North Side Story

September 10, 2018 - Beyond practicing snapping in a synchronized fashion, six Northern Policy Institute summer placements had the opportunity to stretch their research muscles and explore key policy issues in Northern Ontario this past summer. Located in Fort Frances, North Bay, and Timmins, this group provided valuable insight into issues such as research capacity in Ontario’s North, the reporting relationship between funders and First Nations, and Francophone tourism. Through their research, our summer placements have contributed to a sustainable and self-sufficient Northern Ontario.



Fort Frances – Dawson Mihichuk and Elektra Papadogiorgaki

“Fort Frances…where is that exactly?” A phrase similar to this is what you’re likely to hear should you mention the small Northwestern town elsewhere in Canada – even other areas of the North!  This charming border town is a familiar home for one of us, and an entirely unknown locale for the other.

Working at the first NPI office located in Fort Frances gave us a unique perspective and quite frankly, something to brag about to our coworkers located in other communities across Northern Ontario (despite the struggle of being the only office located in a different time zone, of course!). 

As summer interns, we had the chance to experience independence while also knowing we could rely on our coworkers located hundreds of kilometres away with the click of a mouse. Our 10 hour travel to Sault Ste. Marie for our staff week gave us the chance to bond with our co-workers in person as opposed to our usual Skype chats and email chains. The annual staff week that NPI hosts is vital in maintaining a team relationship (not to mention it was jam packed with policy presentations, team activities and sightseeing that kept us on our toes).

While Sault Ste. Marie was the crowning jewel of our travels, we also had opportunities to visit Dryden and Thunder Bay, as well as regularly leave the office to conduct research for our respective projects on Northern Ontario’s research capacity, and the alignment between the labour market and post-secondary institutions. If you want the opportunity to experience some of the various locations of the North and meet key figures while discovering just what makes the North tick, NPI is for you.

We are endlessly thankful to NPI for giving us the opportunity to experience all of the beauties of the North and for always making us feel like valuable members of the team. We deeply appreciate the wonderful and welcoming staff at Confederation College for hosting us.

North Bay – Caitlin McAuliffe and Rachel Quinby

This summer provided the opportunity for both of us to explore parts of Northern Ontario that we were unfamiliar with and even though we both live here (North Bay and Sudbury, respectively), it was unexpected that we would have so many new experiences!

The office at Nipissing University provided a great environment and beautiful setting to work on our projects, one of which focused on Indigenous demographics and data governance while the other on First Nations reporting to funders. One experience that really stands out for both of us was the travel to Sault Ste. Marie for the annual staff week where the entire staff was able to meet and network. It was our first experience with Bearskin Airlines, on a very tiny 19 seat passenger plane, but it was incredible to see Northern Ontario from the sky! Staff week allowed us to connect with our colleagues who had an enormous amount of insight, which we took back with us to North Bay.

As our projects worked with Indigenous communities, it allowed us to learn more about the Indigenous communities in Northern Ontario, as well as speak with community members, researchers and experts so that we could begin to understand the complexities and issues in these areas. We have been especially grateful to meet so many people doing such important work – they were our greatest resource.

Beyond partaking in valuable community outreach, we worked on our research and data collection skills. Both being from social sciences backgrounds, data collection was not something we had performed often, but this placement allowed us to work on those skills in a positive environment, as well as explore policy-related issues in the place we both love to call home – Northern Ontario. 

Timmins – Rachel Armstrong and Myfannwy Pope

This summer, working at Northern Policy Institute in Timmins has been an immersive experience in policy and data analysis. For Vancouverite Myf, it was an opportunity to experience Northern Ontario and Franco-Ontarian life, while for Rachel, it was an opportunity to do research in and for her hometown community. Anyone looking to expand their knowledge of Northern Ontario and improve their research and analysis skills should consider applying to the Experience North program. The self-directed nature of our projects provided lots of opportunities to learn about Northern Ontario’s political and social climate. We had the opportunity to conduct research and stakeholder engagement, flex and develop our skills in statistical and data analysis, and pursue our own take on the research topic we were given. It was a unique and awesome chance to work with great people and learn the ropes of policy work in a flexible and engaging context.

Both of our highlights of the summer included the opportunity to meet in person the intelligent and hilarious people we chatted with over Skype everyday (and business Skype, or Microsoft Teams, or email, and sometimes even phone) in beautiful Sault Ste. Marie. We even got a “personal escort” by the pilot onto our Bearskin flight and it couldn’t have been swankier. As summer interns, the trip to SSM was a truly unique opportunity to learn about how a think tank works on every level, including presentations from every department and the President. It also gave us the opportunity to present our own research and see how it fits within the larger policy discussions taking place in the regions.  

This summer, Timmins was ranked number one from Expedia’s ‘Scents of Canada’ list for the smell of fresh air and we couldn’t agree more. One of the best parts of experiencing Northern Ontario for us is its easy access to nature’s scents and sights. Even just while walking to our office located at Collège Boréal, one can smell the heavenly scent of fresh cut timber on the breeze from the Timmins Sawmill located nearby.  

It has been amazing to see research capacity in the North expand and it has been even more rewarding be part of it. While our summer of researching Francophone demographics and tourism has led to many interesting insights and partnerships, it has also highlighted to us the need for more research in this field. Northern Ontario is ripe with potential, and we can’t wait to come back after our respective post-secondary graduations to watch that potential grow.

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Dawson Mihichuk, Elektra Papadogiorgaki, Caitlin McAuliffe, Rachel Quinby, Rachel Armstrong and Myfannwy Pope were Policy Analyst Experience North Placements at Northern Policy Institute during the summer of 2018. 

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