Vancouver Island University Launches Regional Partnership Aimed at Reducing Child Poverty on the Island

From left to right: Ralph Nilson, VIU President and Vice-Chancellor; Bill Veenhof, RDN Chair; Debbie Good, Team Leader of Guardianship and Resources for Kw'umut Lelum Child and Family Services, and William Litchfield, Executive Director of University Relations, hold up postcards about education savings initiatives that are being distributed to families in the region through VIU and partners.

November 21, 2016 - 11:30am

Local governments and community groups to help spread the word about the Canada Learning Bond and the BC Training and Education Savings Grant

Ashley Tom’s two daughters are still in elementary school, but they each already have money earning interest in the bank to put towards their post-secondary educations.

Tom, 27, is taking upgrading courses at Vancouver Island University (VIU) and Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Centre so she can enroll in the University’s Practical Nursing Program next year. Finding the money to go back to school has been tough for the single mother, so when she learned about the Canada Learning Bond (CLB), she jumped at the chance to sign her girls up.

The CLB is a federal grant that helps low-income families start saving for their children’s post-secondary education by contributing $500 into each eligible child’s Registered Education Savings Plans when they sign up, plus an additional $100 each year after that up to a maximum of $2,000. No parental contribution is required to receive the free government money. Tom found it easy to set up – she simply brought her children’s information in to her bank and then both girls were signed up for RESPs and to receive the free money automatically each year.

“It makes me feel good, knowing there are funds available because for me, it’s been a challenge to get the funds for education,” she says. “It’s scary, all the costs of education. Knowing I have this start for my girls – it makes me excited about the future. My girls are smart and I know they can take their education as far as they want to.”

More than two-thirds of eligible families in the Regional District of Nanaimo (RDN) are not taking advantage of this program. This lost opportunity equates to millions of dollars in unpaid grant money that otherwise could be earning interest in the RESP accounts of local children from low-income families, ready for when they want to attend post-secondary.

That’s why VIU is partnering with local governments and community organizations to get the word out about the Canada Learning Bond and other education savings programs. To mark the start of Education Savings Week, VIU hosted a special event on Monday, November 21 at Shq’apthut, the University’s Aboriginal Gathering Place, to announce the new partnership and sign up eligible families.

“We believe in the transformative power of education, which is why a key focus at VIU is creating pathways to ensure as many people as possible can access post-secondary education,” says Dr. Ralph Nilson, VIU President and Vice-Chancellor. “Statistics show that a child living in a low-income family who has at least $500 in an education savings account is more than four times more likely to enroll in a post-secondary institution. I look forward to working with this new regional partnership, so that many more children in our region will have that money in their savings account, and can go on to fulfill their true potential by pursuing further education."

VIU’s regional partners include the Regional District of Nanaimo, the City of Nanaimo, Island Health, Vancouver Island Regional Library, School District 68, School District 69, Nanaimo Child Development Centre, Tillicum Lelum Aboriginal Friendship Centre, Kw’umut Lelum Child and Family Services, the Inter Tribal Health Authority and the Society of Organized Services.

Each of these organizations is helping to spread the word about the free government grants. The RDN is helping to promote the grants through programs and services frequently accessed by families, including recreation facilities, the Active Living Guide and any other opportunities that will help raise awareness. All parents whose children are born at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital will get the information in a new parent package; the local school districts will send a letter home with every student in the district; and the City of Nanaimo will give the information to families who apply for the Leisure Economic Access Pass program.

“The goal is to get as many people talking about the Canada Learning Bond as possible,” says Rolanda Murray, VIU’s Canada Learning Bond Coordinator. “There are nearly 4,000 children in Nanaimo alone who are eligible but are not signed up to receive this money – that’s the number that keeps me awake each night. Every one of those children deserves that money, so it’s important that families know about these resources.”

To learn more, visit



Jenn McGarrigle, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P: 250-740-6288 | C: 250.619.6860 | E: | T: @VIUNews


“The Regional District of Nanaimo is proud to help raise awareness of the Canada Learning Bond and other education savings programs. The RDN is committed to advancing our region. Ensuring residents are aware of opportunities like this is an important step towards that goal.”   

- RDN Chair Bill Veenhof

“At Kw’umut Lelum Child and Family Services, we feel very fortunate to get the children in our care signed up for the Canada Learning Bond, as these beautiful children have had hard lives and come into care for various reasons. When you come from a marginalized background, education is the way to go. We are going to get all children signed up, one kid at a time.”

- William Yoachim, Executive Director, Kw’umut Lelum Child and Family Services

Quick Facts:

34% — of the families eligible to receive the Canada Learning Bond are signed up for the grants, up from 24% before VIU started actively promoting these programs

5,400 — approximate number of children in the RDN who are eligible to receive the Canada Learning Bond, but don’t have it

$3,200 — maximum amount of money families can receive through the Canada Learning Bond and the BC Training and Education Savings Grant to put towards their children’s post-secondary education (up to $2,000 through the CLB and the BCTESG is a one-time grant of $1,200)

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