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Surrey Urban Indigenous Initiative

young boy with his mom

The City of Surrey acknowledges the traditional territories of the Semiahmoo, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Kwantlen, Qayqayt and Tsawwassen First Nations.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) exposed the terrible legacy of the Indian Residential School System and the on-going trauma for survivors. With Surrey having the largest urban Aboriginal population in Metro Vancouver, the City is taking a proactive response to the call to action by the TRC.

Surrey Urban Indigenous Social Innovation Strategy

In 2015, the City convened the Surrey Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee to guide the development of a Social Innovation Strategy. The Strategy was released in 2017:

The Strategy addresses the findings contained in the All Our Relations Phase 1 Report report. The objective of the Strategy is to build and strengthen relationships at all levels of the community and to improve the economic participation, educational attainment and health outcomes for the Aboriginal population in Surrey.

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Current Projects

The final Surrey Urban Indigenous Social Innovation Strategy contains five Strategic Objectives, 42 Goals and 98 strategies for change. Currently, the Leadership Committee is convening Working Groups to focus on the following priority themes:

  • Education and Awareness Building
  • Indigenous Child Poverty
  • Indigenous Spaces in the City
  • Leadership Capacity
  • Protocol Working Group

Completed Projects

July 2016 to March 2017: Phase II

  • Development of the Surrey Urban Indigenous Social Innovation Strategy:
    • The Leadership Committee began with a visioning session to identify 'our victory' - "If we could realize our collective hopes and dreams in the next five years, what would we see, what would we hear, what would we feel?"
    • A Solutions Workshop was held to identify potential solutions and strategies. 53 people representing 20 organizations, government agencies and potential funders attended the intensive day-long session in October 2016.
    • The Leadership Committee reviewed and revised the draft Strategy.
    • The Strategy was finalized and presented to Surrey City Council in May 2017.
  • Actions to strengthen the capacity of the Surrey Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee, including:
    • Formalizing structures and governance meetings.
    • Raising the profile of the Committee
    • Briefings with funders and decision-makers  
  • Recognizing Indigenous Leadership in Surrey:
    • At a special luncheon on April 21, the Surrey Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee was pleased to honour June Laitar and Beverly Dagg for their exceptional dedication to the urban Indigenous community  in Surrey. For over 35 years, June and Beverly have been actively involved in numerous efforts to improve the experience of city life for urban Indigenous people, especially as it relates to affordable housing.
  • City of Surrey carried out activities to support the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action.
    • Orange Shirt Day: The City of Surrey honoured Orange Shirt Day with a number of events. A special ceremony was held at City Hall, attended by members of the Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee, City staff and RCMP members wearing orange. An educational display was up in the atrium for a week. Mayor Linda Hepner also proclaimed Sept. 30th as Orange Shirt Day in the City of Surrey.
    • Surrey Libraries organized an Aboriginal author, Bev Sellars, to do a public event in October focussed on reconciliation. A series of literacy events and an art exhibition were held in May 2017 around the Taan's Moon children's book.
    • In Cultural Services, both public art and the museum are focussing some of their efforts on Aboriginal art and exhibits.
    • Bridgeview Community Centre and The Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre Association are hosting a National Aboriginal Day 2017  celebration at Bridgeview Park on June 21, 2017


July 2015 to April 22, 2016: Phase I

  • Leaders Celebration:
    • On April 22, 2016, Leaders from Surrey's First Nations and Aboriginal agencies, Mayor and Council, and other community leaders joined together to celebrate the completion of the first phase of the project. The celebration confirmed the community's collective commitment to implementing the Surrey Urban Indigenous Strategy.
  • Formation of the Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee
  • Research Activities
    • Research was conducted to develop a deeper understanding of the urban Indigenous experience in Surrey including:
      • Review of existing studies and reports
      • Key informant interviews with 40 participants representing 23 different organizations that interact with the Indigenous community in Surrey.
      • Focus groups with 32 Indigenous residents of Surrey
      • Compilation of data and analyses from the 2011 Census and National Household Survey
  • Release of All Our Relations Report
    • Findings were formulated from the research and tested against the lived experience of the Urban Indigeous Leadership Committee. Each finding led to a discussion of the implications for the urban Indigenous community and service organizations.14 key findings and 37 conclusions were identified in the All Our Relations report.

Council Reports

Additional Resources

News Releases

City of Surrey honours Orange Shirt Day

Mayor Hepner with special guests honouring Orange Shirt Day

The City of Surrey honoured Orange Shirt Day with a number of events today.

City of Surrey takes action on Truth and Reconciliation Recommendations

On the one year anniversary of the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, the City of Surrey is committing to taking action on the TRC recommendations.

Partners & Funders

Funding has been provided by the BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres through the Urban Partnership Program of the Government of Canada.


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