Notes from Happy Valley-Goose Bay: The College goes north

“It’s attitude not latitude that counts”

-saying that reaffirms a Northern identity

From June 19-21, 2017 five members of the College of New scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada participated in a Labrador Learning Tour organized by College member Ashlee Cunsolo, Director of the Labrador Institute of Memorial University: Cynthia Milton (President), Elke Winter and Sean McGrath (College Council members), Bing Chen and David Hornidge, as well as College Manager Russel MacDonald. Together we covered the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. These notes are from the meetings we had with different forms of local government, organisations and citizens.

The College had two primary questions or objectives in going to Happy Valley-Goose Bay:

  1. The first was to learn and hear about the different challenges facing remote Canadian communities;
  2. The second was to learn other forms of knowledge production and dissemination.

In summary, for the first question, we learned a very disheartening and difficult account of the legacies of colonialism (and ongoing forms), combined with unfettered collusion between economic growth and government, combined with climate change. In Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the Muskrat Falls project throws into high relief this dynamic.

For the second objective, we learned about the importance of including in the refrain of “evidence-based knowledge” the taking into account of local knowledge as evidence that comes through experience (for instance, when communities recount salmon runs, and local corporations state their studies show otherwise). We also learned of the importance of outside researchers engaging with local community knowledge brokers in locally-inspired projects.

What the College members took away most greatly from this experience is the resilience of the people to address the challenges their communities are facing and their profound hospitality in receiving us.

***

June 19, 2017

Meeting with Mayor Jamie Snook

As mayor of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Jamie Snook, explained to us on our first day, Happy Valley-Goose Bay has five bodies of government: federal, provincial, municipal, and two indigenous governments. Municipal government can have an important impact at the local level, for instance on questions of health and wellness. Mr. Snook (who is a Trudeau fellow pursuing his Ph.D. at the University of Guelph) gave the example of taxation: how we tax citizens can impact people’s health. Another example: he would like to see strategic plans to include health and wellness assessments on communities and not just environmental impacts when governments accord permission to large-scale project such as pipelines or hydroelectric dams: “It is clear how much they [residents] care about the land here.” The mayor would like to see more politically neutral research being conducted that would engage with municipal government, so that “we can make better decisions at the council level.”

As we would hear over and over during our learning tour, Muskrat Falls—a megadam project just on the outskirts of Happy Valley-Goose Bay being built by the crown corporation Nalcor (a Newfoundland government project)—has brought about great socio-economic and environmental change. While gross economic measurements indicate temporary higher employment and secondary benefits to restaurants, hotels and the like, as well as infrastructural changes such as a full-time fire chief and GPS, our tour focused more on the long-term impact on and the concerns of local residents. For instance, the municipal council feels that Nalcor is not making a sufficient enough consultation with them and taking into consideration their communities needs and concerns. Community expectations are high. The cost of living has skyrocketed, particularly the cost of housing, so now there is a housing shortage in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. And the project has pitted parts of the community against each other: those who have jobs directly on the site and those that worry about the environmental impact of the megaproject on water quality, on wildlife (such as salmon) and on the safety of their homes and communities. The devastating flooding last spring of Mud Lake, a community that is hundreds of years old, where the community was evacuated in the middle of the night—is seen not as an isolated incident but as a sign of what awaits Happy Valley-Goose Bay and the surrounding area, which would have but 18 minutes to evacuate in the case of flooding from the Muskrat Falls project. As Dr. Cunsolo stated “Muskrat Falls is a model for a discussion about grief and development.”

Meeting with Nathaniel Pollock

Our meeting with Dr. Nathaniel Pollock, a researcher at the Labrador Institute, deepened our conversation of the health challenges in remote in northern regions, where colonialism, climate change and economic transformations have had a drastic effect on the well-being of residents. His research into suicide and self-harm in local communities shows that it is not a problem in all indigenous communities here, so work needs to be done in order to identify the causes and possible services. It is largely connected to questions of social inequality and food insecurity, housing and poverty, and a feeling of an unmet need to have a sense of value and to contribute. The divergent experiences of the different communities are related in part to their different historical experiences of colonialism: for instance, communities that underwent forced relocation have higher levels of suicide and self-harm.

