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Topic: Jacqueline Quinless on Decolonizing Data (University of Toronto Press, February 15, 2022)

GATE recently co-hosted with the Sandra Rotman Centre for Health Sector Strategy a thought-provoking conversation on decolonizing research practices. It featured Dr. Jacqueline M. Quinless, award winning Public Sociologist recognized by the Canadian Sociological Association (CSA) and the Angus Reid Foundation for her community-based research in the advancement of Indigenous welfare in Canada. The event was moderated by Dr. Suzanne Stewart, Director of the Waakebiness-Bryce Institute for Indigenous Health at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto (U of T), where she is an Associate Professor in the Division of Social and Behaviour Health Sciences.

Jaqueline’s book, Decolonizing Data, is a valuable resource and guide to taking a critical approach to Indigenous research. The book explores how ongoing structures of colonialization negatively impact the well-being of Indigenous peoples and communities across Canada, resulting in persistent health and other forms of inequality. It provides a deeper understanding of the social dimensions of health as applied to Indigenous peoples who have been historically excluded from health services, programs, and quality of care. These inequalities have most recently been seen during the pandemic.

In the conversation, Jaqueline highlighted her approach to decolonizing research which centers around culturally responsive research. She also emphasized the importance of acknowledging that there are people behind the data, and that research isn’t done in isolation. Research should honour and respect people’s stories, values and traditions. Together, Jacqueline and Suzanne discussed how standard research practices can contribute to the colonization of Indigenous peoples. Their reflections on current research practices allow us to “unsettle conversations” regarding applied social research that concerns society’s most vulnerable communities. Jacqueline emphasized that the first step in decolonizing methodologies is learning to open your mind. Being aware of the colonial lens and listening respectfully to the stories of Indigenous communities as you conduct research can help change traditional thinking patterns.

 “If you have feelings of discomfort lean into them and be curious about them. That would be a great place to start [decolonization work], and then allow the journey to expand. Don’t be afraid of it”

– Jacqueline Quinless

Watch Jacqueline and Suzanne discuss how researchers can decolonize their data