Woman Warriors Newsletter

Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC): Our Indigenous Health Panel

Tuesday, November 17th. Thank you Elder Evelyn Good Striker and our four panel members Dr. Jennifer Leason, Dr. Michael Lickers, Dr. Carrie Bourassa, and Dr. Lillian Dyck for sharing your knowledge on Covid-19 and Global Indigenous Health Inequity: A Holistic Life Cycles Approach to Systems Change.

The Canadian Science and Policy Conference is the biggest science and policy innovation conference with international speakers from North, Central, and South America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania. This year’s virtual conference had 2500 participants, 300 presenters from five continents and 65 panel sessions. We were honoured to be one of the panels in the category of grand challenges Covid-19 national and international responses. 

I entered this panel application to the CSPC committee this past July because I am a mentor for the Chief Science Advisor Youth Council (CSA-YC) and it was my intention – as the Métis mentor – to have Indigenous representation at the conference. As well, to demonstrate the traditional format of an Indigenous panel including opening with Elders prayers and closing with the Elders wise words, doing a land acknowledgement, and being holistic in our approach. 

The panel was recorded and I will share the link when it goes live on the CSPC Youtube channel. Following is my moderator notes for the panel.   

First, I would like to introduce our Elder Evelyn Good Striker that we are fortunate to have open our panel with prayers and wise words. 
 
Evelyn Good Striker is a Lakota Dakota from Standing Buffalo First Nation in Saskatchewan and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota. She grew up experiencing shifting education policies of the federal government; attending Day School, Residential School, and eventually integration into a public school at Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan, where she attained grade 12 education. Evelyn earned a Bachelor of Education Degree and a Master of Education Degree from the University of Lethbridge. Evelyn works closely with Dr. Jennifer Leason as an Elder Co-Chair in Indigenous Maternal Child Wellness. I present this tobacco as protocol to ask Elder Evelyn to please start our panel in a good way. 
 
Thank you, Elder Evelyn for starting off our panel in a good way and for your wise words.  
 
My name is Shelley Wiart and I am a proud member of the North Slave Métis Alliance, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. I am grateful to be this panel’s moderator and share the virtual platform with four Indigenous academics that I have great respect and appreciation for. 

First, I will start with the land acknowledgements of the two treaty lands on which we reside. Myself, Dr. Bourassa and Dr. Dyck reside on the traditional lands referred to as Treaty 6 territory, a traditional gathering place for diverse Indigenous peoples including the Cree, Blackfoot, Métis, Nakota Sioux, Iroquois, Dene, Ojibway/ Saulteaux/Anishinaabe, Inuit, and many others whose histories, languages, and cultures continue to influence our vibrant community. Dr. Leason and Dr. Lickers reside on the traditional lands referred to as Treaty 7 territory, which includes the Blackfoot Confederacy (comprising the Siksika, Piikani, and Kainai First Nations), as well as the Tsuut’ina First Nation, and the Stoney Nakoda (including the Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Wesley First Nations). The City of Calgary is also home to Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.  
 
I will introduce each panelist according to the Medicine Wheel directions and life cycles before each of their presentations. Audience members, please ask your questions in the chat box and I will gather them for a Q & A session at the end of our presentation. If you have a specific question for the panel members please include their name with the question. If we do not have time to answer all of the questions please email me: Shelley@womenwarriors.club and I will do my best to answer them or forward the inquiries to the panel members.  
 
Our panel explores the theme of global health in a pandemic by addressing the multifaceted health inequities experienced by Indigenous peoples using a life cycles perspective from childhood to Elder. This holistic and strength-based perspective honours Indigenous ways of knowing, culture, relationships and community as keys to improving Indigenous peoples health outcomes. The Covid-19 pandemics disproportionate impact on marginalized communities has created the push Canadians need for a renewed effort in reconciliation – beyond land acknowledgements and cultural training – to focus on antiracist and anticolonial approaches to Indigenous health. In order to close the gaps in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in Canada, it is critical that Indigenous people’s voices are central to the process of reconciliation. This panel will share diverse Indigenous perspectives on how we can create a more inclusive and equitable future, and work in collaboration to improve Indigenous health outcomes. 
 
Beginning in the East – from the perspective of new beginnings – and the life cycle of the child is Dr. Jennifer Leason. Dr. Leason is a Canadian Institute of Health Research, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Maternal Child Wellness and an Assistant Professor at the University of Calgary. She will discuss the impact that COVID-19 has had on Indigenous women, and those affected by lower socioeconomic contexts. Specializing in Indigenous maternal child wellness, she will include a discussion on Indigenous women’s maternity experiences during the pandemic including stories of resilience and barriers faced by Indigenous women, birth partners and communities during pregnancy, labor/delivery, postpartum and becoming a new parent in these uncertain times. 
 
Our next presenter, representing the South – from the perspective of curiosity – and the life cycle of youth is Dr. Michael Lickers. Dr. Lickers currently teaches at Royal Roads University in the School of Leadership and Interdisciplinary Studies. He also serves as the Indigenous Scholar in Residence and is currently assisting in the development of the MA in Climate Action Leadership in the School of Environment and Sustainability. He will discuss the challenge Indigenous youth face interweaving Western worldviews and Indigenous ways of knowing combined with the loss of disappearing languages and the erosion of cultural identity and values. Being strong in cultural identity and practices including connection to the land, and community positively impacts Indigenous peoples’ social determinants of health. This pandemic presents Indigenous communities with the opportunity to reimagine their health and education systems and invest in youth leadership and land-based education and healing.  
 