Meeting with Nunatsiavut Government: Michele Wood, Michelle Kinney, Patricia Kemutsigak, and Tim McNeil

Some of the concerns raised about the challenges of Labrador’s communities were raised again in our meeting with the consensus-based Nunatsiavut Government. They spoke of how climate change has led to food insecurity (with some fly-in only communities suffering up to 85% food insecurity in their community). With the melting of the ice, there is less caribou, “our main food source,” which they have tried to replace with seal meat. They also need housing. They see their youth as particularly resilient, and they have a scholarship program.

The Nunatsiavut Government was clear and eloquent in their response to our question about knowledge production and dissemination. They suffer from “research fatigue”: people coming from away, researching, and never bringing back the findings. “We don’t have time for thought experiments, we need research that addresses our immediate, urgent needs.” They have designed their own ethics approval form to help foster research meaningful to local communities: 1. So that in collaboration they can agree upon questions; 2. So that researchers understand that things may progress slowly, in a non-linear way, and that they need to listen; 3. So that researchers may build a relationship with the community as a whole, and not just with the elders, and to make sure that the research responds to community needs and priorities.

June 20, 2017

Meeting with NunatuKavut Community Council: Darlene Wall and Amy Hudson

NunatuKavut Community, unlike the Nunatsiavut Government, is still in the process of land claims settlement. They are a series of communities in the southern coastal reaches of Labrador, where there has been historically greater contact with primarily fisherman. (The South Coast has some 8,000 residents including the population of NunatuKavut beneficiaries). They spoke of similar challenges to northern communities of isolation, climate change and food insecurity. They also spoke of the need for collaboration-based research and locally-driven research agendas.

Healthy Waters Labrador with Marina Biasutti Brown

This was a land-based tour that focused on recuperation and restoration of Birch Island as a bird sanctuary. It is close to the former US base, now run by the Canadian Armed Forces. We learned of the burial of fuels and toxic matter upon the US departure of the site. The changing water levels due to the Churchill Falls and climate change are seen here in changing water flow patterns. Trees felled from the Muskrat Falls project were salvaged and shaved into beautiful fencing.

Visit to Labrador Institute Centre in North West River – 25 km from Happy Valley-Goose Bay

What would a northern-lead research project look like? The Labrador Institute has state of the art science facilities. At present a Harvard-university water testing was done here as well as testing of soil samples, and archeological research.

Meeting with the Labrador Friendship Centre – Jaimie Jackman and Jennifer Hefler-Elson

The Labrador Friendship Centre is part of a cross-Canada network (119 centres) that provide programs and facilities to local residents. The Labrador Friendship Centre offers 28 different services for people ranging from a food bank, homeless shelter, classes, and programs. Eighty-one per cent of the people engaged through the Labrador Friendship are Inuit, First Nations or Metis. The Women’s Circle of the Labrador Friendship Centre made a quilt to the different groups of indigenous women who have disappeared, and a men’s circle has formed to discuss domestic abuse. There is also a Family’s Circle. The Labrador Friendship Centre is run through donations, largely supported by local generosity. They would like to continue to develop new services, such as having an assistant to coach and accompany residents in judicial proceedings (a need which has become greater in response to Muskrat Falls project). One of the indicators of the success of the Labrador Friendship Centre was the wonderful event they held on National Aboriginal Day, June 21st, where families came, musicians jammed and sang, and children played. Personnel from the Armed Forces base served locally made seal meat, rabbit stew, and traditional breads (as well as hamburgers and hot dogs!). On raffle was a beautiful white komatik made by the Men’s Circle of the Labrador Friendship Centre.

