French Cohort alum and Political Science graduate student Justine Mallou says combining academic rigor with concrete, practical experience has been integral to her success.

Political Science

Graduate Student Profile: Justine Mallou, Political Science

February 27, 2018

By Christine Lyons

Political science master's student Justine Mallou brings an innovative, critical lens to her research and writing.

In “Redefining the Road to Reconciliation: Considerations for Renewing Indigenous-Crown Relationship through Post-Secondary Student Support Program” a paper she wrote for the Institute of Public Administration of Canada’s (IPAC) Fifth Annual National Student Paper Competition, she proposed four policy considerations for addressing the barriers to post-secondary education for Indigenous peoples.

Her policy considerations addressed such problems as inadequate financial assistance, academic disadvantage, and geographical barriers, with suggestions for increasing the flexibility and timing of funding for Indigenous students. But one of her proposals could completely transform Indigenous communities’ access to education — the creation of a national e-learning platform for digital information-sharing with rural and Northern communities.

This innovative thinking earned Mallou first place in the competition. Her ideas come from first-hand experiences as a research intern for Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), and from her rigorous training in research and writing in political science.

In summer 2017 Mallou worked with ISC’s Evaluation internship team to produce a report for the Deputy Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs. The report identified the incentives and disincentives for First Nations peoples pursuing self-governance. Mallou says she and her team couldn’t complete a site visit to a rural Indigenous community in interior Québec and she realized the “degree of difficulty imposed on rural communities as well as the barriers of accessing resources.”

Bringing these experiences and ideas into her paper on reconciliation and post-secondary student support programs, Mallou suggested that Indigenous communities could benefit from a digital model similar to the one Canada School of Public Service uses to provide information and training to federal public servants.

“I envisioned integrating reconciliation with the access to resources, specifically to education,” she says, adding that “this option facilitates the vision of interconnectedness and reinforces the nation-to-nation approach in Indigenous and non-Indigenous partnership.”

Mallou's video presentation of her paper for the IPAC National Student Paper Competition:

While her award-winning policy paper aims to support reconciliation efforts at the federal level, Mallou’s post-secondary research career has also zeroed in on immigration and refugee policy at the municipal level, particularly the impact of “sanctuary city” policies across Canadian cities. 

Pre-university, Mallou had intended to major in biological sciences and eventually become a pediatric physician. Instead, she was drawn to the multidisciplinary French Cohort Program in Public and International Affairs. She completed her honours BA in political science and French. Having moved from the Philippines to Northern B.C. with her family at age 12, Mallou says her own experiences were part of the motivation to study immigration and refugee policy, and they continue to inform the rigor and dedication she applies to her research and professional pursuits.

Mallou's undergraduate honours thesis studied Vancouver’s sanctuary city policy, renamed “Access to City Services Without Fear,” and put into effect in spring 2016. Her MA thesis extends the scope of that work to include cities like Toronto and Hamilton (which were the first municipalities in Canada to adopt sanctuary city policies in 2013 and 2014 respectively), and involves a comparative policy analysis to understand how different Canadian municipalities can learn from each other.

Under the supervision of political science professor Aude-Claire Fourot, Mallou is poised to finish her graduate thesis this summer while also working with the Vancouver regional office of the Department of Indigenous Services Canada (formerly Indigenous and Northern Affairs). She says the most rewarding part of the internship has been “the direct communication with First nation communities” while she reviews their funding proposals. She says she is grateful for the chance to build relationships that are focused on a concrete path to reconciliation.

“I find that regional offices have the benefit of putting reconciliation into practice by fostering a relationship with Indigenous communities that is built on accountability, trust and transparency. I do not take the opportunity to hone these interactions for granted.”

“I anticipate the next few months will be one of the most humbling and enriching experiences of my post-secondary career,” she says. Besides completing her internship and graduate work, she will also travel to Ottawa this summer to attend the prestigious Manion Lecture and receive her award for the IPAC competition. She’ll also present her paper at a national event organized by the Canada School of Public Service and—through the Blueprint 2020 National Student Paper Competition—await a placement offer to work in the federal public service.

Mallou is excited about the opportunities and challenges ahead and grateful for the path that has brought her this far.

“This endeavour is the fruitful result of the recognition of rights and the abundance of lessons learned through the immeasurable mentorship of First Nations communities. I share this achievement with my mentors in the Office for Aboriginal Peoples, the Teaching and Learning Centre, Arts Co-op Office, Bureau des affaires francophones et francophiles and the Department of Political Science at Simon Fraser University, as well as my mentors and colleagues in the Department of Indigenous Services Canada.”