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Province invests in First Nations institutes, language fluency

Press Release

July 25, 2023

VICTORIA – With new post-secondary investments, First Nations learners will have access to expanded Indigenous-led post-secondary education programs, training and supports.

“Today’s announcement is a recognition of the critical role of First Nations-mandated institutes in the B.C. post-secondary education system and the importance of their programming to support First Nations’ language revitalization,” said Tyrone McNeil, president, First Nations Education Steering Committee. “We are pleased that the province has secured funding to support these initiatives, and we look forward to continued work with the Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association and the Province to fulsomely advance Action 1.8 through the passage of legislation that formally recognizes our institutes.”

The Province continues to recognize the importance of First Nations-mandated institutes and First Nations language fluency degrees through a new $23.4-million investment over the next three years from the StrongerBC: Future Ready Action Plan. The funding will help preserve First Nations languages and expand post-secondary education, training and labour-market opportunities for Indigenous Peoples.

“Strengthening Indigenous-led post-secondary education training is a critical step in reconciliation,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills. “Through the StrongerBC: Future Ready Action Plan, this new commitment will address systemic barriers and make it easier for First Nations learners to access post-secondary education, training and economic opportunities in their communities.”

On Tuesday, July 25, 2023, Robinson visited the En’owkin Centre in Penticton to meet with En’owkin Centre leaders, community members and students. En’owkin Centre offers a wide variety of programs, including the Nsyilxcen language-fluency degree; a national Indigenous professional artist training program; and college readiness B.C. adult graduation diploma preparation courses.

“Having the minister here in person at the En’owkin Centre to hear directly from community members who have been able to succeed from the support her ministry has provided is valuable on many levels,” said Brian Holmes, president, En’owkin Centre. “This action is taking steps forward towards reconciliation. The support helps our communities restore our Nsyilxcen language to be the first language spoken within our communities.”

This funding is part of $101 million from the StrongerBC: Future Ready Action Plan to support several initiatives that shift post-secondary education and training programs from government-led to Indigenous-led, with ongoing funding to bring in more training and job opportunities.

The Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills works closely with the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) and the Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association (IAHLA) to advance First Nations post-secondary education and training, such as by providing core and capacity funding to First Nations-mandated institutes across B.C. First Nations-mandated post-secondary institutes are a key pillar of B.C.’s post-secondary system, playing a vital role in increasing First Nation learner participation and success, addressing critical workforce needs and revitalizing First Nations’ languages and cultures.

The B.C. government is continuing to provide funding to develop and deliver First Nations language fluency degrees, building on the milestone of the first graduates of the Nsyilxcen language fluency degree offered by the En’owkin Centre in Penticton, the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology, and UBC Okanagan in June 2023.

Two more degree programs by First Nations and First Nations-mandated institutes for their respective languages have been approved. Three additional degree programs are in development.

The funding will be distributed over three years, with $20.1 million directed toward First Nations-mandated institutes and $3 million toward First Nations language-fluency degrees.

An additional $340,000 is being invested into the Chief Joe Mathias British Columbia Aboriginal Scholarship Fund, which has provided more than 450 scholarships to students from more than 100 First Nations in B.C since 2002.

The StrongerBC: Future Ready Action Plan contributes to the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act by working to address systemic barriers and supporting the capacity of Indigenous Peoples to fully participate in the workforce and meet their own priorities, honouring self-government and self-determination. The Declaration Act enshrines into law the human rights of Indigenous Peoples in B.C. The StrongerBC: Future Ready Action Plan supports implementation of the Declaration Act and advancing lasting and meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

Budget 2023 invests $480 million over three years to support Future Ready’s work to break down barriers to post-secondary training so more people can get training for in-demand careers and so employers can access the talent they need.


Murray Rankin, Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation –

“With more First Nations people learning their languages than ever before, we are strengthening Indigenous-led post-secondary training and expanding First Nations language-fluency degrees. Increasing funding in these vital areas will create much-needed language learning opportunities across B.C.”

Lisa Ethans, scholarship chair –

“The Chief Joe Mathias British Columbia Scholarship Fund has been awarding post-secondary scholarships to Indigenous students for over 20 years, but we have never seen greater demand for support than we are today. Students are pursuing a wide variety of careers in the fields of traditional languages, technology, nursing, midwifery, medicine, social work, environment, business, and others. The scholarship fund is grateful to have the Province partner with us in supporting these students and taking this important step toward reconciliation.”

Rose Caldwell, graduate of the bachelor of Nsyilxcen language fluency program –

“As a graduate of the first cohort of the bachelor of Nsyilxcen​ language-fluency program, I am entirely appreciative for the opportunity to study at an IAHLA, like En’owkin Centre, who deliver distinct cohort language classes within our Syilx Nation communities. This model of learning serves to build capacity inclusively with our fluent, silent speakers and new learners. Through celebration of our successes, at a community/nation level, gives a wonderful opportunity to share our experiences with the nation and potential future students who dream of learning our language.”

Quick Facts:

  • The En’owkin Centre, in collaboration with UBC Okanagan, is the first to offer an Indigenous-language fluency degree through the bachelor of Nsyilxcen language-fluency program.
  • The first group of students graduated from the program in June 2023.
  • Students graduating from the UBC Okanagan Nsyilxcen language-fluency program first complete a two-year Nsyilxcen language diploma program at the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology before transferring to UBC Okanagan to complete the third and fourth years of their degree.
  • The Province released the Declaration Act Action Plan on March 22, 2022, with 89 priority actions to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Learn More:

To read the StrongerBC: Future Ready Action Plan, visit: Ready-May2023.pdf


Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills
Media Relations
604 209-7629


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