SURREY — An Aboriginal strategy is in the works for Surrey given the growing population in the city.
The city received $90,000 from the British Columbia Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres (BCAAFC) to develop the plan.
According to Census data, there were 10,955 Aboriginal people living in Surrey in 2011, up from 7,630 in 2006.
“There’s certainly a massively disproportionate challenge ahead for the City of Surrey where unlike Vancouver, there’s a very small number of service agencies in the city,” said Paul Lacerte with the BCAAFC.
“They have about 28 Aboriginal agencies and service organizations, where Surrey has about four with a very similar population.”
He noted education is critical in helping Aboriginal people to improve their social and economic well-being.
Surrey’s Aboriginal population is young, a city report notes, with 3,492 students enrolled in the district in 2013-14, more than Vancouver’s 2,227.
Coun. Vera LeFranc, chair of the leadership committee set up to guide the project, said while the city has a high number of Aboriginal children, the school district doesn’t have “culturally-safe” programs to serve them.
“We know that Aboriginal kids are twice as likely to live in poverty. It’s quite stark,” she said. “We hear the inter-generational trauma of residential schools still exists, racism, etc. Kids are just not able to thrive in that environment.”
The goal of the plan, LeFranc continued, is to look at the profile of the community in Surrey and what their needs are.
“We hear they travel to Vancouver for services,” she said. “There’s this huge gap…. And while I’m chairing the committee, we really are asking our Aboriginal community to lead this.”
The goals of the strategy are to increase Aboriginal residents’ participation in the economy and achievement in education as well as to promote health.
It’s expected the plan will be competed by March 2016.