Statistics Canada reports that about a quarter of the Canadian population holds some kind of post-secondary degree but for members of the country’s Indigenous community, that figure drops to just one in 10. This distinction serves as a reality-check for Alex Veinot, who is completing his PhD in chemistry at Queen’s University.
As a member of Nova Scotia’s Glooscap First Nation, he appreciates the opportunity that lies before him, yet he remains only too aware of the external resources that have enabled him to overcome systemic barriers faced by Indigenous people pursuing higher education in the chemical sciences.
“Financial supports such as the Robert Sutherland Fellowship, which I received in my first year of doctoral studies, and other awards with allocations designated for Indigenous students, are invaluable for promoting the advancement and development of Aboriginal communities throughout Canada,” he says.
Now Veinot wants to further expand such promotion through the CIC by forming an Indigenous Member Resource Group (MRG). This would be another addition to the CIC network, which established MRGs earlier this year as mechanisms for enabling people with shared identities, values, and vision to build a community together at the grassroots level.
Other MRGs are being formed to support younger persons and 2SLGBTQ+ members of CIC. Canadian Women in Chemical Sciences (CWIC), the first MRG to be created, has already been engaged in a number of initiatives to promote inclusivity, equity, and diversity in the chemical sciences across Canada. Veinot has equally high expectations for what could be done to help Indigenous members.
“Personally, some of the challenges I had to overcome as an Indigenous student included a lack of role models due to under-representation and navigating through the higher education system,” he says. “I recognize, though, that there are many Indigenous communities across Canada, each with unique challenges and cultures. I can’t speak for everyone, so I’m asking other Indigenous people in the chemistry community to share their thoughts on what is required in an MRG.”
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