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by Derek Cornet

The First Nations University of Canada announced today the official opening of  two new community-based health research labs. The project was led by Carrie Bourassa, an associate professor of science at FNUniv. “There are two purposes (for the labs). One is to train indigenous undergraduate and graduate students in health research, and one is to provide space for community-based research,” Bourassa said.


After the official announcement was made, the research labs opened their doors to visitors.  The $154,000 labs are furnished with state-of-the-art equipment. Money for the labs came from a Leaders Opportunity Fund grant that Bourassa applied for[T1] .


Students demonstrated the tools they use  to compile their research. Brad Sunshine, an undergraduate student, was excited about the new lab space.


“Traditional knowledge in regards to health is what I have been working on and it is great to have space here to think and work,” Sunshine said.


The student lab consisted of several work stations with a desks, computers, printers, telephones, a photocopier, and general supplies. The community lab was a smaller version of the student lab but with more space for community meetings.


Bourassa said the labs are important to the aboriginal community.


“There is a critical need for research that addresses their unique health concerns. What’s more, this research must be driven by the communities so that they can put research into action,” she said.


Several people from The Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre (IPHRC) were also at the announcement to show their support. Cassandra Opikokew, a research associate at IPHRC says that the labs are very important to FNUniv and Regina.


“This is supposed to be a culturally safe space for community members to be able to come into the university, to be part of the university atmosphere, and conduct research here with the researchers, in a space that also belongs to them as community members.” Opikokew said.


The labs will be used for a variety of different projects. A current project is ‘Exploring Health Issues with Aboriginal Youth through Applied Arts.’ Karen Schmidt, a health educator with the File Hills Qu’Appelle Tribal Council, said  the space will help project workers conduct their research. The project has recently hired a research assistant who will use the space to compile research and to host community meetings, she said.

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