media release

Saving indigenous languages among key projects

June 05, 2013

Marianne Meadahl, PAMR, 778.782.9017;

Simon Fraser University researcher Marianne Ignace is leading a new initiative aimed at saving the region’s indigenous languages and the heritage they help preserve.

A $2.5 million Partnership grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) will provide funds over the next seven years to enable researchers, together with First Nations communities, to co-produce knowledge and practices that address the challenges of language loss and revitalization throughout B.C. and the Yukon Territory.

Ignace, who taught her own eight children the Shuswap Nation’s Secwepemc language, has collaborated throughout her career with West Coast First Nations to preserve and teach Aboriginal languages, which she says have reached a critical state of decline.“The death of each elder who speaks the language represents the irretrievable loss of specific indigenous ways of speaking, of seeing the world and of communicating about the land and the physical and social environment,” says Ignace, director of SFU’s new First Nations Language Centre (FNLC). The centre will work in partnership with Aboriginal groups representing at least 11 languages with the goal of maintaining/revitalizing them.

These grants are part of $167 million in federal funding recently announced by SSHRC to support the development of talent and to promote university-industry partnerships. In addition to the Ignace grant, SSHRC funding is leveraging an existing partnership between SFU and Vancouver’s Judith Marcuse Projects with a $2.5-million (SSHRC) project grant.

Judith Marcuse, a creative force in Canada’s dance and cultural communities for more than four decades, will lead the new five-year initiative titled Art for Social Change: A Research Partnership in Teaching, Evaluation, and Capacity-Building.

The first large-scale, systemic project of its kind in Canada, Marcuse, an SFU education adjunct professor, says the resources created will benefit not only artist-researchers but also those in diverse sectors already using arts-based practices and those interested in integrating such approaches in their work for positive change.

Marcuse established the International Centre of Art for Social Change (ICASC) partnership with SFU in 2008 and heads a team of 10 leading artist-researcher co-investigators, who will work with a network of partners across Canada. “This partnership aligns perfectly with SFU’s strategic vision to be Canada’s leading community-engaged university, and with our strategic research plan’s focus on pedagogy,” says SFU VP Research Mario Pinto.

In addition, SFU political scientist John Calvert is involved in a $2.76 million partnership, led by a McMaster University professor from the non-profit organization Institute for Work and Health, that will focus on the future of disability policy in Canada.

Two SFU researchers have received Partnership Development grants, valued at about $200,000 each:

  • Jodi Viljoen, an SFU associate professor of clinical psychology will lead a research team, working with the Ministry of Children and Family Development, to develop and test a Reoffence Reduction and Resilience Toolkit, targeted at a diverse range of justice-involved youth;
  • SFU archaeologist Dongya Yang will work with researchers on the creation of a platform for Canadian and Chinese scholars and students to enhance ancient DNA studies and human osteo-archaeology in China. SFU will partner with two leading institutions, including the Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, and the Research Center of Chinese Frontier Archaeology, Jilin University, in Changchun.

Simon Fraser University is Canada's top-ranked comprehensive university and one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 120,000 alumni in 130 countries.


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

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