Thursday, December 1 2022

A concept plan for a new Indigenous center is progressing on the territories of the Coast Salish peoples in Vancouver.

The new center will include a youth centre, a post-secondary education and vocational training campus, affordable housing, a daycare center and cultural and support services.

“Completion of this project will not only be a transformative moment for Indigenous youth and their families who live in Metro Vancouver, but it will be of immense benefit to the city and the province as a whole,” said Matthew Norris, President, Urban Indigenous Youth Association (UNYA). “This center represents an important step forward in addressing the legacy of residential schools, intergenerational trauma and the realization of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The provision of Indigenous programs and services by Indigenous organizations based on Indigenous cultural values ​​and principles is a fundamental step forward and away from the lingering legacy of colonialism. Indigenous youth and their community deserve a community hub that they are proud of, whose design represents their voices and interests, and where they feel safe and can access programs and services that support their well-being as peoples. indigenous.

The new center will be a purpose-built permanent home for UNYA and the Vancouver campus of the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT).

Guided by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and the British Columbia Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, this center will provide opportunities for Indigenous students and youth to learn and grow in a culturally safe and supported environment.

“As more and more Indigenous people choose to live in Metro Vancouver, there is a growing demand for community-based and culturally relevant services,” said Premier John Horgan. “This new center will help fill 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 opportunity today and for generations to come.

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

“Reconciliation is a shared responsibility, and part of that work is supporting Indigenous-led solutions,” said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training. “This project is a great example of that. The positive and profound impacts of this work will be felt for generations to come. UNYA and NVIT’s vision represents a brighter future for Indigenous peoples learning and living in Vancouver and gives us all an example of what can happen when you dream big.

UNYA’s current facility is not big enough for its growing community and is built in a way that discourages young people from going there. The new center is designed to provide a welcoming and centralized space for UNYA’s youth programming, including classrooms, studio media labs, community spaces for Elders, traditional ceremonial spaces, a health and wellness, as well as gyms and recreation facilities.

NVIT currently rents space in Burnaby, away from most of the students it serves. The space is also at full capacity and lacks the specialized learning environments needed to expand its programs. NVIT’s new permanent home proposes to include purpose-built classrooms, media labs and reading areas, a crafts studio, library and study areas, and a student lounge.

In addition to child care and affordable homes for Indigenous people and their families, the center could also include common areas, such as a community kitchen and cafe, a bookstore, an outdoor gathering area, and ceremonial spaces.

“For a generation, urban Aboriginal youth have been planning this day! The vision for this center responds directly to the many calls to action from young Indigenous leaders who have challenged all levels of government to create pathways for their flourishing,” said Melanie Mark, MPP for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant. “This center weaves together culture, education, wellness and empowerment in a groundbreaking space for reconciliation. Most importantly, the creation of this one-of-a-kind center of excellence sends a signal to all Indigenous youth that their lives matter Indigenous youth deserve every opportunity to dream big and excel as they recover from the calculated decisions of past governments that used 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.

“As the only Aboriginal public post-secondary institution in British Columbia founded by the five Nicola Valley First Nations and governed by a First Nations Board of Directors, NVIT’s mandate is to provide post-secondary education and support services for Aboriginal students throughout British Columbia. Columbia,” said Ken Tourand, president, NVIT. “NVIT is thrilled to work with UNYA to address the need for Indigenous education in the city of Vancouver. This project will allow indigenous youth to receive the support they need through UNYA and then transition into post-secondary education.

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 the current UNYA building.

The center will be operated by UNYA, with NVIT partners and TBD housing and childcare operators contracted through the City of Vancouver.


Cheryl Robinson, CEO, UNYA –

“This is the first concrete step in a long process aimed at creating a visionary and specialized Aboriginal youth centre. This vibrant regional hub will foster a positive sense of place and access to a diverse continuum of culturally appropriate programs and resources that include a supported pathway to higher education. UNYA is one of Metro Vancouver’s best-kept secrets, but its growth and ability to meet the needs of Indigenous youth and their families has been hampered by an aging, cramped and unwelcoming building. UNYA and our community partners have long called for the creation and investment in an Indigenous Gateway and Community Center in the city we now call home.

AC, UNYA participant who has followed programs for 14 years –

“UNYA kept me on the right path growing up. UNYA’s love and support kept me from drifting off those tracks into a life no one wants. For me, UNYA means a better community, a community safer. Safer than anything the streets have to offer. It was a place to develop new skills and talents. Developing those new skills and talents was secretly the best coping mechanism for everything in life. had to throw me, and life threw curveballs at me. Life is hard and UNYA makes it easier. UNYA is the rainbow in the rain. UNYA is the cold breeze on a hot day. UNYA is the warm sun on a cold day UNYA is home.

Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation –

“This center brings the vision of urban Indigenous youth to life and I raise my hands to the youth, governments and organizations that have helped bring this project to life. This Indigenous-led center brings together the services people need to thrive under one roof and in a more easily accessible and community-focused way. Our action plan on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples recognizes the integral role of Indigenous-controlled post-secondary institutions and this collaboration is a great example that will benefit generations for years to come.

Kennedy Stewart, Mayor of Vancouver –

“As a City of Reconciliation, Vancouver is honored to be part of this exciting partnership with UNYA and the Province of British Columbia to provide culturally appropriate housing, services and community spaces. Supporting the development of an Indigenous Center in the heart of our city will help deepen efforts to address the ongoing effects of colonialism and racism on Indigenous peoples in our community and promote a path to healing and empowerment.

Fast facts:

  • UNYA is a non-profit corporation that helps Indigenous youth, often displaced and disconnected from their home communities, have an inclusive and safe place to go to access essential programs and services.
  • UNYA reports approximately 30,000 youth visits to its center each year.
  • NVIT is the only public, Indigenous-governed post-secondary institution in British Columbia, with its main campus in Merritt and a provincial mandate to serve Indigenous students throughout British Columbia.
  • In the 2020-2021 academic year, 1,385 students were enrolled, 80.5% of whom identified as Indigenous.

Learn more:

Learn more about UNYA:

Learn more about NVI:

Learn more about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action:


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