According to Ken Tourand, President of the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT), NVIT is interested in establishing a campus up north, but not necessarily in Burns Lake.
“We don’t necessarily have a location picked,” Tourand told Lakes District News last week.
A local group of volunteers called rural post-secondary education committee (RPEC) has been working to establish an NVIT campus in Burns Lake. If RPEC’s plan is successful, the new campus would replace the Lakes District campus of the College of New Caledonia.
Although last year RPEC’s proposal had the support of all six local First Nations groups and village council, since then two First Nations groups – Wet’suwet’en First Nation and Burns Lake Band – have rescinded their support, and it is still unclear if the newly formed council supports NVIT.
“Ideally we would want all of the First Nations communities saying for us to come in,” Tourand said. “If we had First Nations communities saying that they don’t want us to set up a campus there, we would be reluctant to go in and do that.”
“We don’t want to go where we’re not wanted,” he continued. “I wouldn’t want to go in and build up a campus where we got some of the First Nations communities saying, ‘I wish you weren’t here.’ That’s going to be a challenge for me and a challenge for my board because it’s not our way of doing things.”
“We don’t want to divide the community,” he added. “We would prefer not to have that tension.”
Tourand said that before a campus can be established up north, two things need to happen.
“The Ministry of Advanced Education has to be behind us and fully supportive, and we need an invitation from the First Nations community saying that they want us to come in.”
At this point, Tourand said the ministry has not approved the establishment of an NVIT campus up north, and therefore deciding where to establish a campus up north is a “moot point.”
“If/when that happens [ministry approval] then we would engage in a conversation with First Nations communities.”
In the meantime, Tourand said NVIT will continue to work individually with First Nations communities up north, including Lake Babine Nation (LBN).
“We have a long-standing relationship with LBN and we’ve been working with them for years,” he said. “That relationship continues, and if there’s an opportunity for NVIT to come in and deliver some courses or programs with LBN, or any of the other First Nations in the area or up north, we will continue to do that as per our mandate.”
Although there are talks of NVIT delivering programs with LBN in a near future, Tourand did not provide any details about it.
When it comes to establishing a new campus up north, Tourand said the college will wait until after the provincial election to reassess the possibility.
“As far as I’m concerned, until the election happens we’ve basically gone back to our original mandate which is deliver courses to First Nations communities across the province.”