DIALOG Network receives SSHRC Impact 2021 Award for its work with Indigenous communities

Jordan Cook - 30 November 2021


Nathalie Kermoal, Director of the Rupertsland Centre for Métis Research and Professor in the Faculty of Native Studies, as well as  a researcher in the DIALOG Network, is among the recipients of the SSHRC Impact Connection Award. 

This 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.

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, awarded the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Impact Connection 2021 Award to the DIALOG Network, Réseau de recherche de connaissances relatives aux peuples autochtones, which is based at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS). This award honours DIALOG's 20-year mission to reach out to Indigenous communities.

“The SSHRC Impact Award 2021 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,” said Kermoal.

DIALOG is a strategic knowledge network created in 2001. Its director and founder, Carole Lévesque, Professor at 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), Nicole O'Bomsawin (Kiuna College), and Kermoal. 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,” said Carole Lévesque. “It is the consecration of a vision of research that is done with Indigenous people and by Indigenous people.”

As a member of the DIALOG network, Kermoal is a bilingual specialist (French and English) in Canadian history and more specifically in Métis history. She is the Director of the Rupertsland Centre for Métis Research (RCMR), which serves as an expansive academic research program specifically geared toward Métis issues. The goals and objectives of the research centre include: building provincial and national connections with the Métis community; building research capacity to advance Métis-specific research; and training and employing student researchers.

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 with key players in the Indigenous world who were ignored from the academic world and places of knowledge.

“Based at INRS, the DIALOG Network has created an unusual space that brings together two worlds: research and Indigenous communities. 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,” explains Édith Cloutier, Executive Director of the Val-d’Or Native Friendship Centre (CAAVD).

The original idea was to bring together researchers from different universities and Indigenous knowledge holders from diverse backgrounds around shared knowledge with a view to social transformation and decolonization.

“The secret of DIALOG's success is to reach out to Indigenous communities, to learn from them, their trajectories, their history, their modernity, 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 brings together more than one hundred people from both the academic and Indigenous spheres. Their expertise covers Indigenous people in 14 countries. Indigenous knowledge keepers come from 26 different jurisdictions, 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. The originality of this bank is that it lists the production of the Indigenous Peoples themselves and not only the scientific production.

DIALOG is also recognized for its Université Nomade 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 curriculum. 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).