Aerial View of IPCA

Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas Planning

Apply to the First Post-Secondary Program Dedicated to Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas!

In partnership with the IISAAK OLAM Foundation, Vancouver Island University has led the design of Canada’s first post-secondary program specializing in planning for Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs). 

The advanced IPCA Planning Certificate will train the next generation of professional planners and build capacity to support the establishment, management, and governance of IPCAs in British Columbia and across Canada.

The certificate includes six interconnected courses, designed to augment learning outcomes and provide you with a holistic understanding of the various components of IPCA planning. Course delivery is designed to serve individuals who may be employed full-time and who are seeking ways to advance their learning in areas relating to reconciliation, conservation, and planning. If a specific course or course topic is of interest, please email to inquire about other available trainings outside of the certificate program.

Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas Learning

Program Outcomes and Benefits

The Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas Planning (IPCA) Planning Certificate will help educate a new generation of planners with the skills, knowledge and capacity to support the establishment and stewardship of IPCA's and other Indigenous-led conservation initiatives in the BC context. Students will gain a greater understanding of Indigenous approaches to land relationship planning and the holistic and integrated approach to stewardship that IPCA's represent. They will gain an increased ability to navigate the interface between Western and Indigenous knowledge systems, laws, and governance systems using frameworks such as Ethical Space and Two-Eyed Seeing.

Application Steps

  1. Sign-in or Create your EducationPlannerBC Account
  2. Update your EducationPlannerBC Account Profile 
  3. Select Institution (Vancouver Island University) or Return to the IPCA Application Page
  4. Complete Application - provide these answers:
    1. What category best describes you? Applying to an Undergraduate Program
    2. Select Your Subject Area: Bachelor of Arts
    3. Select Your Program: Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas Planning Advanced Certificate 
    4. Campus: Nanaimo 
  5. Submit and Review Application 
  6. Applicants will be contacted for a short entrance interview

Or if needed you can print off and apply through a hard-copy application: VIU Application for Admission

Admission Requirements

Completion of post-secondary diploma or completion of minimum of 54 academic credits including VIU’s Degree English Requirement.

Students who do not meet the minimum requirements may be accepted by the the program director on a case by case basis.

Students who meet or exceed the minimum admission requirements are not guaranteed to be admitted to the program.

Jeremy Williams_IPCA 1

Apply Now

Registration is open for the 2024-2025 Cohort. The first course, an in-person 5-day field school in Tla-o-qui-aht Territory (Tofino, BC) begins on Monday September 23, 2024. The five remaining courses are all taught virtually between October 2025 and October 2026. See details on course dates and delivery methods below.

About the Program

The IPCA Planning Certificate will help educate a new generation of land planners with the skills, knowledge and capacity to support the establishment and stewardship of IPCAs and other Indigenous-led conservation initiatives.

Students will gain a greater understanding of Indigenous approaches to land relationship planning and the holistic and integrated approach to stewardship that IPCA's represent. They will gain an increased ability to navigate the interface between Western and Indigenous knowledge systems, laws, and governance systems using frameworks such as Ethical Space and Two-Eyed Seeing.

The Advanced IPCA Planning Certificate is a specialized certificate for individuals with interests in conservation, planning, and reconciliation.

The 6 courses will be delivered over 12 months. All courses are completed in 40 hours.

Course 1: IPCA 407 - IPCA Field Study

In person: September 23-27, 2024 with travel from Nanaimo to Tofino and return included. (Off-island students asked to arrive in Nanaimo the night of September 22 and to arrange their own accommodations.)

Course 2: IPCA 417 - Intro to IPCA

Taught virtually on the following Fridays in 2024 (from 9am to 5pm Pacific): October 25, November 1, November 8, November 15 and November 22, 2024.

Course 3: IPCA 447 - History, Law, and Politics

Taught virtually on the following Fridays in 2025 (from 9am to 5pm Pacific): January 17, January 24, January 31, February 7 and February 14, 2025.

Course 4: IPCA 457 - Ecological, Cultural, and Socio-economic Opportunities

Taught virtually on the following Fridays in 2025 (from 9am to 5pm Pacific): April 4, April 11, April 25, May 2, and May 9, 2025.

