Mi’kmaw tourism leaders and Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax are partnering to develop a new Indigenous tourism education program, to help ensure visitors to Nova Scotia will know Mi’kmaw history, culture and connections.
“The visibility of the Mi’kmaq people or the Mi’kmaw voice has been glaringly missing when people travel to our traditional territory,” said Robert Bernard, executive director of the Nova Scotia Indigenous Tourism Enterprise Network.
Bernard is from We’koqma’q First Nation and has spent over a decade in the tourism sector. He said he was troubled to see a lack of Mi’kmaw history and culture in the broader tourism sector and wanted a way to fix it.
He said this program will help because as hospitality and tourism students go through the program they will learn Mi’kmaw history and cultural lessons.
“We believe the tourism industry is a great way to showcase that information,” said Bernard.
He’d like to see more tourism businesses work with Mi’kmaw partners to ensure visitors are greeted in a culturally appropriate way.
Bernard said roughly three years ago the university approached the Indigenous tourism sector asking how it could help and work started on the Kinu Tourism Program.
Kinu means “us together,” and will blend tourism and hospitality education and the challenges facing the Mi’kmaw tourism sector.
The university program will develop the curriculum after learning from Mi’kmaw communities directly. This summer, university staff will travel to communities to hear from Mi’kmaw businesses how best to support the sector.
Aim to start enrolment in 2024
The Kinu Tourism Program will be a part of the university’s tourism and hospitality management department. Students can expect to enrol in the program in 2024.
Peter Mombourquette, interim chair of business and tourism at MSVU, said he’s excited to learn from the communities.
“I see this as a great opportunity to build a partnership and friendship,” said Mombourquette.
The project is being funded by a $1.96 million grant from the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program.
Mombourquette said he hopes the new program can help bolster the sector by increasing the number of Indigenous entrepreneurs.
“It’s going to help the economy, and not just the Indigenous economy but the Atlantic Canadian economy, too,” said Mombourquette.
A Conference Board of Canada report in 2019 estimated the Indigenous tourism sector added $107.7 million to Atlantic Canada’s GDP in 2017.