More than 1,000 people in Indigenous communities in B.C.’s North Coast and Nechako regions are getting access to driver training, opening the doors to job opportunities and safer travel.
The province is partnering with Terrace-based All Nations Driving Academy (ANDA) to deliver driver training in rural Indigenous communities. The training will help people travel to work, visit family, access health care and participate in B.C.’s thriving economy.
“Improving access to driver training in Indigenous communities was a clear call to action and systemic concern that First Nations leaders have raised with me,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. “Opening doors for individuals in more rural areas provides them access to the training and skills required to be independent members of their communities. This expanded support will also empower Indigenous peoples, especially women, to travel with a greater sense of safety along the Highway 16 corridor.”
Access to safe transportation has been identified as a critical issue for women in the North, including through the report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
“Studies have shown that between five per cent and 45 per cent of Indigenous peoples living on reserves do not have their driver’s licence, which can significantly reduce options for employment,” said Lucy Sager, CEO of All Nations Driving Academy. “We hear over and over from our participants that obtaining their licence has had a profound impact on their livelihood, helps families stay connected and makes travel safer for everyone.”
The province is providing $360,000 in courses and services for people to secure their Class 7 learner and novice driver’s licences. This funding builds upon previous funding of $80,000 that helped 214 people get the training.
“In rural communities, a driver’s licence can be the difference between being able to obtain employment and support your family,” said Tabitha Monroe, employment co-ordinator, Gitlaxtaamiks Village Government. “For new and single moms, it can also mean being able to get the basic necessities their children need. Having the course in Gitlaxtaamiks has also made it more accessible for parents to get child care and take the time to take the course.”
So far, the following Indigenous communities have benefited from driver training through ANDA: Tahltan, Cheslatta Carrier Nation, Ts’il Kaz Koh (Burns Lake Band), Lake Babine Nation, Skin Tyee, Nee-Tahi-Buhn, Gitg’at First Nation, Metlakatla, Lax Kw’alaams Band, Gitxaala Nation, Gitsegukla, Nisga’a Nation, Hagwilget Village, Gitanmaax Band, Gitwangak, Gitanyow, Kitselas, Kitsumkalum, Wet’suwet’en.