Marshall Institute will focus on environmental justice, Indigenous approaches to climate change
It was not only an exciting day at Cape Breton University with the announcement of the new $80 million Centre for Discovery and Innovation on Monday, but also in the household of Crystal Bernard of Membertou.
As CBU president Dave Dingwall was talking about the new Marshall Institute as part of the expansion, Bernard was learning it was named after her father, the late Donald Marshall Jr.
“I think it’s amazing,” said an emotional Bernard. “It was a big surprise but a good surprise. We’re very proud and humbled that they will be representing him in that way.”
The Marshall Institute will focus on environmental justice and Indigenous approaches to climate change, collaborate with L’nu elders, knowledge keepers, educators and political leaders to advance understandings of the ongoing relevance of historic Treaties of Peace and Friendship.
Bernard said her father would be honoured.
“He did so much work for treaties and fishing rights, it would be a huge honour for him.”
Excited to visit the institute once it opens, Bernard said her vision is to see their Mi’kmaq people treated fairly and getting the resources that they need to get through whatever they are dealing with.
“I really hope this brings a lot of awareness to non-Indigenous people as well, ” she said.
Bernard said she feels there is still so much work to do, there is still so much racism going on.
“I still see people calling my father to the lowest and they had no idea who he was as a person,” she said.
Describing her late father as, ‘a very kind, generous and loving man,’ Bernard said he’s very missed.
“I get emotional every time I speak of him because I feel like our time was cut short. He did so much in his short time we’re all proud of him.”
Dr. Janice Tulk, senior researcher in the development department at CBU, said the university has been involved in providing education to local Mi’kmaq communities in partnership with those communities for well over 40 years. It began with art-based programming progressed to providing science programming and more recently with business studies and looking at economic development.
Tulk said one of the calls to action in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report was around the need to institute law institutes and legal institutes that advance understanding of Indigenous ways of knowing and Indigenous law.
Tulk said reading that recommendation from the call to action report was really a moment when they thought they’ve done a lot in terms of Indigenous concerns but there’s a need that has been identified across Canada, what could they do?
Having some expertise in terms of the facility, this will be a collaborative research institute, she said.
“We’ve been in touch with the Marshall family and they’re supportive and have been helping us in shaping the vision.”
The institute will focus on Indigenous approaches to climate change and environmental justice.
Tulk said that makes a lot of sense in terms of where we’re located on Cape Breton Island, the Bras d’Or Lakes, and the various existing organizations such as the Unama'ki Institute of Natural Resources (UNIR), one of a few they will most likely collaborate with.
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