Post-doctoral researcher Dr. Vanessa Sloan Morgan interacts with School District 91 students at a recent workshop. Photo submitted

Local youth lead discussions on resource extraction for UNBC researcher

20 students from SD91 travelled to UNBC campus to engage with award-winning researcher

A post-doctoral researcher at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George last week engaged local students from Vanderhoof, Fort St. James and Burns Lake in a workshop on resource extraction, and what it means environmentally, socially and economically.

Dr. Vanessa Sloan Morgan’s project, entitled Inheritors of the Future: Community-Driven Voices of Youth Contemplating Resource Extraction of Indigenous and Northern Geographies in British Columbia, will examine how youth visions can address the long-term and cumulative impacts of resource extraction on rural and northern communities.

Sloan Morgan is the recipient of a 2017-18 Banting Fellowship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The award provides $70,000 a year in funding for up to two years of research. Sloan Morgan’s award is one of only 70 Banting Fellowships awarded across Canada. She is the third UNBC postdoctoral researcher to receive one.

Last Friday, 20 Grade 10, 11 and 12 students from School District 91 travelled to the UNBC campus in Prince George to engage in the workshop. Sloan Morgan said the day included a roundtable format with all the students, plus smaller group activities, guest speakers and youth-directed conversations in break-out groups. Sloan Morgan said students were encouraged to choose the topics up for discussion.

“We had everything from keen environmental interests, to people who want to work in resource extraction sector but want to do it in respectful ways, people that want to work in the health sector with communities, people who are keen on First Nations rights and titles… they all come from different backgrounds with different ideas.

“Everyone was linking it back to what they are seeing in their communities not only environmentally, but socially and economically. Youth are connecting it to the broader challenges that are facing the communities,” said Sloan Morgan.

The attendees were approached by School District 91 teachers, she explained, and came from a variety of backgrounds.

“The teachers are the ones that really know the students and are the ones doing the shoulder tapping, asking if people would like to take part, and also selecting students who may not usually self select for an extra-curricular project. These students might be interested in these topics, or want to learn outside of the classroom and in a university setting.”

Sloan Morgan said she also presented to SD91’s First Nations Education Council in order to engage Indigenous youth.

She said one of the goals of the project is to support youth in having their perspectives heard.

“I think that creating spaces for youth to be heard is really important. Looking at youth perspectives is really valid and important and rich and inspirational. Youth notice everything that is going on in their communities, and often those perspectives aren’t valued, because of maybe their age or they are too shy to speak in public. I enjoy bringing that out and helping youth to share their voices.”

Sloan Morgan will be compiling a report from what the students came up with during the workshop, and the students have directed her in who they would like to receive the report.

“I want to highlight how amazing the youth were and the perspectives that were shared, and how supportive UNBC and SD91 have been in ensuring we can have these workshops,” said Sloan Morgan.

The researcher said she has plans to conduct another workshop in the winter, and collected surveys from the students on what resource extraction topics they’d like covered in the future, and what format they prefer.

“The work that Dr. Sloan Morgan is pursuing with Northern youth from Indigenous and rural areas will not only have an impact on communities in our region but also across the country and around the world,” said UNBC President Dr. Daniel Weeks in a press release.

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