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Vancouver Community College honours land for new innovation centre with ground blessing ceremony

The ground blessing ceremony honours the land that the college's new Centre for Clean Energy and Automotive Innovation will be built on, with the centre being the catalyst for VCC's larger Campus Plan.
The ground blessing ceremony took place on April 12 at Vancouver Community College at the site of the future Centre for Clean Energy and Automotive Innovation.

Vancouver Community College (VCC) ushered in a new era alongside members from the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations.

The three nations held a ground blessing ceremony on April 12 to honour the history of the land that the college’s new Centre for Clean Energy and Automotive Innovation (CCEAI) will be located on.

"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 practicing our cultural ways in providing this ceremony,” Carleen Thomas, an elder of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, said in a statement. She also spoke at the ground blessing.

“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."

The ground blessing ceremony included traditional songs and the spreading of red ochre in the four corners of the site, which represent the four pillars of a home.

The day was described by VCC president Ajay Patel as a “historic day” for the school and post-secondary institutions across the province.

“We've been on this journey for almost four years, where we were learning about what these lands meant. It started with knowledge keeper sessions, opportunities for us to move forward and understand what these lands meant, who was here before it was colonialized and so today, that blessing connects us to the time immemorial of those lands,” he said in an interview.

The design of the new CCEAI was inspired by the China Creek estuary, which runs adjacent to the site of the building.

“The building itself is reflective of the canoes that used to dock here,” said Patel.

“If you look at the building, it is metaphorically representative of the canoe and where the land, the water and the canoe used to dock and where all that transformation took place. So, this blessing has multiple, multiple meanings.”

Eddy Gooch, an Indigenous VCC nursing alumnus, spoke during the ceremony and said that his experience at VCC “has really helped connect me with the Indigenous person that I am.”

“VCC is a role model, being involved in growing community around them. To be a part of that has been amazing. To have the host nations here to guide us in this blessing and not only the blessing but going forward to the building that we're going to be breaking ground on, the subsequent buildings, growing VCC as a community in harmony with the surroundings and the people that are here is really amazing to be a part of,” he said.

The CCEAI received $271.3 million in funding from the provincial government and is described as a “catalyst project for VCC’s larger Campus Plan.” It will offer learning for students looking to enter clean energy fields.

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