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‘My research interests are influenced by my personal journey’

Concordia professor Elizabeth Fast studies issues that impact Indigenous youth, their families and their communities
October 4, 2016
By Elizabeth Fast

Elizabeth Fast, assistant professor of Applied Human Sciences in the School of Community and Public Affairs, will teach a new course open to students from across the university on critical Indigenous perspectives in the winter of 2017. Here she reflects on her journey to Concordia and current research projects.

Elizabeth Fast | Photo by David Ward Elizabeth Fast | Photo by David Ward

Roots and influences

I was born in the small community of St. François Xavier, Manitoba. My mother is Métis and Mennonite and my father is Mennonite. I identify as having Métis and Mennonite ancestry. I spent most of my childhood in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

My research interests are influenced by my personal journey and as such, I chose to explore cultural identity among urban Indigenous youth by using a participatory and Indigenous methodological framework for my PhD dissertation.

A strategic hire in Indigenous youth studies

In August 2015 the university offered me a position as an assistant professor in the Department of Applied Human Sciences. One of six strategic hires, I was brought on to build institutional leadership in the key research area of Indigenous youth studies. 

As part of my interdisciplinary role, I also teach in the First Peoples’ Studies Program and take part in several university-wide initiatives.

Starting in the winter of 2017, I will be teaching a new course open to students from across the university entitled AHSC 398 - Indigenous Perspectives Across the Disciplines.

Intergenerational identitites and alternative histories

My current research examines both practice- and policy-related issues that impact Indigenous youth, their families and their communities.

I am a co-researcher on two Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Grants. One project is focused on participatory action research with the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal that evaluates and tracks services for Indigenous children in contact with Montreal’s child welfare services. The other is exploring transitions to adulthood among Indigenous youth leaving care.

As the principal investigator on a newly awarded Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture (FRQSC) grant, I will be working with a Métis advisory committee to explore intergenerational M(m)étis identities in Québec.

On a SSHRC Community and College Social Innovation Fund award, I am a co-investigator working with a team of researchers — including Jason Lewis and Karl Hele at Concordia — on a storytelling exchange to understand postsecondary experiences of Indigenous students in Quebec.

As the principal investigator on a newly awarded SSHRC Insight Development Grant, I will be working with Felice Yuen and Warren Linds to understand the impact of teaching colonial histories to urban Indigenous youth and using the arts to have them re-tell their own family histories.

University-wide initiatives

There have also been a number of initiatives taking place as part of a collective response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada: Calls to Action.

As part of our department’s response to the TRC recommendations, I initiated a working group to look at how we might do a better job integrating Indigenous perspectives into the curriculum, teaching about our colonial histories and ongoing policies and making AHSC a more welcoming place for Indigenous students.

We hosted a teaching day in April 2016 for all AHSC faculty members and collectively generated a number of short- and long-term goals to respond to the TRC recommendations.

My door is always open and I welcome Indigenous and non-Indigenous students to come and chat with me and explore graduate studies!

Concordia is hosting a panel discussion on the relationship between universities and Indigenous economic development on October 13, 2016 from 6 to 9 p.m. in Room 10.121 of the John Molson (MB) Building (1450 Guy St.). 

Read Elizabeth Fast's recent opinion piece in the Montreal Gazette"Teachers' use of headdress costumes at École Lajoie was a harmful mistake."



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