Projects in Progress

Cultural Safety Evaluation, Training and Research Lab. Canada Foundation for Innovations, Leaders Opportunity Fund (2016).

We will develop a world class Cultural Safety Evaluation, Training and Research Lab that will define the principles of cultural safety at an organizational, team and individual level. At each level we will link practical interventions in areas of need as defined by our institution, community and national partners. We will undertake critical and relevant research specific to cultural safety and evaluation of cultural safety programs, initiatives and trainings that considers the historical, cultural and perceived practical basis for enduring culturally unsafe practices; and, provide a state of the art environment to educate Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP) in this emerging area of health care service provision led and designed by Canadian and International Indigenous health experts. We are committed to fulfilling the call by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) call for reconciliation to engage Indigenous communities in research that will result in positive outcomes – training, capacity building, program development, policy development and these benefits will be for all Canadians.

Sustainable Water Governance & Indigenous Law; Social Sciences and Humanity Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Grant (2016).

Over 7 years, our partnership will create a replicable community water monitoring protocol across the Arctic Basin and mobilize the results to solve challenging water problems. Bringing together some of North America's leading water scientists with Indigenous communities, we will create a "network of networks" for community water monitors, academics, concerned citizens, and policy experts to address an acute gap in water data collection and governance in Canada. Our long‐term goal is to create a replicable, transparent, and robust fresh water data platform (an “Environmental Monitoring and Information System”) to support Indigenous water co‐governance. Building on this work, leading Canadian legal minds (including top Indigenous lawyers) will devise concrete strategies for governance reforms that address core weaknesses in Canada's water management framework, including innovative solutions for regulatory capture and stakeholder involvement.  Our approach is based on building long‐term reciprocal, respectful relationships between Indigenous and non‐Indigenous partners. We follow OCAP (Ownership, Control, Access, Possession) protocols, as well as the Community-Based Research protocol developed by the University of British Columbia’s First Nations House of Learning. Academic researchers will use methods from water science and social science, including eco-hydrology and legal analysis. Lawyers and legal scholars will partner with the project to devise concrete strategies for engaging with regulatory processes. Artists will also play a key role. Qualitative and quantitative data will be collected by community water monitors and pooled in an online knowledge network that combines Western scientific expertise and Indigenous environmental knowledge in a purpose-built Data Management System developed by the Gordon Foundation. We will pilot test this platform in partnership with our community partners. A central component of the project will be annual Water Bush Camps. The “learning-from-the-land” Camps will provide community training in water monitoring, and a creative space for community members, artists, and academics to develop collaborative research. The pilot Water Bush Camp was held in northeastern BC in August 2015 (

Canadian HIV Women's Sexual and Reproductive Health Cohort Study Phase 2: Addressing Priorities in women-centred HIV care across the life course; Canadian Institutes of Health Research Gender Health (2015).

CHIWOS is the first study to have coordinated a large national CBR collaboration focusing on the overall health and care of women living with HIV in Canada. The extensive data from across the country will allow for regional and national epidemiologic analyses, as well as assessments of health outcomes, models of care and health service use differences between provinces. The potential impact of this comprehensive data set is national and global in terms of greater understanding in the complexity of the health and care of women with HIV. CHIWOS has generated research capacity among women living with HIV through the hiring and training of 40 Peer Research Assistants (PRAs) across BC, ON, and QC.  The engagement of peers is not only intended to benefit this project but to ultimately inform how future CBR is designed and practiced by HIV investigators. Finally, the findings of CHIWOS aim to impact policy and programming to optimize the health and care of women with HIV in Canada.

Building on the infrastructure developed by CHIWOS-Part 1, the purpose of this current CHIWOS-Renewal is to: 1) continue the longitudinal nature of CHIWOS with the addition of two more time points every 18 months; 2) expand the study to include Saskatchewan (SK) and Manitoba (MB); and 3) build on our model of WCC by adding a life course approach to caring for women with HIV; a concept deemed to be crucial by our PRAs and community partners.  Additional goals of this CHIWOS Renewal will be to: 1) carry out other important longitudinal evaluations of variables that are highly amenable to repeated-measurement analyses; 2) continue to support and build the impressive graduate student network that will use CHIWOS data for their theses; and 3) build on our integrated knowledge translation (KT) and CBR model by continuing the capacity building of our PRAs as leaders and to further execute on our KT plan. The CHIWOS Renewal’s research question is: ‘Does WCC with considerations of the women’s life courses improve overall (SF-12), mental (CES-D), women’s (Pap test, mammography rate, cancer), sexual (counseling on healthy sexuality, disclosure, transmission, criminalization) and reproductive (contraception, pregnancy planning) health outcomes over time for women with HIV in BC, SK, MB, ON and QC?’   There is a strong focus on examining Indigenous issues particularly in Saskatchewan where Dr. Bourassa is Co-PI and working in partnership with Indigenous communities, agencies and stakeholders.

