Plans are moving forward for a new Indigenous centre that will move the current NVIT Burnaby campus.

The new centre will move forward on the territories of the Coast Salish peoples in Vancouver. Aside from a new NVIT campus, the centre will also include a youth centre, and skills training campus, affordable homes, a child care centre and cultural and support services.

“As BC’s only public post-secondary institution with an indigenous mandate, we have been working on establishing a permanent Vancouver campus since 2007,” said Ken Tourand, president of NVIT.

“Being founded by the five Nicola Bands, NVIT’s roots will always remain in the Nicola Valley, however, with support from our Elders, Chiefs and the NVIT Board of Governors we can’t wait to build a new campus in Vancouver.”

The new campus will address the lack of specialized learning environments needed to expand its programs. Proposal for NVIT’s new permanent home includes purpose-built classrooms, media labs and lecture areas, trades workshop, library and study areas, and a student lounge.

“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,” said Matthew Norris, president, Urban Native Youth Association (UNYA).

“Indigenous youth and their community deserve a community hub they are proud of whose design represents their voices and interests, and where they feel safe and can access the programming and services that support their well-being as Indigenous Peoples.”

The project is located on the territories of the Coast Salish people, which includes the x?m??k??y??m (Musqueam), s?wx?wú7mesh (Squamish) and sel?íl?witulh (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 new centre will be a permanent purpose-built home for UNYA and the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT) Vancouver campus. NVIT currently far from many of the students it serves, leasing the full capacity space in Burnaby.

“Working in partnership with the UNYA, and with support from the Ministry of Advanced Education, this project has the opportunity to ensure that Indigenous youth receive the supports they need to transition seamlessly into post secondary education,” said Tourand.

UNYA envisions a welcoming and centralized space for their youth programming which features classrooms, media labs, art studios, community spaces for Elders, traditional ceremony spaces, health and wellness clinic, and gym and recreation areas.

The centre could also include a community kitchen and café, bookstore, outdoor gathering area and ceremonial spaces.

“This new centre will help meet the need and seize the opportunity, serving as a national example of Indigenous-led, transformational change,” said Premier John Horgan.

“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.”

With the approval of the concept plan, government will also provide $2.5 million for the business-case development to finalize the project’s scope, timelines and funding sources.

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.

“NVIT can’t wait to get to work over the next year to get the business case completed, so we can get this project approved and move on to construction,” said Tourand.

“We anticipate many more milestones over the next 5 years as we move the project through to completion.”