Mission Kitcisakik

PROJECT Mission Kitcisakik, Kitcisakik, Quebec
ARCHITECTS Guillaume Lévesque, Architecte & Emergency Architects Canada
PHOTOS Guillaume Lévesque and Peter Papatie 

Emergency Architects of Canada and Frontiers Foundation, with the initiative of architect Guillaume Lévesque, have built upon their skills and professionalism in order to improve, in a hands-on manner, the condition of the dwellings of Kitcisakik, located outside of reservation land, that have neither running water nor electricity. This work has been undertaken in close consultation with the Anishnabe (Algonquin) Nation, with the goal of developing skills, confidence and autonomy in a community having no legal status and where the residents are considered “squatters” of a land they never left.

Other than the crucial involvement of the population in the development of renovation plans, the areas in which the intervention is focused are the following: children’s health; overcrowded dwellings; water access; sustainable development and salvaging materials; sustainable use of local wood and healthy forest management; self-sufficiency for construction lumber with a saw mill; solar panels and batteries to decrease air pollution from gas generators; and reinforcing expertise as well as the acquisition of new skills for the local workforce.

Around 15 Native labourers, counselled by Guillaume Lévesque, work on the jobsites in order to improve their community’s living conditions and durability of the houses. The training obtained on the jobsites will allow some Aboriginals to earn competency certificates from the CCQ (Commission de la Construction du Québec) and to earn a living autonomously.

The actions of this joint initiative have given rise to a virtual solidarity movement within the community by mobilizing both private businesses and government alike and have restored confidence and pride to the members of the community. In almost three years (2009-2011), 16 houses were renovated, while the program foresees the renovation of another 10 by the end of 2012. 

Two sawmills were installed, thanks to the collaboration of the Frontiers Foundation and the support of Lylas Polsen who trained the workers to use the equipment. Under the aegis of the architect, many donors offered over $550,000 in construction materials and over $200,000 in cash, including $40,000 donated by the Frontiers Foundation for the first two homes. 

In December 2009, the SHQ (Société d’Habitation du Québec) announced support in the form of a million dollars earmarked for a renovation program for 30 houses. The Fonds Mikwam, a local housing corporation, was created to follow through on the renovations and to pay the Native labourers. At the same time, the federal arm committed a million dollars to allow the construction of the elementary school. The school was inaugurated in October 2010 and now allows children to attend school in their own village.

Emergency Architects of Canada is committed to finding other financial partners and donors for the years 2012 and 2013, and invites volunteers to work on jobsites with the local workers in order to promote intercultural cooperation and to dissolve prejudices towards Aboriginals. Encouraged by the feeling of pride within the community, Guillaume Lévesque wishes to repeat the experience with other communities and invites the workers to share and transfer their acquired skills.

Jury: Though not a conventional architectural project, this imaginative and pioneering initiative to improve physical conditions in First Nations communities deserves wider recognition. At its heart and with searing clarity, it embodies the most fundamental aspect of architecture, which is to transform human life for the better. It responds bravely to real and urgent needs, and applies technical skill with energy and dedication. In recognizing the value and significance of this process, it is to be hoped such initiatives will become more widely emulated. CA

Client Communauté Anicinape de Kitcisakik, Chief Adrienne Anichinapéo, Mikwam Fund (Augustin Penoway, Director)
Architect Team Guillaume Lévesque, Bernard McNamara, Yves Langevin
Native Team Tciky Penosway, Monique Papatie, Denis Jean-Pierre, Diomed Papatie, Jean-Paul Brazeau, Axel Papatie, Benoit Penosway, Roderick Papatie, Alex Papatie, Marie-Anne Papatie, Patrick Gunn, Jean-Paul Penosway, Jean-Baptiste Gunn, Charley Papatens, Armand Papatie, Ghislain Penosway, Hélène Brazeau, Rodney Papatie, Jérémie Papatie, Matts Gunn, Gilbert Papatie, Peter Papatie, Victor Papatie
Project Partner Frontiers Foundation (Lylas Polsen, Charles Catto, Marco Guzman)
University Partners Université Laval (Caroline Desbiens, André Casault)
Structural Geniex (Pierre Brassard)
Contractor Communauté Anicinape de Kitcisakik, Coopérative de solidarité Wenicec de Kitcisakik
Area 30 houses (750 ft2 each)
Budget $2 M
Completion 2009-2013