June 21, 2017

The morning was spent on an Archaeological Walking Tour with Dr. Scott Neilsen of the Labrador Institute. We returned to Birch Island where he showed us how to identify earlier residency patterns (rusty coke cans and sunken storage pits) as well as about earlier Inuit settlements, originally migrating here to work on the US Army Base. We then went to the wonderful and well-curated Labrador Interpretation Centre in North West River (Sheshatshiu) where he spoke to us of Intuit culture and peoples, settlers, and the deep history of the region.

Later that day we went to the provincial court house to listen to the proceedings against members of the Labrador Land Protectors, a group that brings together different indigenous groups and non-indigenous residents in their common cause to protect the land, wildlife, water and health of the region. Most of those present faced charges of “mischief” and some have even gone to jail. While Nalcor had a crown prosecutor, most of those accused sought free legal aid. The judge tried to keep spirits calm in the room; he tried to respect individual’s calendars so as not to set court dates at the same time as the salmon run; and he provided for them a list of readings on protest and the law in Canada.

Once the court session came to a close, some of those present turned around and drove back out to the gates of the Muskrat Falls project. There they spoke to us of their fears, their frustration, and their resolve to keep defending this cause. After a while, we all left to go celebrate “National Aboriginal Day.” The irony of their day, while seemingly drastic to some of us College members—from court to protest (both interpreted by locals as “outsiders” or as on-going colonialism) to then a joyous celebration at the festivities of the government-declared “National Aboriginal Day”—seemed to be taken in stride by those who just jumped from one to the next in a span of hours.

***

What the College learned from this tour is difficult to summarize. For many of us, what we experienced was felt as transformative: for some members, the learning tour rekindled a sense of the need to engage with social justice; for others it would push their teaching in new directions; for others, it renewed a sense of urgency to combine research with local needs. For all of us, we were astounded by the immediacy of the challenges facing some Canadian communities. That there should be such high levels of food insecurity, of mental health issues, of housing shortage, all the while new electricity is being produced and new technological advances, raised our concern about the failure of academia to adequately bring these issues to the larger Canadian public in the south. They know of these issues in the north, but how to make others understand? What we take away most from this learning tour is the need to listen and to research in collaboration. We are deeply grateful to Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo, the three indigenous groups, residents, researchers, and the Labrador Land Protectors for the generosity of their time, their hospitality and their sharing of knowledge.

Reem Bahdi to receive Guthrie Award

The Law Foundation of Ontario is pleased to announce that the 2017 Guthrie Award will be presented to Reem Bahdi. The Guthrie Award is the Foundation’s signature award to recognize exceptional access to justice champions.

Professor Bahdi is an author, researcher, and human rights expert, with particular expertise in the human rights of Arabs and Muslims in Canada. She was the Canadian Bar Association’s first Equality Advisor and was instrumental in the creation of the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association.

“Professor Bahdi has seized the opportunity to work on complex and cutting edge access to justice issues,” says Linda Rothstein, the Foundation’s Board Chair. “She has dedicated her life to changing hearts, minds, and systems to champion human rights. And, remarkably, it seems she is just getting started.”

Canada’s first tenured Palestinian-Canadian law professor, Professor Bahdi is an associate professor at the University of Windsor’s Faculty of Law and a visiting professor at Birzeit University’s graduate program in democracy and human rights in the West Bank. She helped introduce a mandatory access to justice course at Windsor Law in 2003 and served as the law school’s Associate Dean from 2012 to 2015.

“Professor Bahdi is an exceptional member of our Faculty of Law, and she is engaging our country in vitally important conversations,” says Alan Wildeman, the President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Windsor and the individual who nominated Professor Bahdi for the award. “She has lived and breathed access to justice, and is a role model to students, scholars, and the profession.”

Professor Bahdi’s own research focuses on the human rights of Arabs and Muslims after 9/11 and Palestinian judicial education.

She has served as an expert witness, often on a pro bono basis, in many legal proceedings involving Canadian-Muslim rights and national security, including the Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar.

