A new Métis Community Support Worker program will empower 16 students to embrace their culture while pursuing an education.
The University of Fraser Valley and Métis Nation BC (MNBC) have partnered to bring the program into being, with the financial support of the province and the federal government. The $691,000 in funding, over three years, will be provided under the Aboriginal Community-Based Training Partnerships Program.
The announcement was made March 29, during a celebration in the university’s Aboriginal Gathering Place.
“This is a day of celebration and a day of thanks,” said UFV president Jackie Horgan. “We know it will help Metis students gain the foundation they need.”
The program will provide wrap around services for students of Métis heritage, including “access to transportation, access to support from elders, and regular cultural support workshops,” she said. “Students will also, of course, be able to access the full suite of student support services.”
The program will help learners complete their adult upgrading and post-secondary courses, leading to a certificate as a social and community support worker.
Clara Morin-Dal Col, president of MNBC, said the announcement is “about power in communities.”
“It’s going to empower 16 students, that’s 16 young people who are going to be future leaders,” she said.
Carly Hale, a third-year student at UFV in the Bachelor of Social Work program, spoke about how she came to be on the Métis steering committee.
“I’m going to speak from the heart,” she told the gathering. “I haven’t seen much Métis culture incorporated (in schools). I never grew up with my traditions … there was such a disconnect. There was a lot of ambivalence and not knowing what my identity was.
Being Métis, but without a strong cultural background, left her feeling ambivalent.
“I’ve always been too white to be native, and not dark enough,” she said. “And I always felt I had to hide being aboriginal.”
But that all changed when she connected with other Métis people at UFV.
“By meeting a lot of my peers and strong Métis people, that really helped me figure out my identity and come to who I am … It was so inspiring and powerful to hear about the knowledge … the community, and I wanted to learn more.
“I’m standing here because of that. I’m so proud to be there. I really hope I can do my nation justice and be that voice,” she said.
And while Hale spoke of her personal reasons for diving into her culture, others spoke of the significance nationwide. Mark’s ministry says the program helps implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action.
“The more we’ve paddled together, the more great things have happened,” Mark said. “But if we can move fast, that’s what really excites me.”
Morin-Dal Col said the program helps with “taking a step toward reconciliation,” giving graduates of the program awareness, sensitivity and competence to address First Nation issues in their ensuing work in the social services industry.
“The Métis Community Support Worker program will respect and honour Métis culture by creating an ethical space for teaching, learning and incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing within a university setting,” she said.
The announcement and agreement was attended by Elaine Malloway, hereditary chief of the Yakweakwioose First Nation, Marie Bercier, a Métis elder, and included a performance by Métis jigger Madelaine McCallum.