University of Alberta's School of Public Health to get a northern touch

Northerners echo report that finds federal programs failing Indigenous people

The University of Alberta's School of Public Health is getting a northern touch.

The school announced Wednesday it's appointing five adjunct professors and two Indigenous elders from the Northwest Territories.

The seven part-time staff members will travel between Edmonton and Yellowknife to participate in teaching, orientation and provide advice to the master of public health program.

Adjunct professors include Chipewyan and Iroquois elder Francois Paulette, John B. Zoe, a senior advisor to the Tlicho government, and Gwich'in cross-country skiing legend Sharon Firth.

The new adjunct professors will help students incorporate traditional knowledge into their research, develop respectful relationships with Indigenous people and better understand the North.

"I've been doing a lot of speaking across Canada and other places," said Zoe. "But I would say, up to this point, I've been doing it through the back door. In some ways, this would allow me to go in the front door and do things officially."

Starting in September, five new students from the N.W.T. will begin the master's program. Kue Young, dean of the School of Public Health, said he hopes the number of northern students will grow.

Northern campus in the works

There are also long-term plans to open a satellite campus in Yellowknife.

Young said the Institute for Circumpolar Health Research, which is located in Yellowknife's Old Town, could be used as the campus.

"University people have been coming up to the North for many years. They come and go to research. It used to be a one-way street," Young said. "One of the things we wanted to do was really recruit students from the North, but also do a lot of the teaching here in the North."

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One of the requirements of the program is completing a practicum. 

Young said the creation of a Yellowknife campus would allow students to get involved with homelessness programs, women's shelters, the N.W.T. government's health department and other health-related organizations in the North.