From 2005 to 2012, Professor Bahdi established and managed an international development project called Karamah, which means ‘dignity’ in Arabic. Primarily funded by the Canadian International Development Agency, Karamah promoted human dignity in the administration of justice in the West Bank and developed a model for judicial education to advance human rights.

Professor Bahdi has authored or co-authored numerous articles, book chapters, reports, and conference papers, which have been cited extensively and helped inform policy discussions in Canada and abroad. In 2015, she was inducted into the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

Looking to the future, Professor Bahdi has several new research initiatives in development. These include:

  • A community-based study, funded by The Law Foundation of Ontario, with the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association about the perceptions and needs of the Arab community in Ontario as it relates to access to justice
  • The finalization of two scholarly papers about Canadian human rights tribunals and access to justice since 9/11 that include a review of over 250 decisions involving Arabs and Muslims in Canada
  • A collaborative College of New Scholars project with College Member Laura Loewen, Associate Professor of Collaborative Piano/Vocal Coach at the Desautels Faculty of Music at the University of Manitoba to teach empathy to law students through music

The Guthrie Award will be formally presented to Professor Bahdi at a reception later this year.

The Guthrie Award has added significance this year as 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the first time the award was presented. “We wanted to pause and reflect on this important milestone,” says Ms Rothstein. “The 20th anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight the important work that has been done over the past 20 years and the work that still needs to be done to improve access to justice 20 years from today.”

Quotes from the supporters of Professor Reem Bahdi’s Guthrie Award nomination

“Whether serving as a resource to members of her community or supporting racialized law students in need of role models, Reem has for more than 15 years advanced the cause of access to justice locally and around the world, from the classroom to the courtroom. Reem Bahdi is eminently deserving of recognition for her tireless service to the cause of access to justice.”

– Faisal Bhabha, Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School

“Professor Bahdi has a significant proven track record of furthering access to justice in Canada. She has achieved this work with integrity, compassion and intelligence. She is extremely humble and diligently works to further access to justice without seeking the attention and recognition that she deserves.”

– Zahra Binbrek, legal counsel, Human Rights Legal Support Centre and an executive member of the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association

“Reem is fully committed to the implementation of human rights, whether in a classroom teaching access to justice, as an expert witness in a racial profiling case, or whilst overseas working on the Karamah project with the judiciary. She has devoted her career to exposing the universality and transformative nature of human rights with a view to defending the rights of marginalized groups.”

– Leilani Farha, Executive Director of Canada Without Poverty and UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing

“Reem is a leading expert in Canada’s national security’s laws and their impact on the human rights and civil rights of Canadians and non-citizens… In post 9/11 Canada… it was empowering for the community to have someone of Reem’s calibre to analyze and provide critical analysis of these laws and to explain in lay terms why they were problematic. This information gave the community knowledge and confidence to undertake various campaigns to raise awareness and mobilize to challenge these laws.

– Dania Majid, lawyer, Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario and founder and president of the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association

“Professor Bahdi pushed me and others to critically examine complex social issues; taught me and others to discern when procedural, substantive, or symbolic barriers to access to justice present themselves; and challenged us to think through the range of advocacy strategies to combat such barriers, whether such strategies would unfold inside or outside of a courtroom. In the end, I am undoubtedly a much more capable lawyer because of all this.”

– Justin Reid, Former Counsel to the Independent Police Oversight Review

“Even at Windsor Law, where access to justice (A2J) is our primary institutional theme, Professor Bahdi stands out as a leading light. Her contributions to legal education are multi-faceted. From innovative teaching to mentoring, and from cutting-edge research to equity-led administrative service, Professor Bahdi has been in the forefront of not only interrogating A2J on a theoretical plain, but in making our institutional theme a lived one for faculty, staff, and students.”

