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A May 22nd news release from the Solicitor General of Canada announced the Maple Creek/Nekaneet community in southwestern Saskatchewan as the site for a $7 million Healing Lodge facility for Aboriginal women. This announcement was very surprising to many people because of other groups particularly in Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Regina, that made bids for the facility. The location was chosen by the federal government on the recommendations from The Healing Lodge Planning Committee and from the Native Women's Association of Canada. In all, there were 23 areas in Saskatchewan which made a bid for the Healing Lodge facility. The top ten were Maple Creek/Nekaneet; Creighton-Denare Beach; Moose Jaw; Green Lake; Moose Mountain; Prince Albert; Regina/Piapot Band; Little Pine/Cut Knife; Canoe Lake; and Saskatoon/Muskeg Lake.
The town of Maple Creek is located in the Cypress Hills region of Saskatchewan. Nekaneet is located about 25 kilometres south of Maple Creek. The chosen location best met the selection committee's criteria, the three most important being: "a rural setting on appropriate land, with pure, natural running water and with the support of a nearby Aboriginal community." The Healing Lodge, as the name implies, will be a place of healing, helping, recovery and rehabilitation, not of punishment and isolation. The Maple Creek location possesses the necessary natural elements which will set it apart from the usual impersonal correctional facilities settings of jails and prisons.
For decades the justice system in Canada, and the correction facilities in particular, have tended to overlook the alarmingly high numbers of incarcerated Aboriginal people. The problems that are associated with these numbers failed to be acknowledged and dealt with in a constructive and positive manner. The situation changed when a solution was reached: to create a new and unique institution specifically designed and targeted for Aboriginal women.
Unfortunately, the much awaited announcement for the location of the first of the five new regional facilities was overshadowed by bitterness and charges of political patronage.