Mediate BC Blog

Indigenous History Maker: Melanie Mark

Posted by mbcstaff

Melanie Mark MLA Minister of Tourism, Art, Culture and Sport

Melanie Mark is Nisga’a, Gitxsan, Cree and Ojibway and her traditional Nisga’a name is Hli Haykwhl Ẃii Xsgaak. Melanie was born and raised in East Van. I first met Melanie when she was President of Urban Native Youth Association from 2000 to 2006. I was working as an outreach worker and admired her strength and passion for advocating to improve the lives of Indigenous children, youth, and families. I always have seen Melanie as a positive cultural role model. Melanie was working for Save the Children when I was at Urban Native Youth Association and then she went on to be a children’s advocate at the Representative for Children and Youth’s Office for 8 years. Melanie eventually became an Associate Deputy prior to her graceful entrance into politics.

Melanie Mark is the first female First Nations MLA in British Columbia representing Vancouver Mount Pleasant. Melanie is the only First Nations woman to serve in BC’s Cabinet.  Melanie’s energy is contagious as well as her passion for social justice for Indigenous children, youth and families.In 2016, Premier John Horgan appointed Melanie as the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training. I was teaching at a local college at the time that  Melanie created the provincial tuition waiver program, which supports former youth from the foster system to attend college and university. I taught many young people studying Child and Youth Care that benefited from the tuition waiver program. Melanie also eliminated fees for adult basic education, and creating the BC Access Grant. Many children and youth in care have changed their lives from being able to go to post secondary without financial barriers. In 2020, Premier John Horgan appointed her as the Minister of Tourism, Art, Culture.

Melanie has received many awards for her service to the community. In 2006, Mark received the YWCA Vancouver Young Woman of Distinction Award, and in 2015, she received the Chief Joe Mathias Leadership Award from the Native Education College In 2016, she was the recipient of the inaugural Janusz Korczak Medal for Children's Rights Advocacy and in 2018, she was the recipient of the Stenberg College, Be the Change, Community Leadership Award.

Melanie's work is inspired by her daughters Maya and Makayla and the desire for them to have greater access to education and opportunities as they grow up. Family is very important to Melanie and her time with Maya, Makayla, and her extended family keeps her grounded and motivated.

I look forward to watching Melanie continue her political career and change lives with her strong leadership and dedication to social justice issues.


About the Author

Kellie Tennant is from the Cree Nation of Peguis, Manitoba and has been a visitor in the Coast Salish territory since 1992. She has worked collaboratively with Indigenous children, youth and families for over 20 years, specializing in working with urban Indigenous people both on and off reserve in the Metro Vancouver area. Kellie has a full time private practice as a child protection mediator, consultant, and trainer. She provides training for professionals in helping fields in the areas of Cultural Competency, Child Welfare Legislation and Policy that guide our practice in British Columbia.