Posted on April 12, 2024

Indigenous ground blessing ceremony marks new chapter at VCC

Individuals posing at VCC

In a ceremony rich with respect and recognition, Vancouver Community College (VCC) welcomed members from the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations to hold a traditional ground blessing to honour the history of the land and prepare the campus for the construction of the new Centre for Clean Energy and Automotive Innovation (CCEAI).

The proposed design of the CCEAI was both informed and inspired by the pre-settlement history of the VCC site, specifically the China Creek estuary and the stories shared with the integrated project team by Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations knowledge keepers.

Amidst the voices and traditional song during event, the ceremony included powerful land acknowledgments and ground blessings from representatives of all three host nations. This remarkable occasion not only celebrated an innovative future at VCC but also reflected a collective journey towards cultural understanding and mutual respect.

Carleen Thomas, Elder of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, and witness responder at the blessing, commented on the significance of the event, "Today marks a rare and historical convergence of hearts and minds, as we stand united on this sacred land. It is powerful to witness the partnership of xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and our səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations coming together and practising our cultural ways in providing this ceremony. Our collective blessing of the grounds for the new building at VCC symbolizes much more than the start of construction — it signifies a deep recognition of our shared past and a collaborative step towards a sustainable future. Today, we not only honour the ancestors and the land, but also forge a path for our future generations to walk together in respect, understanding, and prosperity."

Reflecting on the ceremony, Ajay Patel, VCC President & CEO, expressed profound gratitude, stating, "We are deeply honoured to commence this journey with the guidance and blessing of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. This event not only signifies the beginning of construction for the new Centre for Clean Energy and Automotive Innovation, but also serves as a poignant demonstration of VCC's commitment to cultural respect and reconciliation.”

The construction of the CCEAI is made possible through a $271.3 million contribution from the Province of B.C. and is a catalyst project for VCC’s larger Campus Plan. The project will transform the Great Northern Way and Broadway corridors and unlock further opportunities that will benefit the surrounding community. Read the landmark announcement. 

Joan Phillip, MLA Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, echoed these sentiments, highlighting the significance of Indigenous leadership in shaping sustainable development practices. "Today was a pivotal moment, underscoring VCC's unwavering commitment to Truth and Reconciliation. Inviting local Indigenous communities to hold a ground blessing ceremony at VCC represents a meaningful partnership between academia and Indigenous communities. It is a testament to the power of collaboration in advancing environmental and cultural sustainability."

Vancouver Community College extends a heartfelt gratitude to the VCC community, neighbours, and media for their participation in this historic event. The ground blessing ceremony was not only a milestone for VCC but also a profound step forward in the journey towards Truth and Reconciliation.

The Centre for Clean Energy and Automotive Innovation will not only contribute to technological advancements but also serve as a symbol of VCC’s collective dedication to building a better future for all.

Adds Ajay Patel, “VCC is committed to creating spaces that honour the traditions of Indigenous peoples. It is our responsibility as a Canadian post-secondary institution to build innovative programs and spaces, but also construct a future where cultural identity and knowledge form the cornerstone of innovation and education.”


Brenda Bailey, B.C. Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation

"It is with deep appreciation that I witnessed today’s Indigenous ground blessing. The ceremony symbolizes our collective commitment to inclusive growth, where every community's wisdom and heritage contribute to our shared prosperity. Together, we embark on a journey to build a future powered by clean energy, innovation, and opportunities for all."

Pete Fry, Vancouver City Councillor

“This ground blessing ceremony is a really meaningful and important way to open a new chapter for VCC, the Broadway Corridor, and our city with the construction of the new Centre for Clean Energy and Automotive Innovation. Thank you to members of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) nations for sharing their ceremony, culture, and blessings on this momentous occasion. I raise my hands in immense gratitude to the VCC team for recognizing and honoring the first peoples, and the diverse cultural heritage of our region in all that they do.”

Jenny Kwan, Member of Parliament, Canada

“It was a great honour to witness the Indigenous ground blessing ceremony at VCC and join community in this important inaugural step towards the new Centre for Clean Energy and Automotive Innovation. In addition to advancing industry innovation within the trades sector, I am grateful for VCC’s respect for and commitment to honouring Indigenous culture and protocol.”  

Shelley Gray, CEO, SkilledTradesBC

“I was honoured to witness the Indigenous ground blessing at VCC and celebrate the commencement of work on the new Centre for Clean Energy and Automotive Innovation with students, instructors, and our community. Today was a powerful event that not only advances industry innovation, but also underscores VCC’s profound commitment to fostering cultural awareness and safety within the trades sector."

Eddy Gooch, VCC Nursing alumnus, Cowichan Tribes

“As a nursing alum and Indigenous person, I stand here with a heart full of pride and gratitude. Being a witness responder in this ceremony is not just an honour, but a profound responsibility. It’s a testament to the paths we're paving for healing and learning, intertwined with the wisdom of our ancestors. This ceremony, much like nursing, is about care—care for our community, care for our environment, and care for the legacy we carry forward.”


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About Vancouver Community College

VCC is a publicly funded college located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. For over 140 years, VCC has played a vital role in serving our diverse community by providing a skilled workforce in the city, the province, and beyond. VCC is a key player in the post-secondary landscape in B.C. Our connections to industry ensure that our students have direct access to employers while our model of access and our partnerships across the post-secondary sector assist students to reach their goals at any stage of their educational journey. 

VCC’s journey towards decolonization, Indigenization, and reconciliation is rooted in a thoughtful understanding of history, alignment with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action and the United Nation Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), an acknowledgement of past and persisting racism, and a commitment to improve educational and career outcomes for Indigenous people.

Vancouver Community College is located on the traditional and unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.

In the news

Vancouver Community College honours land for new innovation centre with ground blessing ceremony, Vancouver is Awesome, April 15, 2024