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Lac La Biche Mission holds strategic planning session

Planning underway for next three years at Lac La Biche Mission site

LAC LA BICHE - The next three years of site programming and focus- materials have been laid out for the Lac La Biche Mission Historical Site. 

The provincial and national historic resource was the site of a recent strategic planning session that saw members of the historical society, site staff and municipal officials gather to set a course for the next few years. 

Christelle Shepherd, the site administrator, said the group has outlined long-term goals and objectives, identified key priorities, and developed a road map for achieving success.  

The session was facilitated by Frederick Audet from Learn Square, a consulting firm.  

“This session allowed us to align our efforts, leverage our strengths, and address any challenges or opportunities facing our organization in order to ensure sustainable growth and impact,” Shepherd told Lakeland This Week. “We will implement the actions from our Strategic Plan over the next three years.” 

Many firsts

The Lac La Biche Mission was established in 1853 by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate priests, they came from France through Quebec and then into the West.. The Roman Catholic order was dedicated to missionary work. The first Mission site was in the town of current-day Lac La Biche next to the Hudson’s Bay Company post. The Mission moved in 1855 to its current location about 10 kilometres west of Lac La Biche be closer to the water. The Mission is the site of the first production wheat field in western Canada, the first sawmill and the first commercial printing press. The Mission was also part of Canada’s residential schooling system from 1893 to 1898. A community day-school remained operating at the site into the 1970s. 

The Mission site currently houses and interpretive centre, the old schoolhouse, the convent building, farm outbuildings and the re-built old church. A fire in 2009 destroyed the 104-year-old Mission rectory. Each summer, the historical site offers tours and information sessions, offering glimpses into its long history. 

Shepherd said the recent strategic meeting reviewed the historical site’s corporate vision, mission, and values.  

One of the main discussion topics at this meeting and many recent ones, said Shepherd, is funding. 

The lack of direct federal funding for the operations of historic sites such as the Lac La Biche Mission often comes as a surprise to many people, shesaid. Given the significance and cultural importance of these sites in preserving and commemorating Canada’s heritage, she said, a person might naturally assume they receive substantial government support.  

However, the reality is often quite different.  

Despite their national significance, many National Historic Sites struggle to secure adequate funding to cover their day-to-day operational expenses, such as maintenance, staff salaries, and visitor services, she said. 

“This funding shortfall can present significant challenges for these sites in fulfilling their mandate to preserve and promote our shared history, leading to concerns about the long-term sustainability and viability of these important cultural assets. 

The finalized plan for the coming years, Shepherd continued, is currently in the drafting stage, and staff of the Lac La Biche Mission anticipate presenting it to the board for approval very soon. Subsequently, she added, the plan will be shared with the public.  

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