TRU receives 100 per cent federal funding for research projects

Three TRU researchers research $500,000 in federal funding to support social history and humanities projects

Three TRU-based researchers have received nearly $500,000 from the federal government to conduct research in their social science and humanities fields.

The funds come from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and its Insight Grants program, which awarded more than $91 million to national projects. This is the first time since 2005 that TRU has seen a 100 per cent success rate in receiving federal awards.

Research conducted with the federal support will further shape our understanding of how B.C.’s opioid epidemic affects the province’s smaller cities with culture mapping, exploring the Secwepemctsín language, and expanding the social history of unbelief in English Canada.

Dr. Will Garrett-Petts was awarded more than $90,000 for his culture mapping work surrounding the opioid crisis in B.C.’s smaller cities. Garrett-Petts began the process of culture mapping close to 20 years ago to further understand places and their people through stories of those communities.

“We see such potential for cultural mapping to bring in voices that might otherwise be marginalized, or not understood as ‘expert,'” Garrett-Petts said. “Cultural mapping keeps the individual voices, front and centre.”

Garrett-Petts explained that many voices are not being heard across the province regarding the opioid epidemic.

“Those working in the trades and construction industry make up 15 percent of British Columbia’s workforce, but account for nearly 55 per cent of the opioid deaths in the province. The stigma associated with opioid addiction tends to make the faces and stories of these people virtually invisible and certainly not well understood. If we are going to develop effective drug policies and health strategies, we need their expert input.”

For her five years of work developing an intergenerational Secwepemctsín learning model, Dr. Gloria Ramirez has been awarded over $300,000.

Ramirez, a leader in children’s biliteracy and bilingual development, came to TRU more than a decade ago and has since become passionate about the Secwepemc language and culture. She leads a team of scholars, including co-applicants, Drs. Janice Dick-Billy, and Natalie Clark, and UBC’s Dr. Tania Willard. Key collaborators also include Garry Gottfriedson and Elder Flora Sampson.

“Those who are fluent are often of advanced age, and with few people learning the language, and with even fewer children raised in the language, each community in the Secwepemc Nation is facing language extinction,” Ramirez said. “I feel language is the best way to really get to know the people, history and culture,”

The last project explores the social history of unbelief in English Canada from the 1950s to the 1980s, led by Dr. Tina Block, who was awarded $85,000 for her research.

This research is a followup and expansion to Block’s earlier funded study that found that the decline of organized religious involvement in Canada tended to be widely class-based and gendered.

“In my earlier work, I found women — mothers in particular — struggled with how or whether to pass unbelief and irreligion on to their children. A lot of secular mothers would send their children to Sunday school so as not to face social exclusion,” Block said.

“Women were compelled to keep quiet because of social norms and gender norms, but I am also finding that there is an active agency component as well: Women were choosing to keep quiet out of care and respect for others,” she said.