Recap: CERi 312 Launch

January 30, 2020

I don’t take at all lightly the seriousness of what it means to be here today and the complex spatial politics and histories at play in this old 1954 building – no matter what name they come up for it, it’ll always be the ‘cop shop.

These are among the opening remarks made by Am Johal, Co-Director of SFU’s new Community-Engaged Research Initiative (CERi), on January 30th, the day of the official launch of SFU’s new Vancouver location and CERi’s new offices at 312 Main.

The opening held significant importance for CERi, SFU and the community, as more 120 people attended the launch, including Minister for Advanced Education, Skills and Training, Melanie Mark, SFU President Andrew Petter and incoming President Joy Johnson, SFU Board of Governors, members of CERi’s Advisory Board, Vancity CEO, Tamara Vrooman and members of the 312 community.

CERi’s opening was a celebration of years of planning and months of renovations that have transformed the space on the third floor of 312 Main into what is now, a research hub for community groups and SFU students and faculty to work independently or collaboratively on community-engaged research projects.

As SFU’s ninth Vancouver location, 312 Main St is also home to SFU’s Public Square, SFU’s Lifelong Learning program and SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement, as well as SFU Library’s Community Scholars Program, which provides access to research tools for the community. The space was designed for like-minded people to engage in distinct streams of work while co-creating and exchanging knowledge in partnership with communities.

Elder Margaret George of the Skawahlook First Nation guided the opening blessing and stressed the importance of the work done at 312 Main, as both a testament to the legacies of the past and evidence of a more hopeful future.

The building was a ‘cop shop,’ used as the official headquarters of the Vancouver Police Department until 2012. The ‘architectural exorcism’ reflects the complete renovation of the location, which has since become a centre for social, environmental and economic justice, housing many community groups from across the region, including Megaphone and the Binners Project that are working in the Downtown Eastside to co-create programs that benefit the community.

The work being done at 312 Main in partnership with other community organizations aims to bring resources to the table from the university to transform how engagement and research are done in close proximity and dialogue with communities in Metro Vancouver and around the province.

In his opening remarks, SFU President, Andrew Petter confirmed CERi’s position in SFU’s overall mission as Canada’s Engaged University. CERi’s mandate champions collaborative research that promotes principles of participation, cooperation, empowerment and knowledge translation that can strengthen SFU researchers’ and students’ capacity to engage respectfully and ethically with community members.

As CERi’s Co-Director Stuart Poyntz noted in his speech, CERi is a one-of-a-kind university infrastructure that will expand SFU’s ability to support, lead and showcase community engaged research across SFU’s three campuses, nationally and beyond.

None of this would have been possible without the leadership and vision of SFU’s Vice President Research and newly appointed President, Dr. Joy Johnson.

Poyntz closed his remarks by noting that her support and direction have been unwavering. With steadfast commitment, she has helped to make community-engaged research a strategic priority at the University, and our hope is that CERi will bring this vision to life for years to come.