Course 3: IPCA 427 - Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Land Relationship Planning

Taught virtually on the following Fridays in 2025 (from 9am to 5pm Pacific): May 30, June 6, June 13, June 20, and June 27, 2025.

Course 6: IPCA 437 - Planning for IPCA

Taught virtually on the following Fridays in 2025 (from 9am to 5pm Pacific): September 12, September 19, September 26, October 3, and October 10, 2025.

Applications will be accepted until July 15, 2024 or until all seats are filled (whichever is first). Applications are reviewed monthly by the program admissions committee. Interested applicants should register as early as possible. There are approximately 25 seats available and eligible applicants are admitted on a “first come, first served” basis.

Program development is supported through funding from the Real Estate Foundation of BC, the Conservation through Reconciliation Partnership, the Canadian Mountain Network, and Mitacs, as well as in-kind support from the IISAAK OLAM Foundation.

Program delivery is through the Vancouver Island University and the IISAAK OLAM Foundation.

Learn more about the ISAAK OLAM Foundation.

Course Descriptions

This course consists of an experiential and immersive field study in an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (IPCA). Students will engage meaningfully with the people, place, and culture, reflecting critically on their social positions, worldviews, and approaches to planning. Prerequisites: Min “C” in English 12

Monica Shore, instructor for IPCA 407 - IPCA Field Study

This course introduces students to the definitions, principles, and practice of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) in Canada. Students will learn international and domestic policies relevant to IPCAs and the role of Treaty relationships between Indigenous Nations, their lands, and newcomer societies. Diverse examples of IPCAs are presented. Prerequisite: Min. “C” in English 12

Dr. Soudeh Jamshidian, instructor for IPCA 417 - Intro to IPCAs

This course introduces students to the principles of planning with an Indigenous knowledge systems lens, as informed by Indigenous and Natural Laws. Ethical Space is presented as a knowledge systems interface to promote equitable and respectful engagement between Indigenous and Western approaches to planning for Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas. Prerequisite: Min “C” in IPCA 417

Dr. Allyson Menzies, instructor for IPCA 427 - Indigenous Knowledge Systems

This course explores practical considerations for planning, establishing, and managing Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs). Students will learn about processes and pathways for establishing IPCAs, jurisdictional considerations, capacity and financial needs of IPCAs, connections to Indigenous cultures, and the roles of planners in supporting IPCA planning, establishment and management.

Eduardo Sousa, instructor for IPCA 437 - Creating IPCAs

This course provides a historical overview of Indigenous and newcomer relations in British Columbia, focusing on the legal and jurisdictional implications of this history for Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs). Aboriginal Title, Treaties, case law, and modern agreements are explained, and diverse governance options for IPCAs in BC are explored.

Dr. Justine Townsend, instructor for IPCA 447 - History, Law, and Politics in BC

This course explores the roles of Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) in promoting ecological, cultural, and socioeconomic well-being. The course explores roles and opportunities for IPCAs in habitat protection, ecological restoration, cultural revitalization, reconciliation, food sovereignty, and economic resilience, with specific reference to the BC context.

Eric Wilson, instructor for IPCA 457 - Ecological, Cultural, and Socio-Economic Opportunities


If you have any questions about the program, please contact Justine Townsend.

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Photo showing the overview scenery of the IPCA location within a forest. The surrounding ocean and mountains are seen in the background.

Guiding Principles of the IPCA Planning Certificate

Program principles are values and mindsets that function as guideposts for students and instructors throughout the duration of the IPCA Planning Certificate.  Instructors will facilitate student learning, support individual and collaborative work, and foster a positive learning environment. These principles are also foundational to IPCA's.

Learn more below.

Venn diagram showing the connectivity of Ethical Space with Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Western Knowledge Systems

Ethical Space is the overarching principle and framework of the IPCA Planning Certificate. This framework is further animated through four additional program principles, described below:

Ethical Space is established through acceptance and a collective understanding that Indigenous and Western knowledge systems are equal. It is a space in which one knowledge system does not dominate another, where both can hold their ground, and where new understandings, relationships, and knowledge can be developed and/or transformed. It is a space of decolonization, healing, reconciliation, and commitment to equitable cross-cultural learning.

Ethical Space and the principles below will cultivate our capacity to communicate across differences.

