Saskatchewan is to get its first national museum, after the federal government earmarked funds in this year’s budget for Regina’s RCMP Heritage Centre.
“We’re targeting the 150-year anniversary of the RCMP, so May 2023,” said Steve McLellan, the centre’s board chair, of a possible open date after the building’s transition is done.
When that happens, Regina’s RCMP museum will be the third national one outside of the Ottawa region; the other two are Halifax’s Pier 21 Museum of Immigration and Winnipeg’s Human Rights Museum, he said.
The federal Liberal’s budget document, released on April 20, lists some heavy, front-end-loaded spending on Canada’s museums, starting this year.
The total pot is for $65 million, but $47 million — a bit more than 72 per cent — is set aside for this year alone. The remaining $18 million is spread out over four years, starting in 2022.
Heritage Canada spokesman Daniel Savoie said in an email $4.5 million is allocated for the Regina centre's transition; it’s to be spread out over three years.
“Details of how the funding will be administered are still being determined, however it is expected that the funds could be used to support ongoing operational expenses, minor facility upgrades and to allow the continuation of activities while it does the work needed to meet the requirements" to be a national museum, Savoie said.
Based on his conversations with the federal agency, McLellan said "there's still a lot of fluidity," but the centre is “thrilled” by the funding.
He noted May 2023 is not necessarily a firm open time period, describing that goal as a very tight turnaround.
Either way, the transition process means a lot of work.
“I think there will be some new capital, some new building, because of (potential storage issues with the RCMP’s collection), which frees up some space inside the building,” he said.
“We know there will be some renewal of some great extent (of the current building on Dewdney Avenue). We think of the exhibit areas to refresh and tell the stories, and also in terms of the next steps … hiring a new CEO.”
McLellan said it’s to be that person’s job to lead the transition, an important part of which is ensuring all historical and present-day stories are represented at the museum, “the good, the bad and the ugly,” referencing the Cypress Hills massacre of June 1, 1873.
He underscored “there is so much good the Mounties have done that that is going to be a priority of our storytelling, if you will.”
Part of the transition will mean the centre consults “with a variety of groups countrywide” to inform the entire process, including how and which stories are told in the space.
He said history shows Mounties “did what they were told by the government of the day to do. And in the cold light of today's lens, that can be very challenging.”