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Memorial up North

Working together for, and in, Labrador

By Nora Daly

As Newfoundland and Labrador’s university, Memorial has a special obligation to all of the people of our province, and over the past decade has responded to broader calls for northern sovereignty over research and education.

Labrador Institute

For 40 years, Memorial has been proud to support the research and education needs of Labrador through the Labrador Institute (LI) through ongoing partnerships and initiatives in the region.

Dr. Kachanoski, right, in Torngat Mountains
Dr. Kachanoski, right, in Torngat Mountains.
Photo: Submitted

Through the Labrador Institute, the university works in partnership with the three Indigenous governments in the region to strive to decolonize research, education and institutional structures, while remaining responsive and committed to place.

Shortly after assuming the presidency of Memorial, Dr. Kachanoski turned his attention to Labrador. He was awed by the possibilities and promise and set a target of doubling the Labrador Institute’s base budget. With additional federal and provincial funding, more faculty was added, new research undertaken and the size and scope of the institute increased remarkably.

More recently, LI reached a milestone when Memorial’s Senate voted to support its transition to an academic unit, a major step towards becoming the university’s Labrador campus. This transition directly aligns with important initiatives at Memorial, including the Indigenization Strategy, a movement for cluster hiring of Indigenous faculty and a renewed emphasis on enhancing and strengthening relationships with First Nations, Inuit and Métis throughout the province.

The work being done at LI was an important factor in Nunavut Arctic College choosing Memorial as a singular partner to strengthen university education across the territory over the next 10 years; the two institutions are in the early stages of developing North-to-North partnerships for learning and research.

Educational successes

Memorial has worked to deliver educational programs tailored to the needs of Labrador communities, and delivered in Labrador.

Graduates of the Inuit Bachelor of Social Work Program
Pictured are graduates of the Inuit Bachelor of Social Work Program.
Photo: Submitted

For example, in 2013 Memorial’s first class of social work graduates (see page 10) to complete their program entirely in Labrador received their degrees.

Working with the Nunatsiavut Government to develop and deliver a program that reflected Inuit culture and values, Memorial was able to prepare Inuit graduates to deliver services that are relevant to Northern communities.

The ultimate goal of the program was that graduates would work with fellow Inuit, developing a culturally relevant path to healing and health.

Following up on the success of the program, Memorial developed an Inuit bachelor of education degree program in partnership with the Nunatsiavut Government, the first of its kind.

Pictured is the first class of the bachelor of Inuit education graduates at convocation.
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

Ten Inuit students celebrated their graduation in spring 2019.

For at least two of the graduates, it was a life-changing event.

And for almost 30 years, Memorial has offered medical students the NorFam experience – Northern Family Medicine Education.

NorFam medical resident, Lake Melville
Pictures is a NorFam medical resident in Lake Melville, Labrador.
Photo: Submitted

It is one of the country’s first rural remote teaching programs and offers an intensive two-year rural and northern family medicine residency to prepare physicians to be confident and competent in rural and remote medicine.

As well, the Marine Institute (MI) has a long history of working with fish harvesters, processors and Indigenous governments in Labrador to deliver hands-on, practical training programs.

SERT firefighter training, Sheshatshiu
Pictured are participants of the SERT firefighter training in Sheshatshiu.
Photo: Submitted

It collaborates to develop and deliver courses that assist participants to obtain or further their credentials to work in the commercial fishing and marine sectors.

For example, in the summer of 2010 MI’s Safety and Emergency Response Training Centre partnered with the Labrador Aboriginal Training Partnership to launch a specialized firefighting training program in Sheshatshiu to provide training to approximately 20 new firefighters.

The customized program built upon the town’s existing firefighting capacity and provided the necessary training to enable members of the Innu Nation to compete for jobs in the firefighting industry.

Pye Farm

More recently, Memorial is poised to make significant contributions to agriculture science and food security in Labrador and the province through the acquisition of the 85-acre Pye farm in Labrador and the establishment of a centre to support northern agricultural research and education.

Planting at the Pye Farm, Happy Valley-Goose Bay
Planting at the Pye farm, Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Photo: Submitted

The farm property will give Memorial University and the Labrador Institute the infrastructure to continue to grow and support northern food security and community development and further Memorial’s commitment to agricultural research, education and outreach.

At the same time, it will be a community social enterprise to support current farmers, and food production and distribution endeavours.

By, for and in the North

The changes taking place in Labrador are opening up new opportunities for the university, communities and governments to work together to create new initiatives by, for and in the North.

Memorial, together with community partners, is rising to the challenges surrounding the need for research that can support place-based solutions affecting Labrador and the wider North.

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