In the Nuu-chah-nulth language, shared by fourteen nations on the west and mid coast of Vancouver Island, IISAAK (EE-sahk) is often translated simply as ‘respect,’ but also carries a much deeper meaning: “To observe, appreciate, and act accordingly.” IISAAK is the highest law of the Nuu-chah-nulth legal system, depicted visually through the Sun-Moon crest.

IISAAK is a program principle dedicated to highlighting the commitment that students and instructors will make to respecting each other, the perspectives and knowledge systems, the communities, and the environments where they study and work. IISAAK happens when we take time to slow down, observe our own biases, and appreciate the offerings made by our peers.

Responsibility is a program principle guiding our commitment to take leadership in our own learning journey and carry our weight within group projects and teamwork. This principle also invites us to show up and be present in the program and more broadly, communicate our appreciation and challenges, and care for the people, species, lands, and waters where we learn.

Reciprocity is a principle that speaks to our commitment to share our perspectives and knowledge, participate with courage and humility, and give as much as we receive. We are asked to equally share and listen, honour and give thanks to all knowledge holders (including peers), and act for the mutual benefit of all.

The principle of diversity marks a commitment to a distinctions-based approach to the program, recognizing that Indigenous Peoples across Canada are sovereign and independent, and that First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples and governments have distinct contexts, histories, and challenges. Diversity also embraces the multiplicity of gender and race, and the diversity of people and perspectives required to make IPCAs successful.

Terms and Definitions

“…lands and waters where Indigenous governments have the primary role in protecting and conserving ecosystems through Indigenous laws, governance and knowledge systems” (Indigenous Circle of Experts, We Rise Together report, 2018). 

The Government of Canada has recognized that IPCA's are an innovative land-use planning tool for achieving the goal of protecting 25% of lands and waters by 2025 and 30% by 2030. BC’s current protected area land base is 15%.

Learn more by... 

Reading the foundation resource on IPCAs - the Indigenous Circle of Experts' 2018 report, We Rise Together.

Checking out the IPCA Knowledge Basket

Ethical Space is a framework for guiding respectful interaction across cultural differences in a way that upholds the fundamental integrity of all knowledge systems entering that space. It is a model that creates a space of mutual trust, respect, equality, and collaboration.

Ethical Space allows for a space of discussion and planning with various knowledge systems when no one knowledge system is seen as superior.

Two-Eyed Seeing is an approach of inquiry and solutions in which people come together to view the world through an Indigenous lens with one eye (perspective), while the other eye sees through a Western lens.

Frequently Asked Questions

Though this program is welcome to anyone and will benefit folk doing land management work anywhere in Canada - this program does have a focus in British Columbia. This is intentional as the legal and geopolitical landscape of each province is unique.

Our hope is that more region based courses like this will be created across Canada and the world.

We will be following all provincial health orders and safety protocols for Covid-19 at the time of the field school.

Tuition was $10,220.90 in 2023-2024 (detailed below) and will increase slightly for 2024-2025. The updated tuition amount will be communicated here in April 2024. Feel free to reach out to with any questions about this.

For the 2023-2024 cohort, each course cost $1,224.00 CAD ($408 per credit–3 credits per course). The first course (IPCA 407) was an in-person field course in Tla-o-qui-aht territory and had an additional field course fee of $2,040.00 CAD.

In total, with other student fees including the healthcare plan the cost of the entire certificate in 2023-2024 was $10,220.90 CAD. (Each year, costs are subject to a standard 2% increase.)

The program is designed to foster a community of practice among and between each cohort. Given this intention, priority will be given to those who apply for the entire certificate program. After the registration deadline (Summer 2024, Date TBD), we may consider accepting applicants who are only interested in one course.

The IPCA 407 field course in September 2023 has more restricted participation for two main reasons: (1) Space at the Clayoquot Campus is limited; (2) It is designed as a relationship building experience for those enrolled in the entire program.

Anyone interested in independent courses or course concepts is encouraged to reach out to to inquire about additional training opportunities. For example, those interested in the IPCA 407 field school specifically are advised to reach out to the IISAAK OLAM Foundation to learn about productive retreats at the Clayoquot Campus.

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