First Nations learners gain more post-secondary supports

November 25, 2021 at 1:32 pm  BC, News, Politics

First Nations students have increased access to post-secondary education programs in their own communities because of new government funding provided to First Nations-led institutes throughout B.C.

“Creating culturally safe environments for Indigenous learners is an important part of reconciliation,” said Anne Kang, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training. “First Nations-led institutes play a unique and critical role in B.C.’s post-secondary education system, leveraging language, culture and knowledge to empower First Nations communities.”

The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training, in partnership with the Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association (IAHLA) and First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC), provided $4 million to support the core operating costs of 10 First Nations-led institutes, so they will be better equipped to deliver post-secondary education and training programs through the pandemic and beyond.

“First Nations institutes play a vital role in increasing access to post-secondary education and training, while at the same time safeguarding culturally relevant education,” said Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “In our ongoing commitment to meaningful reconciliation, we recognize the integral role that Indigenous institutes play in helping communities achieve self-determination.”

An additional $675,000 has been provided to support an additional nine First Nations-led institutes to develop and implement capacity-building projects.

“It is welcome news that after decades of advocacy, First Nation-mandated institutes are receiving core funding for the first time,” said Verna Billy-Minnabarriet, chair, IAHLA. “We acknowledge the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training for its commitment to meaningful change and recognition of the unique and vital role of our IAHLA member institutes. Ongoing funding, anchored in legislation, is still needed to ensure these institutes can operate effectively and sustainably.”

IAHLA represents 47 Indigenous adult and post-secondary educational institutes throughout British Columbia. These community-based institutes offer a broad spectrum of courses and programs, including college and university programs leading to certificates, diplomas and degrees; adult basic education leading to the adult dogwood diploma for secondary school completion; language instruction; occupation specific training and upgrading; and a broad spectrum of lifespan learning programs that support Indigenous Peoples, communities, languages and cultures.

“This one-time funding is a positive step forward in meeting the standards set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” said Tyrone McNeil, president, FNESC. “We will continue to work closely with IAHLA and the ministry to ensure that this funding, administered through a First Nations-led process, is made available on an ongoing basis.”

sumaxatkʷ Tracey Kim Bonneau, manager, arts culture and adult higher learning at En’owkin Centre, said: “For En’owkin Centre, this core funding is critical to ensuring our institute has the staff, resources and student supports necessary to provide culturally relevant educational programs to our members, such as the Nsyilxcn Language Certificate and Diploma, which form the foundation for the Nsyilxcn Fluency Degree. We appreciate the work of the ministry, IAHLA and other First Nations-mandated institutes in making this a reality.”

IAHLA and FNESC are founding members of the BC Indigenous Post-Secondary Education and Training Partners Group. In 2005, the members signed a memorandum of understanding committing to work together to improve the participation and success of Indigenous learners in post-secondary education and training.

Quick Facts:

  • Ten First Nations-led institutes that met criteria for core operating funding have received $400,000 each: Chemainus Native College, En’owkin Centre (Okanagan Indian Educational Resources Society), Gitksan Wet’suwet’en Education Society, Kyah Wiget Education Society, Lip’alhayc Learning Centre, Neskonlith Education Centre, Saanich Adult Education Centre, Seabird College, Ted Williams Memorial Learning Centre and Ts’zil Learning Centre.
  • Nine First Nations-led institutes are receiving $75,000 each to develop and implement capacity-building projects: Coastal Training Centre, Gitwangak Education Society, Heiltsuk College, Kitimat Valley Education Society, Ntamtqen Snmamayatn, St’’at’’imc Education Institute, Stucwtewsecmc Education Centre, Snuneymuxw First Nation/House of Learning and Wabsuwilaks’m Gitselasu Adult School.

Learn More:

To learn more about IAHLA, visit:

To learn more about FNESC, visit:

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