Provinces gives VIU funding for aboriginal programs

Wed. Jul. 17/13

Vancouver Island University will receive more than $550,000 in provincial funding for aboriginal programs and activities, Parksville-Qualicum MLA Michelle Stilwell announced Friday.

Together with VIU president Ralph Nilson and Snuneymuxw First Nation chief Doug White, Stilwell said the funding is part of the $4.4 million the province is investing this year to 11 post-secondary institutions across B.C. to assist them with their aboriginal educational programs.

The funding for VIU will be distributed among a variety of educational programs for aboriginal students, who comprise about 10 per cent of the university's student population, including the Salish Sea College, trades programs as well as health and elder programs.

Stilwell said creating practical and innovative programs at VIU for aboriginal students will help train them for future jobs close to home and, in doing so, will further their role in contributing to economic development in local communities.

Nilson thanked the province for its continued support of VIU's aboriginal programs. "This funding will allow us to continue our commitment to working with aboriginal communities to create opportunities for aboriginal learners to access post-secondary education and, once there, provide them with the supports they need to be successful," he said.

The approximately 2,000 aboriginal students enrolled at VIU are among the 21,000 per year who currently attend post-secondary institutions across the province, a 17 per cent increase since the government's aboriginal education strategy was launched in 2007.

After 10 years of planning and fundraising, VIU officially opened a new meeting place for its sizeable aboriginal population in 2011.

Called Shq'apthut, the $2.2 million facility is meant to help VIU's aboriginal students feel comfortable and supportive during their post-secondary educations.

White, a VIU graduate, said he appreciates all the work the province and the university have done over the years to ensure that education for aboriginal students is an "ongoing success."

He said one of the many accomplishments was the construction of Shq'apthut as a place for aboriginals and non-aboriginals to come together and discuss issues. "We appreciate Michelle coming here today for this announcement," White said. "She has always been inspired to excel at the highest levels and aboriginal students want to achieve at the highest levels as well." 250-729-4234