SCARP faculty began to work on an Indigenous Community Planning (ICP) curriculum initiative in 2010, in recognition of a number of important changes in the planning landscape in B.C. and beyond: from the Treaty process, to the federally mandated duty to consult with First Nations, to the growing demand from First Nations themselves for a comprehensive or holistic approach to community planning.

One of our first principles was the need to work collaboratively with First Nations in the design, development and delivery of any such curriculum. Thus, in the spring of 2011 Leonie Sandercock, representing SCARP, started a conversation with Leona Sparrow, Dianne Sparrow, Larissa Grant and Mary Point, of the Musqueam First Nation’s Treaty, Lands and Resources Department, about the possibility of collaboration on a curriculum initiative in Indigenous Community Planning within SCARP’s Masters degree in Planning.

An advisory committee was assembled soon after, comprising Leona Sparrow, Dianne Sparrow and Larissa Grant, Patrick Stewart (Nisga’a), Kamala Todd (Cree-Metis), Lyana Patrick (Carrier), Michael Anhorn, Jeff Cook, Will Trousdale, Nathan Edelson, Juliet van Vliet, Aftab Erfan, and Leonie Sandercock as Chair. The Musqueam team agreed to work on the committee in the co-design of the curriculum, but emphasized that their involvement needed to go before the UBC-Musqueam Development Committee, as per the MOA between the Musqueam Nation and UBC, and then before Chief and Council for Band approval. Professor Linc Kesler, senior advisor to the President of UBC for Aboriginal strategy, has supported this initiative from the outset, and he briefed the UBC-Musqueam Development Committee, which is supportive of the initiative as developed thus far.

The advisory committee worked through the summer of 2011 and designed a five-course core curriculum, building on three existing SCARP courses (Cross-cultural Planning; Strategic Planning for Sustainable Community Economic Development; and Sustainability, Planning, and Governance Approaches to Whole Region Change) and creating two new courses (Aboriginal Law and Governance; and Indigenous Community Planning: Ways of Being, Knowing, and Doing). In addition, we designed a practicum in which students will work with and in a First Nation community for half of the second year of their program to engage in land-based and community-based learning.

We successfully applied to the Real Estate Foundation of B.C. for five years funding for the new curriculum, specifically to hire a practitioner to teach the practicum component of the program ($316,582 over five years). In applying for this grant, we secured 19 letters of support for the curriculum, including letters from federal and provincial ministries, the Canadian Institute of Planners, various municipalities across B.C. and the Yukon, half-a-dozen B.C. First Nations and one from the Yukon, not to mention past and present SCARP students.

We are delighted that Jeff Cook, principal of Beringia Community Planning, has accepted appointment as the practitioner that will lead the practicum component. Jeff, a former SCARP graduate, has worked for 20 years with/in First Nations communities in B.C., the Yukon and Northwest Territories and was also recently appointed as Chair of the CIP’s Indigenous Planning Committee.

The support of SCARP faculty was secured in October to integrate this into our Masters program as a new specialization, starting Fall 2012. Together with Musqueam, SCARP organised and co-hosted a one-day ‘teach-in’ titled “Revitalizing Planning: The Indigenous Challenge” at the UBC Longhouse. The November event was attended by 45 professionals and community members and 70 students.

Musqueam planners gave one of the two keynote addresses that day, discussing their own award-winning comprehensive community planning process. Other presenters included Andrew Bak from Tsawwassen First Nation, Chris Derickson from Westbank First Nation, and Darlene Johnston, a UBC law professor and member of the Anishinabe Nation. Wade Grant from Musqueam Band Council welcomed everyone at the beginning of the day, and brought along his small son to help him with the closing ceremony. Musqueam storyteller Henry Charles regaled us with the true story of the origins of hockey, and other tales, during the lunch break.

Distinguished Professor Ted Jojola (University of New Mexico, and Pueblo tribe) was the teach-in’s opening keynote speaker and will remain as a consultant to us on our curriculum development.

Meanwhile, Crystal Reeves, from the law firm Mandell Pinder (which works exclusively on First Nations legal issues) is currently working with Leona Sparrow from Musqueam and Darlene Johnston, (UBC Law School), to outline the content of the new law course (Aboriginal Law and Governance). And Leonie Sandercock ran a group directed studies course over the winter on readings and pedagogy for the new Indigenous Community Planning course.

We have met with colleagues in Forestry, Law and the Sauder Business School to discuss synergies and cross-listing of required and elective courses; and we have met with the B.C. regional office of the federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) to explain our curriculum and discuss collaboration in connecting with First Nations communities who are interested in beginning comprehensive community planning processes. As spreads about our initiative we are being approached by B.C. First Nations for assistance, as well as by the Capital Regional District in Victoria, which, in reviewing its Strategic Plan, wants to develop a new community engagement process with First Nations.

In thinking through how to offer this new curriculum in the most culturally appropriate ways, we want to involve Elders in the classroom, as well as Musqueam planners and members of other Lower Mainland First Nations (such as the Tsawwassen, Tsleil Waututh, and Squamish). Since we needed to raise extra funds to pay honoraria to all of these folks as guest lecturers and mentors, as well as offering honoraria to First Nations for hosting internships in their band offices, we put in an application to UBC’s Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund (TLEF) for funding, to assist with the implementation of the new curriculum. In this endeavour we were successful at getting $47,000. Some of this funding will also be used to offset the cost of student travel for their practicums.

In the meantime, in February 2012, Musqueam Chief and Council officially approved Musqueam’s participation as formal partners in the design, recruiting and delivery of the new curriculum. And SCARP faculty passed an identical motion of support.

Gerry Oldman has accepted the invitation to be our Elder in Residence, co-teaching Indigenous Community Planning with Leonie, and being a mentor for students in the ICP program. Gerry is a former Chief of the Statliam Nation and community workshop organizer/healer for the Indian Residential Schools Survivors Society.

The final piece of this long planning process is the actual recruitment of students. Now that we have ‘built it,’ will they come? We had very little time to get word out about the new specialization in the Fall for the December 1 student application deadline, but our advisory committee members were really helpful in using their connections to spread the word. Ultimately, we received 19 applications and offered admission to seven students (four of whom are Indigenous). In what is a first for SCARP’s admissions process, all seven students accepted the offer within a week. Four current first-years have also decided to transition into the program in their second year, so we will have 11 students building our ICP community.

No doubt there will be many challenges in the years ahead, but all involved remain truly excited about what this new specialization means for SCARP and for Indigenous Community Planning in British Columbia and beyond.


NewsBytes is SCARP’s tri-annual newsletter highlighting current announcements, recent accomplishments, events, research, and broader planning movements of interest to staff, faculty, students, and alumni, as well as prospective students and members of the community. Below are a selection of articles from the most recent NewsBytes, as well as a link to download the newsletter.

Previous issues of NewsBytes are available from the NewsBytes Archive.

Winter 2014 NewsBytes


The Winter2014 edition of NewsBytes covers activities and reflections from SCARP between November 2013-February 2014 (download it here!).  Christa Brown starts us off with an overview of her involvement with the 10th Annual Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival for Nathan Edelson's Social Learning Studio course last fall.  We're then introduced to our 2014 PSA President Rebecca Chaster and the PSA Executive, before learning a little bit about the role of open data in planning from Karen Quinn Fung.

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