VANCOUVER—Work on a new Indigenous centre is moving forward in Vancouver.
The concept plan includes a youth centre, a post-secondary education and skills training campus, affordable homes, a child care centre and cultural and support services.
“The realization of this project will not only be a transformational moment for Indigenous youth and their families who live in Metro Vancouver, but it will be of an immense benefit to the city and the province as a whole,” said Matthew Norris, president of the Urban Native Youth Association (UNYA), in a statement. “This centre represents a significant step forward to addressing the legacy of residential schools, intergenerational trauma, and the realization of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The new centre will be a permanent purpose-built space for UNYA and the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT) Vancouver campus.
Plans for the centre came after calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the B.C. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.
“With more Indigenous people choosing to call Metro Vancouver home, there is a growing demand for community-based, culturally relevant services,” said Premier John Horgan. “This new centre will help meet the need and seize the opportunity, serving as a national example of Indigenous-led, transformational change. By working in partnership with Indigenous Peoples, we are building a stronger province where everyone has access to opportunities today and for generations to come.”
The province will provide $2.5 million for the business-case development to finalize the project’s scope, timelines and funding sources.
The province stated UNYA’s current facility is too small for its growing community and was built in a way that can discourage youth from dropping in. The new centre’s goal will be to provide a welcoming and centralized space for UNYA’s youth programming, including classrooms, media labs, art studios, community spaces for Elders, traditional ceremony spaces, a health and wellness clinic, and gym and recreation areas.
NVIT currently leases space in Burnaby, which is distanced from many of the students it serves. The province noted the space is also at capacity and lacks specialized learning environments needed to expand its programs. NVIT’s new permanent home proposes to include purpose-built classrooms, media labs and lecture areas, a trades workshop, library and study areas, and a student lounge.
In addition to child care and affordable homes for Indigenous people and families, the centre could also include common areas, such as a community kitchen and café, bookstore, outdoor gathering area and ceremonial spaces.
“For an entire generation, urban Indigenous youth have been planning for this day. The vision for this centre directly responds to numerous calls to action from young Indigenous leaders who challenged all levels of government to create pathways for them to thrive,” said Melanie Mark, MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant. “This centre weaves culture, education, wellness and empowerment into a groundbreaking space for reconciliation. Most importantly, the creation of this first-of-its kind centre for excellence signals to all Indigenous youth that their lives matter. Indigenous youth deserve every opportunity to dream big and excel as they heal from the calculated decisions by former governments who used Indian residential schools to kill the Indian in the child.”
Land contributions from UNYA and the City of Vancouver as well as a land donation from Suncor Energy Inc. have been conditionally secured.
The project is located on the territories of the Coast Salish people, which includes the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. The building will be located at the corner of East Hastings Street and Commercial Drive in Vancouver, near UNYA’s current building.
The centre will be operated by UNYA, with partners NVIT and yet-to-be determined housing and child care operators that will be engaged through the City of Vancouver.