Addressing Social and Structural Drivers of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections among Diverse Young Women in Canada: A Mixed Methods, Multi-Site Cohort Study; Canadian Institutes of Health Research Gender and Health (2015). 

This pilot project will engage young women (age 18-29) in Saskatoon and Regina in research circles about the 3 elements in the cultural connectedness scale developed by Professor Angela Snowshoe (identity, traditions, spirituality) and how they are linked with people’s experiences of sexual health and wellbeing.  We will then host two (one in Regina and one in Saskatoon) with the women guided by an Elder to develop digital stories that will be personal stories of how culture and cultural elements (identity, traditions, spirituality) helped people stay healthy in the world, body, relationships.

The digital stories will be piloted in storytelling workshops with the aim to screen and discuss with young women and evaluate using mixed methods and ultimately develop an intervention with the stories as a tool.  We aim to have a set of questions and activities including pre and post tests to evaluate the intervention.

Indigenous Water Co-Governance: Emerging Models of Distributed Water Governance in British Columbia and Alberta; Water Economics, Policy and Governance Network (WEPGN) Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) (2015). 

The Program on Water Governance (PoWG) at UBC ( is currently conducting a study of Indigenous water co-governance in Canada, focusing on BC and Alberta. This study is funded by a grant from the Water Economics, Policy and Governance network. Our partners include not only UBC and West Moberly First Nation but also First Nations University of Canada and Northwest Indian College. We recently signed a research agreement outlining our research relationship and methodological approach. 

Working in partnership with the Indigenous-led NGO Keepers of the Water, our project focuses on three questions: (1) How are co-governance (e.g. legal, regulatory) regimes for Indigenous water rights evolving; (2) what are the advantages, disadvantages, and impacts on decision-making; and (3) how could distributed governance and collaboration, in the context of emerging and evolving legal regimes for Indigenous water rights, enhance sustainable water governance? We also plan to do a preliminary examination of health implications.

Our research team comprised of Indigenous academics, community members, professionals as well as academic and community allies are dedicated to conducting interdisciplinary research on water sustainability, and fostering dialogue with communities and decision-makers. We employ Indigenous Community-based Research Methodologies and follow OCAP principles. 

Our work will result in strengthened partnerships with our partners; capacity building and impact on policy change. This is preliminary work and we have submitted a large SSHRC grant (recently successful!) to continue our important work for long-term change. 

Digging Deep: Examining the Root Causes of HIV and AIDS Among Aboriginal Women Canadian Institutes of Health Research (2014).

Aboriginal Women are over-represented in HIV/AIDS statistics, and the literature indicates that Aboriginal women, in particular, are the most marginalized population in Canada. Yet there is a startling lack of gender-specific (sex, lesbian, transgendered), Aboriginal-specific, HIV/AIDS resources, programs and services. In this context, this research endeavours to contribute towards a deep understanding of the drivers that fuel this reality while identifying the assets within the Aboriginal community that sustain women and contribute to culturally relevant solutions.

This research is important and timely given the multiple risk situations that contextual the daily lived experiences of many Aboriginal women. For Aboriginal people in Canada, colonization remains one of the most destructive elements affecting societal structures today. Our focus on Aboriginal women is to support them to develop evidence-based, community and asset-based solutions that are culturally safe. Our specific objectives include:

1)             Understanding the complex Aboriginal social determinants of health that interact to produce higher rates of IDU, HIV/AIDS, and HCV among Aboriginal women, particularly those who are identified as hard to engage and those who have not been tested; 

2)             Developing a model of culturally safe care;

3)             Increasing the research capacity of All Nations Hope Network (ANHN) –and the broader Aboriginal community in Regina (pilot site);

4)             Developing educational videos to accompany the culturally safe care model and enhancing the understanding of cultural safety for Aboriginal women living with HIV, AIDS and HCV.

This project is a CIHR-funded, 3 year project that is community-based and employs Indigenous community-based research methods.  Our project is a community research partnership with Margaret Poitras, CEO of ANHN as Co-PI and full partner.  We are in year two and just finishing co-researcher (participant) interviews and will begin data analysis this summer. The primary goal is to develop a model of culturally safe care that can be tested as an intervention in our next phase as we apply for an intervention grant. Our team is guided by a Research Advisory Committee comprised of Elders, community and academic members.

Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging CCNA Team 20 Project: Issues in dementia care for rural and Indigenous populations: Indigenous Projects. Canadian Institutes of Health Research (2014).

This research will examine pathways to dementia care for Indigenous people and identify effective cultural approaches to care with the aim of creating appropriate dementia care models for Primary Health Care and Home and Community Care settings in two distinct regions: File Hills Qu'Appelle Tribal Council in Saskatchewan and the First Nations on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. Two key domains of knowledge will be explored: (1) the lived experience of Indigenous people seeking dementia care and (2) aspects of Indigenous culture, knowledge, spirituality and ceremony that are related to improving quality of life. These two domains will be explored in relation to policies and practices that influence access to appropriate care (e.g., jurisdictional issues, geography, role of technology).

