plethora of things: for workshops, even as an actual factory space, it’s been office space, it’s been a school. It’s had it’s run,” said Councillor Sault.
And now its going back to the beginning.
“The idea is that it can be used for Council, for the council chambers, it’s intended purpose, but it can also be utilized for workshops and things like that. It’s basically another meeting space that’s really needed because we have a lot of meetings and very little meeting space. It’s going to be beneficial for that purpose and for the purpose of bringing the council back to the center, the core of our nation as well.”
Council meetings are currently being held at the MCFN community center, but once the work is done, the meetings will return to the original Council House building.
The building is being revitalized, but no changes to its original core structure are being made.
“To bring it back to its original blueprint means taking out what was put in there in the 70s. Quite extensive work is being done on the inside and the outside, there’s repair and replacing, bringing it back to the original,” Councillor Sault explained.
“Abatement was just completed on the building and the results are good,” King explained.
“They’re doing a structural inspection coming up on Wednesday, the engineers that started this. They are checking the foundation and seeing what needs to be done or not done.
The building had been plagued with several major issues over the last decades including a lack of heating and proper insulation. The new building will have an updated HVAC system, better heating, modern energy saving technology, intercom, internet access and an accessible bathroom. New windows and doors will help with the energy efficiency of the building.
“Because it’s going to be one floor, the whole building will be accessible – one of the big things we wanted to make sure of,” Councillor Sault emphasized.
The building will be open to anyone in the community who needs it, including for the use of the internet, she said.
“We are looking at how to livestream the meetings, there will be quite a bit of technology in the building but it will also be used for workshops, it won’t just solely be for Council,” MCFN Communications Coordinator Victoria Gray explained.
Councillor Sault is looking forward to the restoration.
“That will be another spot where if our culture and events department wants to have for example a hand drum making workshop and the community center is all booked up. They can go there and utilize that.
It will have all the same features, so if they need to Zoom someone in they can. Even language classes can be held in there. That is one thing I was considering and really excited about, we could have language class there,” Sault shared.
“They could teach pretty much any workshop there, and a lot of it will be cultural, so I find that pretty exciting. It will be a different kind of workshop being run there. Where you have pictures of the workshop before when they were making car seat foam… picture a new open space, that’s going to look the same but it’s going to be more modern and there’s going to be people doing cultural things in that building. That’s really important and exciting.”
The work to revitalize the building is also in tune with the naturalization program of the surrounding grove, restoring and renewing important traditions that are changing the landscape of the future.
“Medicine surrounding the Council House that were at any risk of being damaged from this work were to be relocated, but we avoided that by using the back door for accessibility instead of wrapping a whole ramp around the whole building,” Sault explained.
The Council House revitalization follows the success of a biodiversity program to revitalize the grounds around the community.
The Council House project is also invested in reclaiming MCFN culture and history through the return of previously stolen or lost artifacts.
“It’s going to be a museum in itself,” Sault said.
“It’s not even just the building, how it’s being renovated itself, but it’s also the items that are going to be put back in there, that have been moved out for now while the renovations happen. There will be items in there that will show the history of MSFN
“Our history will be in that building, the current history, the past history, a lot of it will be housed there.”
The Council House Restoration Committee is actively looking for ways to raise additional funds that will be needed to reopen the Council House building.
They have entered their project into the National Trust of Canada competition. Ten heritage places from across the country are vying for votes to win $50,000 to help their community save a heritage place that matters. Voting will run from January 20 – February 22.
For more information or to place your vote you can visit the National Trust site.