The Greater Victoria School District has announced a collaboration with B.C Transit to improve school attendance by removing transportation costs for students living on the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations. (File Submitted/BC Transit)

Free transit pass for Indigenous high school students on Songhees and Esquimalt Nations

Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, SD 61, BC Transit collaborate to improve access to transportation

Starting Sept. 1, high school students living on the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations are eligible for a free BC Transit U-PASS which provides safe, accessible transportation to school.

The Greater Victoria School District, in collaboration with B.C Transit and the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, aim to improve school attendance by removing transportation costs which can be a barrier for on-reserve Indigenous students.

This September, students in Grade 9 to Grade 12 living on the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations receive a free U-PASS for unlimited access to all bus routes in the region. A trial period ran from May to June and will now be fully implemented as the the Greater Victoria School Board acknowledges the importance of transportation in access to education, said Board Chair Jordan Watters.

READ ALSO: Saanich councillor questions effectiveness of free transit passes for youth

The U-PASS is be valid until Aug. 31, 2020 and is funded by the First Nations Student Transportation Fund which comes from the federal government and is dispensed by the Ministry of Education to school boards in the province.

Francine L’Hirondelle, director of education services at the Songhees Nation, noted that education for students living on the reserve is a priority and that a lack transportation can be a barrier to accessing education.

Trisha Chestnutt, education and programs manager for the Esquimalt Nation, pointed out that providing safe and affordable transportation to school is a key factor in getting students to attend. She feels that high school students who use the U-PASS will benefit greatly.

“It is more than appreciated that the school district will be administering the U-PASS program,” said L’Hirondelle. “This is a positive step moving forward with an already good working relationship with the District.”

READ ALSO: Free transit passes coming for Victoria youth this fall

BC Transit also recognizes the role that transportation plays in accessing education, said Erinn Pinkerton, BC Transit president and chief executive officer.

The program came out of the B.C. Tripartite Education Agreement between the the First Nations Education Steering Committee and the Canadian and the B.C. governments. The Agreement — the first of it’s kind in the country — was signed in January and focuses on making positive changes to the B.C. education system and making transportation service for First Nations students to their respective schools a top priority. The District will be implementing several other programs outlined in the Agreement.

This U-PASS announcement comes on the heels of the City of Victoria’s vote to approve free transit passes for school-aged youth in the city. Prior to this announcement, students under 18 were required to pay $45 per month to access a transit pass.


@devonscarlett
devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

UPDATED: Heavy police presence in Victoria had part of Bay Street blocked off

Bay Street east of Quadra Street was blocked off on Saturday

Hundreds of foreign species still washing up on B.C. coast, eight years after tsunami

The Royal BC Museum is home to thousands of samples collected along the west coast of North America

Victoria first Canadian city to join United Nations tree planting challenge

The City of Victoria pledges to plant 5,000 trees by the end of 2020

VIDEO: Grizzly bears fight along northern B.C. highway in rare footage

Cari McGillivray posted the head-turning video, shot near Stewart, B.C., to social media

Handgun crackdown, health spending and transit plans latest campaign promises

Friday was the end of a busy week on the campaign trail

B.C. woman photographs massive ant swarm on Abbotsford driveway

She asked what the ants were doing? The answer: war

Police arrest B.C. phone scammer linked to illegal call centres in India

Person arrested in Burnaby here on a work visa, says police

Air Canada forced girl, 12, to remove hijab: civil rights group

The San Francisco Bay Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations calling for change

Man from Winnipeg who was hiking alone found dead in Banff National Park

RCMP say the man was hiking alone on Mount Temple Thursday

Resident finds loaded shotgun inside a duffle bag in Kelowna alleyway

RCMP seized a loaded 12-gauge shotgun, ammunition, clothing and other items

Graffiti, calls and Snapchat: RCMP probe string of threats targeting Kamloops schools

There have been nine different threats made to four different schools in the city

B.C. truck drivers to face higher fines for not using winter tire chains

As of Oct. 1, not using chains on the highway when required could net you a $598 ticket

Most Read