Research Questions:

(Q1) What are the pathways to dementia care for Indigenous people? And, what is the lived experience of Indigenous patients with dementia and their caregivers navigating these pathways? 

(Q2) What aspects of Indigenous culture contribute to quality of life for people with dementia and their caregivers (e.g., language use, ceremony, music, prayer, cultural roles of elders, Indigenous medicine)? 


Research Question 1&2: File Hill Qu’Appelle Tribal Region (Dr. C. Bourassa) - Primary data collection

Using qualitative methods and instruments previously implemented with First Nations on Manitoulin Island, Ontario (Jacklin and Warry 2010-12), we will conduct key informant interviews with health care professionals, research circles (focus groups) with community healthcare workers, talking circles with Aboriginal seniors, and narrative interviews with people with dementia and their caregivers to address the research questions.

The research in File Hill Qu-Appelle Tribal Region will be supported by the sharing and adapting of tools (methods, interview guides, consents etc) from the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias In Aboriginal Peoples project in Ontario (Jacklin and Warry).

An on-going activity of those identified as contributing to the Indigenous projects on Team 20 will be to build capacity and awareness concerning Indigenous dementia research. This will include, as the budget permits, supporting Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and funding community-based researchers. Our team members will also actively pursue opportunities that connect Indigenous dementia researchers, policy makers, and community members nationally and internationally.


·      Active involvement in the International Indigenous Dementia Research Network;

·      Profiling of CCNAs Team 20 Indigenous Research Projects;

·      Supporting graduate students;

·      Employing community-based researchers.

Currently we are in the second year of a five year renewable project and are just beginning educational sessions with our partner, FHQTC and expect to begin data collection later this summer and early fall 2016. In Saskatchewan, we are guided by a Community Research Advisory Committee and led by an Elder.  Nationally, we are led by a Research Advisory Committee and guided by two Elders (visit our Team 20 website at:


Canadian HIV Women's Sexual and Reproductive Health Cohort Study-Prioritizing the Health Needs and Positive Aboriginal Women (CHIWOS PAW); Canadian Institutes of Health and Research (2014).  

The objectives of the Canadian HIV Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Cohort Study (CHIWOS) are to estimate the:

1)         Proportion, distribution, and patterns of uptake of women-centred HIV care uptake and factors associated with its uptake among 1630 women living with HIV in BC, SK, MB, ON, QC (115 of which are from SK);

2)         Effects of women-centred HIV care uptake on the overall, mental, reproductive and sexual health outcomes of HIV+ women.

Our team in Saskatchewan, led by Co-PI Dr. Bourassa will undertake an environmental scan, hire Peer Research Associates who will work with the Saskatchewan Community-based Research Coordinator to train and administer surveys to Indigenous women in Saskatchewan. Our team is guided by a Provincial Community Research Advisory

Committee. The advisory committee members are: Elder Betty McKenna, Carolyn Pelletier, Dr. Carrie Bourassa, Paulete Poitras, Patti Tait, Dr. Mona Loutfy, Jean Goezen, Chasity Vermettie, Janette Carrier, Melissa Weisse, & Jackie Eaton.

Networks of Centres of Excellence of Canada Aging Gracefully Across Environments Using Technology to Support Wellness, Engagement and Long Life: Aging-Well (2014).

This is a Network Centres of Excellence/AGE-WELL funded community partnership grant between the First Nations University of Canada and File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council.  There are projects and partners from other academic institutions and community organizations from across Canada. Our specific project Work Package (WP) 1.1 Rural/Remote Indigenous Technology Needs Exploration (RRITE) will examine user needs of older adults in rural and remote areas as well as acceptability for Indigenous older adults, in an attempt to increase accessibility of the technologies developed in AGE-WELL.  Our main activities include: 1) Exploration of the digital divide - survey of bandwidth access for all SK residents outside the two main urban areas, including First Nations communities; 2) Qualitative and quantitative survey of user needs and needs associated with user diversity in rural/remote participants; 3) Relationship building with Indigenous communities in southern SK, northern ON, and PEI necessary for community-based participatory research. Our objectives are: Identify needs related to challenges posed by geographic isolation; Describe issues in rural user diversity that may impact user needs; Discover personally relevant end-user needs in the target populations; Determine rural user needs for remote training for AGE-WELL technologies; and, Use a community-based participatory approach to explore cultural relevance of AGE-WELL technologies.  

This is a four year project and we are heading into the second year of our project. We are building relationships and will be starting education workshops with our partner and begin data collection later this summer and into the fall of 2016.  One of the goals of the project is capacity building and funds a Graduate Student with a Graduate Student Award in the amount of $17,500/year for the course of the project.