Downtown fire damages U of M Aboriginal Education Centre

The University of Manitoba’s downtown Aboriginal Education Centre is closed for the time being after it suffered extensive smoke damage as a result of a massive fire that occurred downtown on Aug. 24.

University spokesperson John Danakas said the university is still assessing the extent of the damage to the facility and intends to relocate all staff working out of the centre to the Extended Education complex on the Fort Garry campus.

Assistant Chief of Operations of the Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Service, Bill Clark, explained that while the smoke damage to the building “wasn’t all that great,” the water damage to the building was significant.

“It was from the extinguishment efforts, as well as the building’s sprinkler system [ . . . ]. The amount of heat involved was setting off a lot of the building’s sprinkler heads,” said Clark.

“Although it stopped major fire loss, it still creates water damage.”

The fire caused similar water damage to several other businesses located near the U of M facility.

While the Aboriginal Education Centre is home to the Faculty of Extended Education’s Aboriginal Focus Programs, the faculty also offers the English as an Additional Language program and Continuing Education courses at the centre.

“That centre is a convenient location for a number of our student groups to access education,” said Lori Wallace, dean of the Faculty of Extended Education.

Wallace said that the fire has affected approximately 1,000 students, including 100 Aboriginal Focus Program students and 175 English Language Studies students.

The fire came with particularly bad timing considering four new classrooms were recently completed over the summer.

Aboriginal Focus Programs offer transition, certificate, and diploma programs that “respond to the post-secondary and professional development needs and concerns of Aboriginal people,”
explained Wallace.

The English as an Additional Language program is a new program sponsored by Manitoba Labour and Immigration, where recent immigrants to Canada can master their English language skills to “make a successful transition to life in Manitoba,” said Wallace.

The facility is approximately 1,490 square metres, comprised of five classrooms, 18 staff offices, board room, reception area and student lounge.

“It’s a smaller scale and geographically closer to our students and our students have a closer proximity to our staff,” explained Wallace of why the centre works better for certain Extended Education programs.

“The teaching spaces work very well [ . . . ] and the proximity of the students to staff and instructors works very well.”

Most of the fall programming taught out of Aboriginal Education Centre is being relocated to the Fort Garry campus, although some classes are being held at 404 Webb Place. Updates to course locations can be found on the Extended Education home page on the U of M website.