Written by: Henry Tran, Coordinating News Editor

On January 10, Simon Fraser University and the Surrey Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee (SUILC) established a novel partnership to increase programs and services for Surrey’s urban Indigenous community — including but not limited to professional, research, and academic opportunities.

The Collaborative Relationship Agreement took about one year to come to fruition, according to Keenan McCarthy, co-chair of SUILC and president of the Nova Métis Heritage Association.

In an email interview with The Peak, McCarthy stated that this new agreement will help the SUILC meet some of their strategic objectives to better the lives of urban Indigenous individuals within Surrey, such as expanding the leadership capacity of Indigenous individuals within Surrey and increasing funding for new and improved programs and services to support the city’s urban Indigenous people.

“The campus and the city are growing and we want to ensure Indigenous voices are helping to shape the future in Surrey,” said McCarthy. “We are happy to work with the Surrey campus because our mission is to provide a collective voice for the urban [Indigenous] population in Surrey.”

Both McCarthy and SFU president Andrew Petter signed the agreement during a ceremony at SFU Surrey. There is currently no deadline on when this partnership will end between the two organizations, McCarthy said. “It is our hope that this partnership will continue for many years,” he added.

“SFU is honoured to be entering into this collaboration agreement with SUILC . . . By working together, we can make an important contribution to advancing the process of reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Surrey,” said Petter in a press release by the university.  

The SUILC is a “coalition of organizations . . . created in 2015 to guide the development of a Surrey Urban Aboriginal Social Innovation Project,” from which the All Our Relations Social Innovation Strategy was drafted, according to McCarthy. The strategic plan outlines some tactics to better the lives of Indigenous people within Surrey, which approximately houses the “largest urban Indigenous population of any city in Metro Vancouver.”

When asked why this partnership was formed, McCarthy answered: “[. . .] we want to increase education and understanding about the 14,000 urban Indigenous people living in Surrey. We are very diverse and have a lot to contribute to this campus and this community.”  

McCarthy also stated that the new partnership with SFU will enable the SUILC “to leverage new funding to support [their] work and enhance the university environment for Indigenous students (and potential students).”  

“We have a lot of good will built up with the university and we are looking forward to what we can accomplish together for the benefit of the urban Indigenous community. The agreement is a great milestone, but now we have to roll up our sleeves and get to work,” he concluded.

With files from SFU News.