$10 million trust fund set up for world heritage site

October 14, 2009

The proposal to establish a UNESCO world heritage site on the east side of Lake Winnipeg received a big financial boost today, with the Manitoba government kick-starting a new trust fund with $10 million.

The fund will be administered by the Winnipeg Foundation and is designed to pay for staff and programming related to the Pimachiowin Aki site, which is still a few years away from being considered for designation by UNESCO.

“With this trust fund, many more people who share the vision of our elders can share our dream,” said Sophia Rabliauskas, a resident of Poplar River First Nation who’s been helping to spearhead the drive for a world heritage site.

Rick Frost, CEO of the Winnipeg Foundation, said he expects the $10 million the Manitoba government has put into the fund to leverage a further $10 million or so from the federal and Ontario governments and from private donors. Frost said he expects the fund to eventually generate about $1 million per year towards Pimachiowin Aki’s operations.

Rabliauskas said the money will be used for things like scientific studies, research on traditional knowledge, public education, and training programs for those who will look after the site.

She said the project’s board is still in the process of preparing evidence to present in its bid to UNESCO, which is expected to be submitted in February 2012.

“We have to prove that it has outstanding universal value,” Rabliauskas said.

Premier Gary Doer told the federal NDP convention in Halifax in August that “it will take us another 10 years to get that site set up as a world heritage site,” but this afternoon he said he didn’t mean that literally.

“What I was saying was sometimes things take a long time and to have patience,” he said, noting the full process would be 10 years if the bid is approved in 2012, as the original accord setting out the vision for the site was signed in 2002.

The fund’s launch today may well be Doer’s last official announcement as premier, as he will step down following this weekend’s NDP leadership convention.

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