A local West Kelowna woman is out to change the narrative of Indigenous research in Canada.
Candice Loring, 36, a member of the Gitwangak band from the Gitxsan nation, is the first Indigenous person to be hired by Mitacs — a national innovation organization that fosters growth by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions
“Historically, research was done ‘on’ Indigenous people, not ‘for’ or ‘with’ Indigenous people,” explained Loring, director of business development and Indigenous community engagement for Mitacs.
An initiative launched by the company allows Indigenous-owned businesses and organizations to connect with the academic talent to help them achieve their innovation goals.
“I’m working for an organization that’s not only hearing my voice but is my voice, helping to make real change within Indigenous research and academia,” said Loring, who joined Mitacs in August 2019.
“To have a seat at the table in an organization that truly believes in advancing the Indigenous portfolio because it’s the right thing to do is one of the most profound moments of my life."
According to Statistics Canada, the Indigenous population is the fastest-growing in the country, increasing by 42.5 per cent between 2006 and 2016.
Loring believes given the same opportunities as non-Indigenous people, their communities can significantly boost the Canadian economy.
"Our team is committed to empowering Indigenous innovation in Canada,” said John Hepburn, CEO and Scientific Director of Mitacs.
“Mitacs consults with Indigenous organizations to identify and solve their research challenges, and to leverage available funding; we also make the research connections and enable real job experience that Indigenous students rely on to advance their careers,” he added.
To qualify, the organization must be 50 per cent owned by an individual who self-identifies as Indigenous, or the selected intern must self-identify as Indigenous. Partner organizations need to invest only one-quarter of the project’s cost.
“This is the most aggressive call we’ve launched to date. The societal impact will go far beyond research because an entrepreneur’s success with their business really lifts up an entire community,” she added.
Through a partnership with EcoTrust Canada, Mitacs Indigenous interns are currently working on hydroponic innovations to boost local food production and security, programs to help small businesses pivot amid COVID-19, self-sustaining restorative farming solutions, art programs that encourage youth to share their voices, and much more.