Representing the West – from the perspective of journeys and stories – and the life cycle of adult is Dr. Carrie Boursassa. Dr. Bourassa is the Scientific Director of the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health (IIPH) – Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR-IIPH) and a member of the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force. She is an adjunct in the Faculties of Education and  Kinesiology & Health Studies at the University of Regina and is the Nominated Principal Investigator for the Canada Foundation for  Innovation (CFI) funded Morning Star Lodge established in 2010, based in  Regina, as well as for the recently CFI-funded Cultural Safety,  Evaluation, Training and Research is currently under construction at the University of Saskatchewan.She will reflect on racism, data collection, and health inequity and the impact of this pandemic on Indigenous Peoples and communities. She will address how to ethically collect Indigneous health data and build relationships with Indigneous Peoples to use that data in a good way.   
 
Our last distinguished presenter is The Honourable Dr. Lillian Dyck representing the North – from the perspective of teachings and sharings – and the life cycle of Elder. Dr. Dyck officially retired from the Senate of Canada this past summer. She is the first female First Nations senator and first Canadian born Chinese senator. She has a Ph.D. in Biological Psychiatry from the University of Saskatchewan and was a Full Professor in the Neuropsychiatry Research Unit, Department of Psychiatry and Associate Dean, College of Graduate Studies & Research at the University of Saskatchewan. She will share the importance of equity, diversity and inclusion in health research. In research, the concept of scientific objectivity and neutrality of the researcher is central to the belief system of the scientific method. However, this is an ideal to which scientists aspire and while it is an admirable goal, it obscures the value that racial and gender diversity in perspectives brings to scientific research. 
 
It was an honour to moderate this panel and share Indigenous perspectives on influencing COVID-19 science policy. I attended many of the panels, especially the ones with Indigenous speakers and I was inspired by the variety of speakers and the range of topics that were covered. 

Dr. Jennifer Leason did a pre-conference interview on Indigenous maternal health and equity, diversity and inclusion in the academy. I will share her interview when it is posted on the CSPC Youtube channel.

CSPC Panel on the Rise of Misinformation - Impacts on the Lives of Canadians. Debunking misinformation during Covid-19

This panel was an incredible wealth of information on the rise of misinformation, especially in social media. I’m sharing a few highlights from this panel because this advice is actionable. 

Timothy Caulfield stated there is a complex relationship with public & trust of science/scientist during the COVID-19 pandemic due to public health authorities mixed messaging. Scientists and government need to do a better job of public engagement & share with them that science is a process. 

Caulfield’s five step process for debunking misinformation:
1) Find the good science.
2) Look for gaps in logic. 
3) Be nice/humble while debunking. 
4) Be creative. 
5) General public is the target audience (not the hardcore deniers or conspiracy theorists). 

Timothy Caulfield is the author of the following books:
Relax, Dammit!: A User’s Guide to the Age of Anxiety (Penguin Random House, 2020).
Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything?: When Celebrity Culture and Science Clash (Penguin 2015).
The Cure for Everything: Untangling the Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness and Happiness (Penguin 2012). 

Caulfield is also the host and co-producer of the award winning documentary TV show, A User’s Guide to Cheating Death, which has been shown in over 60 countries, including streaming on Netflix in North America.

Gabrielle Lim differentiated between misinformation (false or inaccurate info) & disinformation (intentional false info with intent to deceive). The media is better prepared to debunk misinformation or disinformation information using the format of the “truth sandwich.”  

Format of the truth sandwich: 
1) Start with the truth. The first frame gets the advantage.
2) Indicate the lie. Avoid amplifying the specific language if possible.
3) Return to the truth. Always repeat truths more than lies.

Alexei Abrahams and Gabrielle Lim, “Repress/Redress: What the ‘War on Terror’ Can Teach Us about Fighting Misinformation,” Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review 1, no. 5 (July 22, 2020), DOI: 10.37016/mr-2020-032.

Farah Qaiser shared her insights as a science communicator and contributor to publication’s such as Massive Science and Forbes. She was adamant about the need for education on how to do science communication which is why she has invested her talent and energy into organizing conferences such as ComSciConCAN Canada’s first national science communication workshop for graduate students.

Farah’s free resource for science communication opportunities:
A Beginner’s Guide to Science Communication Opportunities in Canada

Recommendations for free online courses

UAlberta’s Indigenous Canada Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) has gained a lot of media attention due to Canadian actor, Dan Levy enrolling in the course this past fall and promoting it on his social media. He is matching donations to the U of A’s Faculty of Native Studies. I completed this course a year ago and I highly recommend it for all Canadians. 

Science Literacy offered by UAlberta includes Indigenous knowledge:

  • Métis Elder Elmer Ghostkeeper and Cree Elder Rose Wabasca, on the holistic nature of Inidigenous wisdom and how it can work with the scientific process 

Aboriginal Worldviews and Education offered by the University of Toronto:

  • The course is intended for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal learners. Topics will include historical, social, and political issues in Aboriginal education; terminology; cultural, spiritual and philosophical themes in Aboriginal worldviews; and how Aboriginal worldviews can inform professional programs and practices, including but not limited to the field of education.

Unconscious Bias Training offered by Canada Research Chairs/Government of Canada:

  • This interactive module is designed to promote an understanding of unconscious bias and how it can affect the peer review process. It will also provide strategies for mitigating bias during the review process.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Online Resources – Educational Resources for combatting racism

Communicating Your Research offered by Mitacs.

  • Facilitated by Dr. Jenn Gardy, you will learn more about the latest tips and techniques to make sure your next conference talk, email or poster presentation is impactful and memorable.