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R-L: Kirstin Scansen-Isbister, IPHRC Indigenous Research & Engagement Specialist - North, Moses Gordon, IPHRC Indigenous Research & Engagement Specialist – South, Cassandra Opikokew Wajuntah, IPHRC Director. Missing: Neal Kewistep, JSGS Executive-in-Residence. Photo credit: Christopher Plishka, SCPOR

IPHRC and SCPOR launch first-of-its-kind training for health researchers engaging with Indigenous communities

The Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre (IPHRC) is teaming up with the Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research (SCPOR) to offer free, monthly training modules for patient-oriented research teams seeking to engage Indigenous communities in their health research endeavors.

The Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre (IPHRC) is teaming up with the Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research (SCPOR) to offer free, monthly training modules for patient-oriented research teams seeking to engage Indigenous communities in their health research endeavors.

The in-person training module, entitled Building Research Relationships with Indigenous Communities (BRRIC), is the first of its kind in Canada. It seeks to provide researchers with the basic tools and knowledge to build meaningful research relationships “in a good way” with Indigenous peoples and their communities.

“Indigenous people deserve to work with researchers who are properly equipped and ready to create reciprocal research relationships that provide real benefits back to our communities while acknowledging our rights to be self-determining,” says Cassandra Opikokew Wajuntah, newly appointed director of the IPHRC. “This training module is just one in a series of modules that we hope to create and deliver over the next two years for researchers, communities and patients.”

An initial offering of BRRIC training model will be held on March 22 in Saskatoon, followed by more monthly offerings in both Saskatoon and Regina. IPHRC and SCPOR hope to offer it across Canada in the future.

BRRIC was created by four Indigenous professionals with graduate education—three of whom are Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy (JSGS) graduates.

“The fact that we have four Indigenous professionals with graduate degrees who have created a quality product that has been informed by Indigenous community voices and knowledge keepers is something to celebrate,” says Neal Kewistep, JSGS executive-in-residence and one of the advisors on the creation of the BRRIC training modules. “These modules are meeting the needs of both Indigenous and research communities, and show great promise for our joint path towards reconciliation.”

BRRIC also incorporates traditional Indigenous knowledge and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. It is designed to provide researchers with the necessary policies, frameworks, and Indigenous ethical standards needed to respectfully engage with Indigenous communities and patients.

While some researchers have been successful in building long-term relationships with Indigenous communities, many are often unsure about where to start and what they need to know due to geographic barriers, misinformation and a lack of training in respectful Indigenous engagement.

“Here we have the opportunity to provide the research community and those organizations that plan to work closely with Indigenous communities, with skills, knowledge and practical training that will enhance their work,” says Jackie Mann, SCPOR Executive Director, “Historical context matters, and responsible research takes this into account.” 

To address this, BRRIC will highlight the historical role of colonialism as a determinant of Indigenous health—such as the Sixties Scoop and residential schools—as well as provide current considerations when conducting research with Indigenous peoples—like the chronic underfunding of Indigenous health and education. This background enables researchers to understand and uphold the self-determination of Indigenous nations while being cognisant of the diversity within these communities.

“Created as a unique partnership between First Nations University of Canada and the universities of Regina and Saskatchewan, and now housed within the Johnson Shoyama Graduate School, IPHRC is providing participants with practical skills for engaging in transformative research with Indigenous communities,” says JSGS Executive Director, Doug Moen.  “Cassandra and her team are making a real difference and we look forward to seeing the true impact that BRRIC modules will have within our province and across Canada.”

Plans are also being made to develop future training modules equipping Indigenous communities to understand their rights when engaging in research to continue closing the knowledge gap between Indigenous community partners and researchers.

Click here to register for one of the upcoming modules. 

For more information, please contact:

Erica Schindel, Communications and Marketing Specialist
Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan
Tel: 306-966-2663 | Erica.schindel@usask.ca

Farha Akhtar, Communications Specialist
Saskatchewan Centre for Patient-Oriented Research
Tel: 306-966-1733 | Farha.akhtar@usask.ca

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