In the Mushkegowuk Territory, as part of an interdisciplinary team, I have explored the social and environmental justice issues associated with new resource extraction (e.g. the DeBeers’ Victor Diamond Mine) and existing environmental policy frameworks (e.g. environmental assessment and Impact Benefit Agreements, community-based land use planning and Ontario’s new Far North Act) through a critical systems perspective funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
In the Timmins area, I have been part of a team undertaking a collaborative and Critical Indigenist Research initiative to explore and foster the development of a First Nations-led social innovation. At the heart of this initiative is the development of a Traditional Elders Advisory Council called the Anishanaabe Maamwaye Aki Kiigayewin (AMAK), an Ojibwe phrase meaning, – all people coming together to heal the earth. AMAK represents an emerging social innovation that has the potential to promote healing and rehabilitation of the land but also physical, mental, emotional and spiritual healing of local Aboriginal individuals and communities. It also presents a unique opportunity to begin to heal the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in Canada.
As part of an inter-disciplinary research team, my work with the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation (MNCFN) emerged through the development of a project funded by the Ontario Ministry of Culture and focused on the development of web-based mapping, information and knowledge collection and exchange software, that is, collaborative geomatics for the development of a First Nations cultural plan. It has evolved into a focus on how land use and environmental planning and policy in Ontario could be “decolonizing”. Funded by a SSHRC Insight Development Grant (led by Dr. Leela Viswanathan at Queen’s University), this research asks: how can collaborative learning among planners, government, researchers and indigenous communities address social injustices and economic conditions as experienced in Ontario’s First Nations.