Federal funding announced for Mabou Hill College

MABOU: A new satellite campus that is under construction received more government assistance late last week.

On June 18, it was announced that $958,257 in funding from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) will go to the Gaelic College Foundation to renovate the former St. Joseph’s Convent and Renewal Centre into a satellite campus which will be called Mabou Hill College.

According to a press release issued by ACOA, the facility will offer post-secondary students Gaelic culture and event management courses in collaboration with The Gaelic College and Cape Breton University.

Mabou Hill College is expected to draw local, national and international students, creating year-round employment and attracting investment, the press release said, noting that from May to August, the campus will also provide accommodations for seasonal staff in Mabou and Inverness County.

Cape Breton-Canso MP Mike Kelloway said he is “super excited” about the potential offered by this “refreshed” facility.

“It’s a huge project,” Kelloway told The Reporter. “Look at the common denominator here; an organization in The Gaelic College that had a vision, that worked hard. The CEO, Rodney MacDonald, and the board of directors, and the staff there worked together, along with the province, along with the municipality, and I worked directly with ACOA and The Gaelic College to make sure that the federal government understands the significance of Mabou Hill College.”

As an educator, Kelloway said he sees the value in protecting, promoting and growing the Gaelic language and culture, a move which can position the region for economic growth.

“People are coming to Cape Breton and northeastern Nova Scotia from other parts of Canada, and other parts of North America, wanting to come here because of the quality of life,” he noted. “These programs, this infrastructure, the amenities, the continuing education opportunities, and the ability to house different events at Mabou Hill College does just that.”

Renovations to the 32,000 square foot former St. Joseph’s Convent and Renewal Centre in Mabou began this month, and include green technology upgrades such as solar panels and heat pumps, ACOA said, noting that the improvements are expected to be completed by the end of this year.

“We are committed to supporting the unique offerings and qualities that make Cape Breton so special for residents and visitors, alike,” said Mélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for ACOA. “By building on our strengths, we are positioning the region for a strong economic recovery.”

The college will offer a Foundation Year Program featuring broad course options including Gaelic culture and history, an executive certificate in cultural organizations/event management and an executive certificate in music and ethnomusicology, the press release stated.

“Beinn Mhàbu, and all that it offers, will be a catalyst of change and opportunity for the region and Nova Scotia’s Gaelic community,” said Rodney MacDonald, President of The Gaelic College.

According to ACOA, the campus will also house North America’s first Gaelic immersion primary school, an internet radio station with podcasts, traditional music and student showcases, an Artists-in-Residence program, continuing education offerings in music, dance and Gaelic language for youth, a dining experience, rental space and a craft shop.

“This is such a vital step for the Gaelic community and we’re looking forward to the foundation it will provide for so many meaningful and positive initiatives, locally and further afield,” said Mabou Hill College Vice-President Kenneth MacKenzie.

On March 13, the province announced it will provide $1.92 million for the project. During a visit to Inverness County late last week, Premier Iain Rankin reiterated his support for the project.

“Having attended The Gaelic College when I was younger, I certainly see the value,” he told The Reporter. “My family is steeped in promoting and championing the Gaelic culture, and it’s something I understood very well. We’re happy that we were able to contribute provincially to facilitate more investment from another level of government.”