UBC Launches New Indigenous Community Planning Masters Program

Providing indigenous communities greater knowledge, skills and capacity to plan their economic and community future will be the focus of a new masters program at the University of British Columbia.

UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP) has launched its new Indigenous Community Planning program, a specialization in the masters degree in planning, with classes beginning in fall 2012.

This initiative aims to empower indigenous communities and community planners in their aspirations for sustainable social and economic development. Numerous demands are now being placed on First Nations to develop various kinds of plans, from capital plans to economic development plans to comprehensive community plans.

Many of B.C.’s First Nations are involved in a treaty process that, once completed, places enormous planning responsibilities on First Nations. Legislation mandates that government agencies responsible for land and resource management planning have a duty to consult Aboriginal people. Most communities are under-resourced to meet these growing demands for consultation and planning.

“Many indigenous communities have suffered from development schemes, poor planning, funding programs, service delivery and the imposition of rules and facilities inappropriate to Indigenous culture,” says Prof. Sandercock. “They struggle with high levels of unemployment, school dropout, high teen pregnancy rates, high suicide rates, diabetes, drug abuse, inadequate housing and poor infrastructure. These interconnected challenges require an integrated, interdisciplinary approach that is inherent to community planning.”

“This is an extremely important initiative that has the real potential to improve the functionality of a whole range of processes affecting First Nations, the communities and municipalities that surround them, and the social and economic development of British Columbia,” says Linc Kesler, senior advisor to the UBC President on Aboriginal affairs and Director of the First Nations House of Learning.

Kesler adds, “It will help to create the circumstances for more productive relationships and co-development practices between First Nations and surrounding communities and thus lead to a more equitable and sustainable future for us all.”

The SCARP initiative has received an investment of $316,723 from the Real Estate Foundation of BC, which works to advance knowledge and practices leading to more sustainable use and conservation of land in BC through a variety of programs and initiatives, including its grants program. Since 1988, it has approved over $59 million in grants for non-profit projects in communities throughout the province.

Students in the SCARP program will explore cross-cultural skills, community participation techniques, strategic planning for sustainable community economic development, and a solid grounding in ethics as well as Aboriginal law and governance. Giving input on the program design is an advisory committee comprising members of the Musqueam, Carrier, Nisga’a, and Cree Metis Nations, SCARP professors and students, and consultants with extensive experience working with First Nations in western Canada. The co-chairs are Prof. Sandercock and Leona Sparrow from Musqueam.

SCARP’s approach uses community-based and land-based learning; emphasizes mutual learning; and integrates Indigenous Knowledge. It includes an understanding of the political, social and cultural protocols, history, philosophy, social structure, traditional knowledge, and ecology of First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples. The development of this new curriculum is part of UBCs Aboriginal Strategic Plan, and its larger Place and Promise strategy.