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Pilot program helps Nuu-chah-nulth youth get their driver’s licences

Program aims to remove barriers for First Nations in rural and remote communities
A pair of youth from Kyuquot/Cheklesahht First Nation celebrate their successful 'L' tests.

Nuu-chah-nulth youth will benefit from a driver training initiative, thanks to some new provincial funding.

The Nuu-chah-nulth Youth Warrior Family Society is receiving $20,000 from the province’s Vision Zero grants, which gives funding to projects that help prevent serious injuries and deaths on the road. The funding will be used to run phase three of the Sacred Circles Driver Licensing pilot program, which helps Indigenous people in rural and remote communities get their drivers licences.

“This pilot program will help support and empower young people in the Nuu-chah-nulth Youth Warrior Family Society,” said Josie Osborne, MLA for Mid Island-Pacific Rim. “I’m pleased this funding is able to help this program run and serve the community.”

The Youth Warrior Family began in the summer of 2015 in the community of Hitacu on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Today the program model is hosted in several Nuu-chah-nulth communities, weaving traditional and mainstream leadership and wellness teachings and practices together on the land to strengthen the connections, capability, cultural pride and confidence of Nuu-chah-nulth youth.

Program coordinator Dr. Ricardo Manmohan explained that he came up with the idea for the Sacred Circles Driver Licensing Pilot after seeing many Nuu-chah-nulth youth developing skills and gaining employment through the Youth Warrior Family. But despite this, many of them were still unable to drive.

“They couldn’t get to work,” he explained.

In the spring of 2021, the Nuu-chah-nulth Youth Warrior Family Society partnered with ICBC, Population and Public Health and Chee Mamuk from the BC Centre for Disease Control to pilot an approach that could address the barriers and obstacles preventing Indigenous people from achieving their full Class 5 driver’s licence in the rural and remote communities of Vancouver Island.

In the first phase of the pilot program, they brought in driving lessons and ran ‘L’ tests in several remote villages.

But, said Manmohan, this didn’t address some of the bigger issues that remote residents were facing, such as fines and prohibitions, or the fact that some people had no ID. The second phase of the program involved the creation of a “menu,” where community members could pick and choose what they wanted to focus on in order to start or continue driving.

“Whether they needed ID, or help getting their Class 4, and everything in between,” said Manmohan.

The second phase of the project had “a lot of success,” said Manmohan, but once again identified some gaps. In the third phase of the initiative, Manmohan hopes to be able to provide third party advocacy for provincial regulators such as RoadSafetyBC and ICBC.

The service is needed, said Manmohan, because many Nuu-chah-nulth people live in rural and remote areas, while many services are centralized in urban areas.

“We just want to remove barriers and make it easier for people to drive,” said Manmohan.

Elena Rardon

About the Author: Elena Rardon

I have worked with the Alberni Valley News since 2016.
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