Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies
Community Engagement, Social Change and Equity Theme
Dr. Gabrielle Legault
SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship
British Columbia Graduate Scholarship
Indigenous Graduate Fellowship
UBC Public Scholars Award
Indigenous, Land-based healing has been utilized within community since time immemorial. The Land is understood as a means to reconnect, inform ontology, epistemology and axiology, while being a vital means of restoration and wellbeing. Imprisonment within Canada has been used as early as 1849 to exercise control over Indigenous populations and extinguish Indigenous rights. Indigenous Peoples are the largest incarcerated group in Canada, and post-prison programs do not prioritize Indigenous ways of knowing and being. This research is intended to co-develop an Indigenous led, community and Land-based program framework with Indigenous communities, while prioritizing the perspectives of identity and wellness of individuals who have experienced institutional trauma. It is intended to be delivered with, and evaluated with, the research and advisory committee. This research is intended to co-develop a research-informed, Indigenous-led, community and Land-based program framework with Indigenous communities, while prioritizing the perspectives of identity and wellness of individuals who have experienced institutional trauma. It is intended to be delivered with, and subsequently evaluated with, the research and advisory committee which will be made up of Indigenous community members with whom I have strong relationships with.
WHAT DOES BEING A PUBLIC SCHOLAR MEAN TO YOU?
To me, being a Public Scholar means that I am personally engaged in supporting community initiatives through research, while simultaneously being supported by a larger community of scholars. As a Public Scholar, I am offered opportunities that can help form me into a more intentional and stronger researcher, academic, and community member.
IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU THINK THE PHD EXPERIENCE CAN BE RE-IMAGINED WITH THE PUBLIC SCHOLARS INITIATIVE?
The Public Scholar Initiative provides another means of support for scholars, through community and relationship building. Through this, we can work together to imagine a future of research, that is both intentional and relational. PSI is important for exemplifying how community, within academia, is an integral aspect of learning and growing. Furthermore, PSI provides an opportunity to interact and grow with interdisciplinary scholars, to offer unique and encouraging insights and guidance.
HOW DO YOU ENVISION CONNECTING YOUR PHD WORK WITH BROADER CAREER POSSIBILITIES?
I chose to pursue my PhD as a result of a call from community for more culturally safe, Land-based healing, for individuals who were previously incarcerated or affected by criminalization. For this reason, my PhD is community driven and focused. It is my hope and intention to build strong community relationships, rather than focus on my personal career goals. As a counsellor, I believe the best learning comes from those that we work with, and alongside, and thus those relationships will allow me to become a better counsellor and community member, which will inevitably impact my career.
HOW DOES YOUR RESEARCH ENGAGE WITH THE LARGER COMMUNITY AND SOCIAL PARTNERS?
This research is intended to co-develop an Indigenous led, community and land-based program framework with Indigenous communities, while prioritizing the perspectives of identity and wellness of individuals who have experienced institutional trauma. It is thus intended to be delivered with, and evaluated with, the research and advisory committee, including Indigenous communities, organizations, Knowledge Keepers and Elder advisors, Friendship Centres, Native Court Workers, Correctional Centre Native Liaisons, and those with lived experiences.
HOW DO YOU HOPE YOUR WORK CAN MAKE A CONTRIBUTION TO THE PUBLIC GOOD?
People who have been previously incarcerated are further pushed outside of community and society. Through my work and research, I intend to conduct community driven and guided research, which focuses on the ways in which those affected by incarceration deem what wellness looks like for them. For this reason, my research focuses on amplifying community and Indigenous Knowledges.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO PURSUE A GRADUATE DEGREE?
As a Métis social worker and scholar, I previously worked within an Indigenous Nation as a social worker, substance use and trauma counsellor, where I co-created and ran programs that focused on substance use, interpersonal and intergenerational trauma; integrating traditional and western modalities of art, creativity, healing, and therapy. From a young age I was exposed to, and understood, how settler colonial oppression, forced marginalization and incarceration affected my friends, family, and community’s personal and community wellness. I have both worked and volunteered nationally and internationally with individuals who experienced exposure to police violence, gangs, and incarceration. Following conversations and ongoing engagement with friends and community members (clients) who had experienced carceral trauma, alongside family members of those affected, and service providers who had strong relationships with these individuals, I began to understand the impact of the lack of community-led, Land-based programming. It is for this reason, and a call from community, that I chose to pursue a graduate degree.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO UBC OKANAGAN AND STUDY?
My choice to pursue a PhD at UBCO was a result of both physical location and relationships. UBCO is close to where I live, while being in close proximity to the community members and Indigenous Nation that I previously worked and advocate with. Furthermore, following connecting with an inspiring and intentional Indigenous community researcher and scholar, Dr. Gabrielle Legault, who mentored me before agreeing to be my PhD Supervisor, I was supported and motivated to partake in this work. My PhD journey has been joyful and successful, as a result of the support of both community and my supervisor.
Denica Bleau is a UBC Okanagan Public Scholar. Learn more about the Public Scholars Initiative (PSI).