Westbank First Nation and Okanagan College sign updated MOU

By College Relations | October 30, 2023

WFN Chief Robert Louis and OC President Neil Fassina sign an updated Memorandum of Understanding.
WFN Chief Robert Louis and OC President Neil Fassina sign an updated Memorandum of Understanding.

Okanagan College and Westbank First Nation (WFN) have signed a new Memorandum of Understanding continuing a long partnership which aims to strengthen the recruitment, mentorship and retention of Syilx learners at Okanagan College. 

The MOU lays out the objectives and principles of a partnership that will help guide the College to embrace the spirit and intent of reconciliation and ensure culturally appropriate, meaningful, and quality education and skills training opportunities for WFN learners. 

Chief Robert Louie, Westbank First Nation, and Dr. Neil Fassina, Okanagan College president, signed the MOU at WFN’s government office this morning.  

"In the spirit of unity and understanding, this partnership between Okanagan College and Westbank First Nation signifies a commitment to empowering our people through education,” said Chief Robert Louie. “This collaboration embodies the essence of reconciliation, fostering mutual respect and creating bridges of knowledge that span generations, cultures, and aspirations, ensuring a brighter tomorrow for all."

The MOU states that the College will engage WFN for guidance and advice on how Indigenous ways of knowing, doing and being can enrich the educational, organizational and cultural fabric of the College. It also states that WFN will consider supporting OC on proposals and partnerships to look at workforce development opportunities for WFN Members. 

 “I’m proud of the relationship we have with Westbank First Nation and the work that is underway between us as they support and guide us along our journey,” said Rhea Dupuis, OC’s Director of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “This MOU will allow us to continue to deepen our relationship and move forward in a good way, taking guidance from Indigenous ways of knowing and being and helping support Indigenous students.” 

With guidance from Indigenous communities, Dupuis is leading the College’s work on the OC Indigenous Plan. The plan is based on a four pillars model of Indigenization that represents a traditional Q’wc’i?, C7iskten (Pit House) and encompasses Indigenous ways of knowing and being. It will reflect how OC is a house of learning for all to come and gather, connect, explore opportunities for growth and empower individuals and communities to contribute to positive change.  

“I’m honoured to be representing Okanagan College and signing this agreement, which allows us to take our guidance from the immense knowledge WFN provides us with,” said Dr. Fassina. “Embracing Indigenous ways of being is critical as we move forward and work towards the Calls to Action in the Truth and Reconciliation report. I want to thank WFN for working with us to move forward in a good way.”  

With the 2023 labour market outlook predicting 120,000 job openings in the Thompson Okanagan in the next decade, the MOU also documents how OC can support workforce development efforts with WFN. 

Working with and learning from the Indigenous community is one of the College’s key directions outlined in its Inspire Strategic Plan which includes an Indigenous OC Plan, a plan that aligns with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s 94 Calls to Action. OC continues to work on the goals of its Indigenous OC Plan, in consultation with Indigenous communities.  

The relationship between OC and WFN dates back decades and includes a host of collaborative initiatives and projects that have benefited WFN Members, while also fostering understanding and appreciation for Indigenous ways of knowing and being among the College’s non-Indigenous students. 

In 2022, there were 1,480 Indigenous students attending OC, nine per cent of the student population.

Tags: Indigenous Services



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