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Canadian Science Policy Centre | Panel 505 - Supporting the next generation of northern scientists

Panel 505 - Supporting the next generation of northern scientists

Conference Day: 
Day 2 - November 8th 2018
Takeaways and recommendations: 

Supporting the next generation of northern scientists

Organized by: Polar Knowledge Canada, Jennifer Sokol

Speakers: Joanna Laskey, Director, Pilimmaksaivik (Federal Centre of Excellence, Inuit Employment in Nunavut); David Silas, First Nations Engagement Advisor, Yukon College; Kelsey Wrightson, Director of Policy and Programming, Dechinta Centre for Research and Learning; Krista Zawadski, Curator of Inuit Art, Department of Culture and Heritage, Government of Nunavut

Moderator: Jennifer Sokol, Senior Policy Advisor, Polar Knowledge Canada

Takeaways and recommendations

  • Too often, northerners who participate in Arctic science are not recognized as knowledge holders and researchers themselves.

  • Despite a renewed focus on Indigenous knowledge systems, few Indigenous researchers are being acknowledged and accredited for their contributions.

Solving northern problems with northern expertise

  • Any work being done in Indigenous communities (e.g., research, developing a new initiative, building a new facility) must be done in a co-creative, co-developed and collaborative way that starts from the local knowledges, worldviews and ethical approaches.

  • The work must reflect and respect a land-based context for research, teaching and learning.

  • Engage elders, youth and community members as equal partners at the frontend of the research: from what questions are being asked and to how the research is conducted, to who retains that knowledge and how it will be used.

  • When elders are recognized as knowledge holders and equal collaborators, it demonstrates the value of Indigenous knowledge and the importance of engaging with intellectual traditions that are specific to, and rooted in, that particular place.

  • Researchers should engage northern communities with curiosity. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and open to challenging your beliefs. Try to make a genuine connection with people in the community.

Northern students face unique barriers

  • Most students have to move away from home to pursue postsecondary education. Universities, in particular, are even further south.

  • Attending school in the south is often the first time many northern students travel outside their territory. It means adjusting to being way from home and to a different way of living. Travelling home for visits can be too expensive for many students, which contributes to social and cultural isolation.

  • For students that have children, uprooting their family to move south for school can be expensive and difficult. They would also need childcare and other supports like while attending school.

  • The quality of education in Nunavut can be a barrier.

  • Some students struggle to see how school is applicable to the real world, which can be a barrier to finishing or continuing their education.

  • The impacts of colonization and historical trauma can be barriers to pursuing careers in science.

Nurturing curiosity at a young age

  • More tools and support systems are needed to encourage northern youth to consider careers in science. Various documents recommend how this can be done, including:

    • The 1996 Royal Commission of Aboriginal People on the importance of supporting Indigenous language training and education

    • Article 13.1 of UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People re: Indigenous communities being able to share philosophies and worldviews for next generations

    • Call to Action #65 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission supporting research projects that will develop a better understanding of reconciliation

  • All coursework should bring in elders as respected knowledge holders to create a multi-generational community of learning.

  • Listen to the community and learn what is applicable to them.

  • All subjects, particularly math, must be connected to the land and start with traditional ways of knowing that integrate western science and epistemologies.

  • Local languages should be incorporated into all education.

  • Blackboards and desks don’t work. STEM education should incorporate visual, hands-on learning and relate to issues that affect the everyday lives of students.

Successful models

  • Nunavut Sivuniksavut is an Ottawa-based college program that services Inuit youth from across Canada’s north. The program focusing on Inuit history and culture, and preparing students for educational, training and career opportunities. Two-third of graduates go onto a post-secondary education.

  • Nunavut Arctic College’s Environmental Technology Program incorporates classroom, lab and field experience, and ensures taught skills are practical and fit student needs for everyday life (e.g., small engine repair).

  • Both programs work to ensure that students acquire the skills they need to get jobs in Nunavut. The programs also offer support systems for student families such as daycares.

Building research capacity in the north

  • Yukon College’s transition to a university will provide students with a more local option for post-secondary education.

  • Inuit languages should be used in research workplaces (e.g., in government scientist positions).

  • Research organizations and governments working in the north should partner with local communities, value local knowledges, and take a creative approach to hiring processes that is grounded in local realities.