Location: Maple Creek, Saskatchewan
Timeline: February 2016
Client: Public Works & Government Services Canada

Opened in 1995, the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge was built to implement a healing-first approach for incarcerated Aboriginal women based on traditional values and practices. Situated on Nekaneet First Nation, much of the teachings and ceremonies are Anishnabe and incorporated into the everyday lifestyle of the healing lodge.

 Source: Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Source: Office of the Auditor General of Canada

The Main and Spiritual Lodge are the two central structures at the facility, both of which feature traditional tipi roofs that required reshingling and a new drainage system to remove water away from the buildings.

With the hilly terrain and harsh Prairie climates of the region, the area gained a nickname among Advantage team as “Narnia.” President, Tim Hopkins, recalls one particular morning when the team entered through cloud covering, only to being greeted by antelope on the other side. “It was surreal,” he says of the experience. “The typography is very undulating and almost deceiving. You think it’d be the same weather as it was from our hotel but it was always the opposite.”

Understanding the high-level security of the facilities and taking into account the weather conditions of the area, Advantage GRP fully cooperated with security and staff at Okimaw Ohci to ensure the highest quality of work while maintaining safety for all.
 

Security Measures

Former-Advantage GRP’s Project Manager, Adam Nelson, assisted in submitting a log which detailed the equipment and tools required for successful completion of the project. The catalogue included a brief description of the tools and its function on the job-site. Security at Okimaw Ohci then thoroughly assessed every item brought in by the Advantage team, matching it with the catalogue submitted by Nelson. Meticulous vehicle inspections and body checks took place upon entering and leaving the facilities.

Under no circumstances was any team member of Advantage GRP to converse or interact with the offenders at the lodge. Washroom breaks included an escort by two commissionaires at all times. Tool counts were redone at the end of the day before the team exited the facilities.
 

A Roof That Lasts a Lifetime

Tipi roofs feature a flat centre and a sloped roof supported by three beams beneath it. While beautifully contrasted with the traditional colours on the lodge, the shingles of the Main and Spiritual Lodge were cedar shakes that Nelson described as having “met its age.”

Initially the plan was to restore the roof with typical shingling material. However, after arriving on-site, Hopkins took both traditional materials and security measures into consideration and decided that the facility needed shingles that would require less maintenance and guarantee long-term durability.

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The team submitted a recommendation of change to the roofing project to install DECRA, a heavyweight metal shingle that boasts a lifetime guarantee. Additionally, the finish on the product gives it a heavy-cut wood shingles look, which allows both the Main and Spiritual Lodge to maintain its traditional look.

“We said we would source, spec and cover any additional costs for this recommendation,” shares Hopkins. “It wasn’t until we got boots on the ground that we could make this assessment, so it was important to us.” 

The recommendation of change was approved. “There’s no doubt that it looks incredibly sharp,” describes Nelson of the results.

The team then installed omni-vents, which would alleviate thermal and moisture protection issues from the low sloped roof to steep roof. The centre of the roof was topped with IKO MS Detail, a solvent-free sealant that ensured the tipi feature was waterproof. 
 

A Case of Icy Sidewalks

Okimaw Ohci translates to “thunder hills” in Cree, an element so prominent in the landscape of the healing lodge. While it makes for excellent viewpoints, it required some strategy from the team at Advantage GRP, challenging the team to work with the terrain and not despite it.

The Main and Spiritual Lodge both featured downspouts that came off the building and to the ground, draining water away from the building.

“While it was draining away from the building, it was flowing down the hill and onto the sidewalks which would ice up,” explains Nelson of the issue. “It was a walking hazard.”

In addition to the redoing of the downspouts, two drainage troughs were used to move water away from the building and off the sidewalks. Crushed rock was introduced to absorb any remaining water into the ground.
 

Continuing the Vision

The vision that was instilled at Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge was developed by the Elders who guided the planning and practices at the facilities with five principles: empowerment, meaningful and responsible choices, respect and dignity, supportive environment and shared responsibility.

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It was crucial for the team at Advantage GRP to recognize and uphold these values through the work done on this project. For Hopkins, not only was this a chance to incorporate tradition into the project but a reflection of federal government initiatives that make restoration work possible.

Through the Procurement Strategy for Aboriginal Business (PSAB), the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge became a new opportunity for Advantage GRP to access a project that required traditional understanding and competence, contribute to the economic development in the area and strengthened relationships with the federal government.

“Federal procurement is a balancing agent to the market,” concludes Hopkins of the experience. “It’s a policy that reflects who we are as a nation.”

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