City of Brandon officially approves zoning application for reunification centre 

What used to be the Redwood Motor Inn, a hub for drugs and illegal activity in Brandon, Man., 200 km west of Winnipeg, is now a place that provides a safe and sober living environment for parents recovering from addictions.

The Aurora Reunification Centre opened in June 2023 and reunites parents with their children who would otherwise be placed in the child welfare system.

Leonard McIvor has been able to live here with his wife and seven-month-old son for three months.

“He’s starting to walk and what not,” McIvor told APTN News while spending time with his wife and son in the main gathering space of the facility. “It’s making me happy, really happy to be here.”

Aurora Reunification Centre
Leonard McIvor with his son at the Aurora Reunification Centre. Photo: Tamara Pimental/APTN.

The families can live at the former motel for as long as it’s needed while learning the basics of parenting and receiving support 24/7.

More than 20 families currently live in Aurora with the majority being Indigenous. Every parent must go through an addiction recovery program to live at the reunification home.

McIvor said he “came a long way” in building a stronger relationship with his wife.

Owner Michael Bruneau said it hasn’t been easy to get city approval for the facility since it’s opening in June.

“I went to the city and I talked to the city planners, told them what I was doing, they said, ‘Great idea.’ [I asked] how’s my zoning? [They said] hotel zoning is fantastic.

“I purchased the hotel, opened up, and all of a sudden I got a call from the city saying I got a re-zoning,” Bruneau said.

Aurora Reunification Centre
Shirley Beaulieu working on her beading at the centre. Photo: Tamara Pimentel/APTN.

Three public hearings took place to approve the application. The location, access to playgrounds and services came into question. At a recent public hearing, Brandon City Coun. Bruce Leubke supported the centre.

“There is some benefit to our community to have this come to our community,” he said.

The team at Aurora has fenced in the former motel’s parking lot to create a green play area and a daycare is under renovation.

For Shirley Beaulieu, the program helped break a cycle of addictions in her family. Her children are now in her care.

With access to an elder, ceremonies and teaching, she and her children have re-connected with their culture. Beaulieu’s new addiction is beading.

“I lost my kids to CFS [Child and Family Services] about a year ago. It was torturing me. The more I did stuff like alcohol and drugs… I was sick of it and my kids wanted their mom back,” she said.

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