– Christopher Waters, Dean and Professor of Law, Faculty of Law, University of Windsor Ontario

About the Guthrie Award

The Foundation created the Guthrie Award in 1996 to honour H. Donald Guthrie, Q.C., a long-time member and Chair of the Foundation’s Board. The Foundation welcomes and encourages nominations of individuals who have a significant and proven track record of furthering access to justice. Guthrie recipients have built bridges between youth and the justice system, advanced justice for Indigenous peoples, served women experiencing violence, and strengthened the community clinic system to assist people with low-incomes. Previous recipients include: Kimberly Murray, Assistant Deputy Attorney General, Aboriginal Justice and former Executive Director, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada; Stephen Goudge, former Ontario Court of Appeal; the Hon. Roy McMurtry, former Attorney General and Chief Justice of Ontario; Alan Borovoy, former general counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association; and the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic.

This article was originally published by the Law Foundation of Ontario.

Concrete Change Begins with Empathy, but It Doesn’t End there

According to the panelists at a Congress session called “On Indigenous lands: Empathy and social justice,” the formation and findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada constitute just the first and very incomplete step in addressing the injustices that plague Canada both past and present.

For Professor Joanna Quinn (Western University), reconciliation is the intersection of empathy and justice and the discovery or rediscovery of facts surrounding gross abuses of human rights. However, past examples show that societies emerging from such trauma aren’t immediately open to truth commissions, but are usually reticent if not openly hostile to such processes. How then can people be made to care about uncovering these truths and about what others have suffered? According to Quinn, the “soil” of post-conflict society needs to be “amended” for reconciliation and transitional justice through what she terms “thin sympathy” for the other: a basic understanding of how the other lives, what happened to them, and a simple acknowledgment of their humanity. However, thin sympathy is just the leading edge of understanding, the initial move toward generating “thick sympathy” and eventual empathy. The reconciliation process requires at least thin sympathy among outsiders and bystanders, and without a combination of empathetic champions and at least thin sympathy at a critical mass in the general population, reconciliation cannot succeed.

As an Indigenous academic and a constitutional scholar, Professor Kiera Ladner (University of Manitoba) brought unique and deep insight to the panel. She pointed out that reconciliation needs to move beyond empathy to concrete action. While current reconciliation programs in countries like Canada and Australia—where Ladner has worked for the last seven years on constitutional reform—focus on relatively narrow elements of endemic injustice, these efforts need to be refocused on the issues that really matter to Indigenous peoples: land, sovereignty and self-determination. According to Ladner, Indigenous peoples don’t want “one big hug” as part of a nation building process. Instead, the very notion of the “Aboriginal problem” needs to be flipped on its head: it is not an issue of Indigenous peoples needing to reconcile with Canada, but an issue of non-Indigenous Canadians needing to learn our nation’s true history and find out what it means to live on Indigenous lands. All Canadians need a greater understanding of Indigenous law and what it means to live under treaty law and as a treaty people.

Sociologist that he is, Professor Fuyuki Kurasawa (York University) proposed a taxonomy of three tasks in reconciliation: remembrance and commemoration, acceptance and assuming responsibility, and justice as a process of decolonization. He also pointed out that the process of reconciliation here in Canada is collectively asymmetrical. Non-Indigenous Canadians cannot determine if reconciliation has been achieved or demand that Indigenous peoples accept it: this right must be ceded to the victims of systemic injustice and violence. He pointed out that reconciliation is a relational, ongoing process that always has the potential to fail, and that there are no shortcuts or half-measures.

All three panelists pointed out that understanding and education are important first steps in the path to reconciliation and reform, but they remain first steps only. Real change can only take place when justice is brought forth through concrete measures.

Professors Joanna Quinn, Kiera Ladner and Fuyuki Kurasawa participated in a panel discussion entitled On Indigenous lands: Empathy and social justice at Congress 2017 at Ryerson University, and hosted by the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists at the Royal Society of Canada.


This article was written by Caleb Snider and originally published on the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences blog.

