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Fraser River Discovery Centre grateful for its biggest donation ever

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Fraser River Discovery Centre exterior
Fraser River Discovery Centre has received the largest donation in its history to help with Indigenous programs.

Fraser River Discovery Centre is thrilled ending 2021 on a high note.

The Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation, which is the charitable arm of the Washington Companies that includes Seaspan and Southern Railway of British Columbia (SRY), is giving FRDC a $250,000 grant to support the xʷtatəl̕ləm (Place of Learning) initiative and education programs.

“This support from Seaspan and Southern Railway of British Columbia is critical to moving forward with both xʷtatəl̕ləm and our Fraser River education programs as we continue to recover from the impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the Fraser River Discovery Centre,” Mark Rizzo, chair of the Fraser River Discovery Centre Society, said in a news release. “The donation –  the single largest we have ever received – helps ensure we can further educate our visitors and the region about the Indigenous, economic, environmental, and socio-economic importance of the living, working Fraser River.”

The society, which operates the Fraser River Discovery Centre on New Westminster’s waterfront, has received the grant for its Indigenous and Fraser River education programs. Specifically, the funds will support programs being offered in partnership with the Musqueam Indian Band, including school programs, public information and dialogue programs and interactive exhibits.

“On behalf of Seaspan and Southern Railway of British Columbia, we are pleased to be able to support the Fraser River Discovery Centre Society in their work to promote the diverse history and culture associated with the Fraser River,” said Kyle Washington, executive chairman of Seaspan. “Educational perspectives provided on the environment and transportation will benefit the Fraser River’s long-term sustainability. Their engaging programs highlight the importance of the river and bring an understanding of the livelihoods and communities which depend on it to a wide range of audiences.”

According to a FRDC press release, Seaspan and SRY have a long relationship with Fraser River Discovery Centre and previously supported the Journey Through the Working River exhibit in 2017.

Frank Butzelaar, chief operating officer of Washington Companies, said the company is proud to once again support FRDC in its educational outreach.

“As founding members, our Washington Companies – Seaspan and Southern Railway of British Columbia – have enjoyed a long relationship with FRDCS, and we value the work they do creating informative dialogue and innovative pathways for learning about the cultural, environmental, and economic significance of the Fraser River,” he said. “In particular, this grant will help to create greater awareness of Indigenous Peoples’ relationship with the river and establish new ways in which we can work together to sustainably manage this valuable resource.”

FRDCS has partnered with the Musqueam Indian Band and plans to develop xʷtatəl̕ləm (Place of Learning about the Indigenous heritage and teachings of the Fraser River). The society will work with the Musqueam Indian Band and other First Nations to share information about the Fraser River and work towards reconciliation and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Stephen Bruyneel, director of external relations and development at FRDC, said the establishment of Place of Learning is driven by funding, and it also has to meet its partner’s needs. He said the 2022 priorities for this funding will be for new Indigenous education and public programs, as a well as finishing the visioning work with Musqueam and starting to develop a project plan.

“We can set the timeline for using the funds,” he said. “I expect we will spread them out over a number of years, particularly since the Place of Learning is a multi-year initiative.”

According to FRDC, the centre’s education programs will help students explore the Fraser River from economic, environmental, socio-cultural and Indigenous perspectives