Province Announces Funding for BC First Nations Guardians Training

From left to right: Selina Robinson, Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills looks on as Dallas Smith, Nanwakolas Council President, and VIU President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Deborah Saucier sign the agreement for the Guardians program. Photo credit: VIU

The success of a Marine Protected Area depends on local involvement and having people on the water engaging in everything from monitoring to reinforcement. This is why Coastal Guardians are so crucial for the success of the Great Bear Sea Marine Protected Area Network. And this is why the recent $1.4 million in funding given to the Vancouver Island University Stewardship Technician Training Program (STTP) in Campbell River by the BC government is encouraging news.

The STTP is an important training resource for First Nations Guardians and the advancement of environmental protection, coastal safety, and sustainable economic practices up and down BC’s coast. The program is grounded in the blending of traditional Indigenous knowledge with contemporary science. 

The objective of the STTP is not only to train students in the necessary skills and knowledge to work as resource stewards, but to also enable work opportunities following graduation in fields such as fisheries technicians, heritage surveyors, and environmental monitors. Photo credit: VIU

First Nations Guardians engage in invaluable work when it comes to environmental stewardship and ensuring that our coastal waters remain an economic engine for our children and grandchildren. The work that First Nations Guardians do includes monitoring fish stocks, protecting cultural sites, enforcing bylaws, conserving wetlands, restoring habitats, and responding to emergencies.  First Nations Guardians take the pressure off DFO officers and BC Park Rangers, who are too few to effectively monitor our vast coast. 

This new funding, symbolizing a commitment from the BC Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills, along with Nanwakolas Council and Vancouver Island University, promises to expand the reach and impact of the program. This is an important initiative as First Nations Guardians on our coast are poised to play a central role in managing the Great Bear Sea Marine Protected Area Network.

One of the skill learnt by students a the STTP includes swiftwater rescue techniques. Photo Credit: VIU

West Coast Now illustrates the program’s success by interviewing David Cliffe, who transitioned from a fisherman to a Guardian. David’s story showcases the transformative impact of such initiatives on individuals and communities. Cliffe’s journey from a fisherman to leading a team of First Nations Guardians encapsulates the spirit of the program – empowering BC First Nations individuals with skills and knowledge to defend our coastal waters, so that they remain an economic engine for our children and grandchildren. 

Read West Coast Now’s article to learn about Vancouver Island University’s Stewardship Technician Training Program and one of the program’s graduates, David Cliffe.