College Presidential Nominations

The College is pleased to announce the opening of the period during which nominations will be sought for the next President of the College of New Scholars. This person will become the President-Elect at the upcoming Celebration of Excellence (formerly AGM) in Winnipeg this November. They will then begin their two-year term as President at the 2018 COE.

For the nomination itself, a concise explanation (one or two paragraphs) about the suitability of your proposed candidate will suffice. The criteria are as follows: vision for the future; bilingualism; interdisciplinary appeal; administrative experience; commitment/availability; and willingness to participate in funding initiatives.

The nomination ought to be submitted to Russel MacDonald no later than June 12.

Members whose names have been suggested for the role will be informed of their nomination. If they accept the nomination, they will be requested to submit a brief (maximum two-page) statement of their qualifications and plans, if elected, along with a brief biography (maximum one page) and a CV. These documents will be made available to the voters, and ought to be submitted by June 26.

The voting process will begin in the summer.

Goose Bay, Labrador

As one of the objectives of the College is to get to learn about and borrow from diverse modes of knowledge production and dissemination across the country, and the different challenges facing Canadian communities today, the College intends to hold one meeting per year in smaller and harder to access regions.We have been invited by College Member Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo, Director of the Labrador Institute of Memorial University, to visit the institute in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL. During our stay the College plans to meet with the three Indigenous Nations, the Labrador Friendship Centre, the Labrador Land Protectors, and colleagues from the Labrador Institute, among others. The dates are from June 18-June 22 (travel days included), and some financial support for on-site costs is available. Accommodations are limited, so for more information or to express interest in the trip, please contact Russel MacDonald.

2017 Nomination Period is Closed

The 2017 nomination period is closed, and 242 nominations were received, from 44 institutions in all 10 provinces. Thank you to all who submitted a nomination. The review process is now underway, and up to 80 candidates will be selected for the 2017 cohort. Successful candidates will be contacted in June/July, and the public announcement will be made in September.

Montreal Meeting

The College’s first members’ meeting of 2017 was held in Montreal, February 20-21. Discussions were held regarding a number of College initiatives, including Canada Wave 150, Voices of the College, the Yellowknife meeting, The Conversation, and other events. The meeting was capped with a discussion with RSC Executive Director Darren Gilmour about the RSC’s forthcoming Strategic Plan. Read the minutes from the meeting.

The College Elects Cynthia Milton as President

The College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists has elected Dr. Cynthia Milton of the Université de Montréal as its next President. Dr. Milton will assume the role as President during the Annual General Meeting of the Royal Society of Canada on the weekend of November 17-19, 2016, at the Four Points by Sheraton in Kingston, Ontario.

Dr. Cynthia E. Milton is a full Professor and Canada Research Chair (Level 2) in Latin American History in the History Department at the Université de Montréal. Her interdisciplinary research projects study truth commissions and alternative modes of truth-telling, and the artistic representation and cultural interventions in the constructions of historical narratives in the aftermath of state violence and during the era of transitional justice and human rights (www.histoireal.ca).

Dr. Milton has administrative experience within her home institution at the departmental and faculty levels, as a member of the academic board of the International Institute of the Université de Montréal (CÉRIUM), as director of the Canada-Mexico Chair program, as holder of the Canada Research Chair in Latin American History, as well as in various international associations. She is also co-founder of the Latin American Research Network of Montreal (RÉLAM, www.relam.ca) which brings together over 50 scholars in the Montreal environs from the four main universities and all disciplines.

Major honours include the Bolton Johnson Prize for the best book published in her field, the Alexander Von Humboldt Fellowship for Advanced Scholars, and the Fernand Braudel Fellowship from the European University Institute (where she is presently). Dr. Milton has been very successful in her career in seeking funds (from within Canada and abroad) and would be able to bring these skills to the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

Dr. Milton is trilingual: Anglophone by origin, she speaks fluently French (the language of her academic institution) and Spanish (language of research).

Vision Statement

CV