Federal Funding leads to creation of Atoske Community Educational Health Lab

(October 9, 2018) – In April of 2018, the Atoske Action Group (AAG) received a contribution of $450,000 from the Government of Canada through Western Economic Diversification Canada to train community members who want to pursue health careers. These funds made possible the creation and opening  of the Atoske Community Educational Health Lab located at the Northern Lakes College campus.

The Atoske Action Group dedicates its work to increasing the skills, abilities, and size of the local work forces within the MD of Opportunity #17, Bigstone Cree Nation (BCN), Sandy Lake, Peerless Trout First Nation, Chipewyan Lake, and Wabasca-Desmarais. “Atoske” is the Cree word meaning, “to work”.

In 2015, The Bigstone Health Commission reached out to the Atoske Action Group to assist in promoting health careers to community members. Roundtable meetings with the Atoske Action Group, Bigstone Education Authority, Alberta Works, and Northern Lakes College resulted in the development of a plan that supports community members to pursue Health Care Aide training.

Elder Albert Yellowknee, Clayton Auger, Darlene Jackson, Marcel Auger, Ernie Grach, Rena Auger, and Ann Everatt cut the ribbon to officially open the Atoske Community Health Lab.

The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada commented, “Access to local community training programs creates new opportunities for life. Through effective partnerships with Indigenous Peoples, the Government of Canada is helping to remove barriers to success by ensuring local citizens are able to obtain the skills they require to fully participate in the economy and strengthen their communities.”

Art Bigstone, Chair of Atoske Action Group explained, “A crucial aspect of the Atoske Action Group vision is to provide meaningful and accessible training through key partnerships. The Atoske Community Educational Health Lab and its associated programming are only possible because of the partnership between the Atoske Action Group, Bigstone Cree Nation, the M.D. of Opportunity, the Western Diversification Program, and Northern Lakes College.”

“The Western Economic Diversification grant provides an opportunity for BCN members and citizens from communities within the MD of Opportunity to obtain education leading to a career in the health field,” says Bigstone Cree Nation Chief Gordon T. Auger.

“The funding has also made possible the Community Educational Health Lab, which will reduce the need for students to travel over 134km to Slave Lake to further their education. Our community takes pride in this opportunity to give back to our membership, youth, and young families, as this will help bridge the need for qualified health professionals in our community.”

“Educating local residents in the health professions will be a real asset to the MD of Opportunity when we open our seniors’ health facility in the fall of 2019,” added Reeve Marcel Auger, MD of Opportunity No. 17.

NLC President and CEO Ann Everatt noted, “The College’s ongoing commitment to access and quality results in the reduction of educational barriers faced by northcentral Albertans. The Atoske Community Educational Health Lab ensures that community members will have access to the lab experiences required for the Health Care Aide program right here in the community. As a part of the larger initiative to increase capacity for Health Care Aides in the community, the creation of the customized Health Preparation Program ensures that local students receive the educational preparation required to enter into the Health Care Aide program.”

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