MONTREAL, Nov. 30, 2021 – The DIALOG Network (Réseau de recherche de connaissances relatives aux peuples autochtones) has been awarded the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Connection Award. The award honours DIALOG’s 20-year mission of building relationships with Indigenous communities and mobilizing knowledge for reconciliation. The announcement was made today by the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, unveiling the winners of the 2021 Impact Awards, celebrating the most accomplished social sciences and humanities researchers in Canada.
Its director and founder, Carole Lévesque, Professor at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), who received the award on behalf of DIALOG, shares it today with her close collaborators, Suzy Basile (UQAT), Édith Cloutier (Centre d’amitié autochtone de Val-d’Or), Caroline Desbiens (Université Laval), Nathalie Kermoal (University of Alberta), and Nicole O’Bomsawin (Kiuna Institution). The Impact Connection Award comes with a $50,000 research grant.
“This award is first and foremost a collective award. It is the recognition of committed research practices that aim for greater equity in the production of knowledge,” says Carole Lévesque, tenured Professor at INRS. “It is the consecration of a vision of research that is done with Indigenous people and by Indigenous people.”
A pioneering network based on respect, trust, and reciprocity
In creating the DIALOG Network in 2001, Professor Lévesque, her colleagues, and partners wanted to open a dialogue on Indigenous knowledge systems with key players in the Indigenous world who were ignored by the academic world.
“Based at INRS, the DIALOG Network has created a unique space that brings together two worlds: the academic research community and Indigenous societies. This alliance, which was joined by the Regroupement des centres d’amitié autochtones du Québec in 2004, offers alternative avenues for understanding and responding to the societal challenges of Indigenous communities. Thanks to its knowledge co-construction approach, DIALOG has shed light on a reality that has been little documented in Quebec, that of urban Indigenous peoples,” explains Édith Cloutier, Executive Director of the Val-d’Or Native Friendship Centre (CAAVD).
From its inception, DIALOG’s mission has been to bring together researchers from different universities and Indigenous knowledge holders from diverse backgrounds around shared knowledge to support social transformation and decolonization.
“The secret of DIALOG’s success is to reach out to Indigenous peoples to learn from them, their trajectories, their history, their modernity, and their aspirations for a more just world,” says Professor Lévesque. It is a way of conceiving research that positions Indigenous knowledge systems alongside science. Today, DIALOG has achieved parity by bringing together more than one hundred members from both the academic and Indigenous spheres. This expertise covers Indigenous people in 14 countries, with Indigenous knowledge keepers representing 26 different organizations or communities.
Transforming societal issues through innovative initiatives
DIALOG’s path is one of innovation. Documentary and statistical databases provide the public with information that is generally not easily accessible. For example, the Autochtonia database contains more than 18,500 documents that address dozens of societal issues related to Indigenous cultures, heritages and knowledge, including both those produced by Indigenous Peoples themselves and scientific literature.
DIALOG is also recognized for its Université Nomade intensive training program, established in 2007 to create learning conditions that promote the encounter of scientific and Indigenous knowledge. To date, nearly 1,400 people have participated in the 16 editions held in four different countries, including several hundred students from many disciplines.
The knowledge co-produced within DIALOG has also informed many social policies and programs in the areas of health, wellness and healing, Indigenous education and curricula. Many members of the Network played major roles in the work of the Public Inquiry Commission on relations between Indigenous Peoples and certain public services in Québec (Commission Viens).
Over the next few years, DIALOG will work to increase research capacity within Indigenous organizations and communities and to document the potential for community influence and social innovation in Indigenous knowledge systems.
“The DIALOG Network is about the encounter, the one that is necessary for Indigenous issues to be better understood and respected, the one that positively guides the path of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students who will one day work together. It is the exchange of knowledge that wishes to coexist and move in the same direction.”
Suzy Basile, Professor at UQAT’s School of Indigenous Studies and director of the Research Laboratory on Indigenous Women Issues – Mikwatisiw.
“The SSHRC Connection Award is more than the recognition of a successful partnership. This award is a tribute to the research teams involved at DIALOG and its founder and director Carole Lévesque. It is in itself a model of reconciliation for the partners and Indigenous people, and sows hope for students who want to contribute to greater social justice and a more equitable way of living together.”
Édith Cloutier, Executive Director of the Val-d’Or Native Friendship Centre and President of Regroupement des Centres d’amitié autochtones du Québec.
“Everyday the DIALOG Network rises to the challenge of creating a university that is open, and deeply connected with Indigenous knowledge and values. When obstacles have arisen, partners have innovated to stay true to their vision. Equality, reciprocity, and diversity are the strengths of the network. DIALOG proves that change is possible; it offers a concrete model for the decolonization of education, and society more broadly.”
Caroline Desbiens, Professor at the Department of Geography at Université Laval and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Heritage and Tourism.
“The SSHRC Connection Award recognizes 20 years of work by the DIALOG Network led by my colleague Professor Carole Lévesque. Since dialogue and contact with others enriches one’s own experience and knowledge, by participating in the DIALOG Network, Indigenous communities, researchers, and students are not only able to express their points of view, define their needs or share the outcome of their research, they are also exposed to very different issues and methodological approaches. These encounters create a synergy that facilitates the production of new knowledge (and ultimately, new pedagogical tools) but also new approaches to theory and methodology. I am very proud to be part of this dynamic network.”
Nathalie Kermoal, Director of the Rupertsland Centre for Métis Research at the University of Alberta
“The DIALOG Network is a collective success and the result of a mobilization that goes beyond individual efforts. It is through sharing, equity, collaboration, ethics, and respect that all actions undertaken in the name of DIALOG are shaped. This Network has fundamentally changed the nature of the relationship between the scientific community and Indigenous communities by recognizing the contribution of Indigenous knowledge and science.”
Nicole O’Bomsawin, Professor at the Kiuna Institution.
The Connection Award recognizes the achievement of an outstanding SSHRC-funded initiative that facilitates the transmission and exchange of research knowledge within and/or beyond the social sciences and humanities research community. It is awarded to a researcher or team whose initiative has engaged the institution and/or the broader community and has had an intellectual, cultural, social and/or economic impact.
DIALOG is a strategic knowledge network created in 2001 and based at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique, one of the university components of the Université du Québec (Canada). DIALOG is funded by the Fonds québécois de recherche sur la société et la culture and by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
INRS is a university dedicated exclusively to graduate level research and training. Since its creation in 1969, INRS has played an active role in Québec’s economic, social, and cultural development and is ranked first for research intensity in Québec and in Canada. INRS is made up of four interdisciplinary research and training centres in Québec City, Montréal, Laval, and Varennes, with expertise in strategic sectors: Eau Terre Environnement, Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications, Urbanisation Culture Société, and Armand-Frappier Santé Biotechnologie. The INRS community includes more than 1,500 students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty members, and staff.