New cosmetology school in Vancouver to offer training for Indigenous youth

Thomasina Binder has been a hairstylist for years and says she rarely sees another Indigenous person wielding the scissors.

So now she is doing something about it.

Binder, who is Tsimshian, Gitxsan and Nisga’a and originally hails from Prince Rupert, is based in Vancouver and is the brains behind Shear MVMNT, a skills-training school for Indigenous youth launching this fall on a trial basis in the city’s Downtown Eastside.

“We are starting a three-month pilot program and it’s going to be a styling program to see if it’s feasible,” said Binder, speaking to host Stephen Quinn.

She said if the response is good, then her goal is to continuously offer courses to people at no cost and with flexible  programming so that people with children or other obligations can participate.

“I think, especially in these times, especially with everything that’s going on, I think the only thing to do to move forward is to empower our youth with skill and community,” said Binder.

She said getting into the industry helped build her self-confidence and provided opportunities for her to travel and express her creativity. It also showed her how the profession could benefit other Indigenous British Columbians.

“The moment I started doing hair, I realized what the potential was and also the potential for community.  Like look at barbershops, look at salons, they’re really quite a community-based experience,” said Binder.

The pilot program has been made possible with help from the Social Planning and Research Council of B.C., whom Binder said she has been working with to secure grants.

A physical space in the Downtown Eastside has been donated to Shear MVMNT for use and Binder is currently fundraising to upgrade that facility.

In addition to educating youth, the plan is to use the space to provide low-income residents in the area with haircuts when needed.

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