Northern Reflections

January 18, 2016 - It was a banner year for Northern Policy Institute in 2015. After ringing in the New Year, we hit the ground running and we are already hard at work on new research projects, collaborative efforts, and events for 2016. But before we focus on what’s down the road for us and Northern Ontario, we wanted to take a look back on our highlights from last year and review our work and its impact in the region. 

One of our most popular research reports from 2015 was “A Strategy for Change: Supporting Teachers and Improving First Nations, Metis, and Inuit School Success in Provincially Funded Northwestern Ontario Schools” by John A. Hodson and Julian Kitchen. Originally released on September 24, 2015, this report argued The Ontario education system is failing First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children in the north because it lacks access to traditional knowledge and teachers who are educated to impart contemporary knowledge through culturally responsive teaching methods. To remedy this issue, the authors proposed that the Biwaase’aa Program, a community-based traditional knowledge education program, should be combined with the Maamaawisiiwin Professional Teacher Development Program, to provide educators with the necessary tools to embrace cultural experiences while teaching contemporary knowledge.

Early in 2015, Northern Policy Institute teamed up with the Mowat Centre and the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity to create a “Federal Economic Agenda for Ontario” in the lead up to the federal election in October. The research phase of the project provided us with an excellent opportunity to connect with a variety of stakeholders and, ultimately, produce a document that would be of value to the national political parties who were cognizant of Ontario’s role in driving the Canadian economy forward. Later, Northern Policy Institute assessed the parties responses to the FEA in a report card and we found that there were some positive correlations between our recommendations and the party mandates, with some holding significance for Northern Ontario.

In 2015 our publication with the biggest impact on policy was, arguably, “Does the Spring Bear Hunt Make ‘Cents?’” Written by policy analyst, Mike Commito. The commentary recommended that the provincial government should reintroduce the spring bear hunt with a full non-resident component on a trial basis because it would be a boon for local economies in Northern Ontario and, most importantly, that it would not detrimentally affect the long-term viability of the black bear population. Just a little over two months after its release, the provincial government initiated the process to expand the spring bear hunt as part of a five-year pilot project. Many of the government’s proposals were aligned with Commito’s recommendation and 2016 will mark the first comprehensive spring bear hunt in Ontario since 1998.

The summer of 2015 also saw some important changes to our online design and content. In August we launched a brand new website and overhauled our newsletter, Due North, giving both of them a sleek upgrade. But we didn’t stop there. Less than a month later we, along with the North Superior Workforce Planning Board and the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre, unveiled North by Numbers, an interactive data tool that displays Northern Ontario census data from 2001 to 2011. We have received plenty of great feedback about North by Numbers and we will continue to tinker with our data sets and visualizations to provide you with the most optimal experience.

We were also pleased to double our summer internship program and expand into Sault Ste. Marie. We are looking forward to continuing Experience North in 2016 and we are welcoming new interns to Timmins and Kenora, as well as our existing positions in Sudbury, Thunder Bay, and Sault Ste. Marie. If you, or somebody you know, might be interested in an exciting opportunity to work at Northern Ontario’s premier think tank please refer them to our Experience North page, postings close on February 12th 2016.

As 2016 continues to unfold, we remain committed to pushing forward research about the state of the labour market in Northern Ontario. Findings by Dr. Bakhtiar Moazzami, one of our authors, highlighted that connectivity matters and that educational attainment is key to individual success and collective prosperity, particularly in the rural northwest. This year, Northern Policy Institute continues to focus on the demography in the North and offer up recommendations to overcome challenges to our labour force that include an aging population and a decreasing supply of workers. The state of the labour market has become a concern for all Northern Ontarians and our continued collaborative efforts with our regional workforce planning boards will continue to be a priority for us in 2016.

We want to thank everyone who supported us, read our work, attended our events, or even just told a friend about Northern Policy Institute in 2015. We look forward to working with new communities this year, engaging with you on public policy matters, and are eager to continue bringing evidence-based solutions to the region. All the best to you in 2016 and let’s make this year a memorable one for Northern Ontario.

By Mike Commito, Senior Policy Analyst with Northern Policy Institute.

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