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This is the first time universities, government ministries, and friendship centres have ever been brought together at the national level to address issues of aboriginal policy

This article was published on the UNBC News Media Website on July 12, 2012. View the original article: UNBC to Lead National Urban Aboriginal Knowledge Network in Western Canada.

The University of Northern British Columbia is partnering with the National Association of Friendship Centres (NAFC), government ministries, and regional research centres across Canada to develop the Urban Aboriginal Knowledge Network (UAKN) and research the policies and issues that affect Canada’s city-dwelling aboriginal population. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) recently approved $2.5 million dollars in funding over five years to go towards the project led nationally by Trent University and by UNBC in western Canada. 

“Although more than half of Canada’s Aboriginals live in urban centres, the realities of urban Aboriginal people remain much less understood by researchers, government officials, and many service agencies than those of on-reserve First Nations people and Inuit in the North,” says UNBC professor of First Nations Studies Ross Hoffman, who along with UNBC Economics professor Paul Bowles, will be coordinating UNBC’s research activities in the project. “This is the first time universities, government ministries, and friendship centres have ever been brought together at the national level to address issues of aboriginal policy.”

The network’s research activities will be focused around four broad themes:

  • Human development (needs and outcomes of individuals and families)

  • Social cohesion (community well-being, education, and justice)

  • Economic development (economic participation, employment, entrepreneurship, income)

  • Civic engagement

“Research is at its most valuable when it’s used to improve peoples’ lives.  Many Aboriginal people feel like they’ve been surveyed and researched to death, but to little affect,” says Barb Ward-Burkitt, Executive Director of the Prince George Native Friendship Centre.  Prince George has the second highest urban aboriginal population in BC outside of Vancouver. “I believe UNBC was approached to be a leader in this area because it tries to match its research activities with the needs of the region and this is another example of that.”

A key component of the network's strategy is to provide opportunities for emerging scholars—Aboriginal scholars in particular—to engage in research about urban Aboriginal issues.  The knowledge created will be available for use in courses on Aboriginal issues at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.  The network's research will also provide new knowledge to community-based and government partners, in an effort to improve policy, programs, and services for urban Aboriginal peoples.

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