Island Health attends National Dialogue on Strengthening Indigenous Research Capacity Event

Medical Health Officer Dr. Shannon Waters and Research and Liaison Office Diane Sawchuck Ph.D. represented Island Health in Ottawa earlier this month at the National Dialogue on Strengthening Indigenous Research Capacity. The event, supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, convened Aboriginal leaders and CONNECTION grant recipients from across Canada to discuss the future of:

·        research ethics, governance and protocols;

·        building effective community relations and research partnerships;

·        supporting Indigenous research talent, opportunities and infrastructure; and

·        recognizing and respecting Indigenous knowledges and traditions.

This event was part of the CONNECTION grant awarded to Diane Sawchuck Ph.D. and Dr. Shannon Waters to support community engagement with the Stz’uminus, Lyackson, Penelakut, Halalt, Cowichan Tribes, Malahat, Lake Cowichan, and Ditidaht First Nations, and the Métis and urban indigenous communities in the Cowichan Valley Regional District as we work together to plan and build a new health-care facility and primary care network in their territory.

The team seeks to foster trusting and mutually respectful relationships with the communities and their Elders; to co-create culturally sensitive protocols and processes; and to mobilize their knowledge in planning a health-care facility and network that will meet their needs and incorporate holistic health practices.

At the event, keynote speaker Senator Justice Murray Sinclair spoke to “The Importance of Research to Reconciliation.” Senator Sinclair outlined that we are in the process of creating a “national memory,” and asked us to think what that memory may mean for our children and our children’s children as we meet the challenge of making reconciliation work for Canada. 

He indicated that the concept of reconciliation is in fact very simple: “I want to be your friend and I want you to be mine; I want our children and grandchildren to be friends and when they are in need, they will help each other – it is ability to move forward together and to understand respect.”

Justice Sinclair said that it is not a difficult concept, but it is a difficult path to get there, as we have not yet learned how to argue with each other without damaging each other.

He outlined that the role of research is to tell the story of where we have come from in Canada, and to unearth the stories we did not know. In our work as researchers, we will take what we have learned from this truth and help determine what we are doing today that we need to change. 

In this way, researchers can help to understand where we are and where we’re going as a country, and how to shift. Researchers will help us to answer the question “Why are we Canada?” and “How did this come about?”

Importantly, research will help us to understand different points of view – those that are helpful and those that are harmful. Research will help us to shift the colonizer from aligning with a reality of world domination to learning how to walk in balance with the earth.

Learning how to change is key as the entire system needs to be held to account: “researchers are at the forefront of this and will make it happen as we love research.”

Justice Sinclair concluded by saying that “We don’t want to create two worlds, but walk in one world – relate as each having uniqueness that we mutually respect.”