A Yukoner has won the most prestigious award granted to doctoral students in Canada for her work on northern indigenous health.
Jennifer Jones, a PhD candidate at the University of Guelph in Ontario, is one of 16 scholars to win $60,000 scholarships from the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation this year.
“I’m a little overwhelmed,” she said. “It opens a lot of doors for a PhD student in terms of what you can do.”
Before moving to Guelph, Jones worked in the Yukon for over 20 years. She spent 10 years working for the Yukon Council of First Nations’ department of health and social development.
During those years, Jones felt that the tools used to measure the health impacts of mining and other resource development projects on First Nations people were inadequate. She said they ignored the long-lasting effects of the gold rush, residential schools, and policies of assimilation on the territory’s indigenous population.
Jones said that history of colonialism can affect people’s health in ways that aren’t often recognized.
“We need to figure out how we better assess health impacts on First Nations communities,” she said. “Because we don’t do that very well.”
For her doctoral work, she plans to return to the Yukon and work with First Nation communities to find new ways of evaluating how they’ll be affected by resource projects like mines.
Jones said this award will allow her to connect with other people working in her field. She wants to travel to Australia, where many indigenous communities have been affected by nearby resource development.
But for Jones, the most important thing is what this award means for northern research.
“It’s not just a coup for Jen Jones. It’s a coup for Yukon,” she said. “I have a real passion for the Yukon and its people. I was really clear that I wanted my research to focus on Yukon, and I wanted to be in Yukon.”
Jones said she plans to move back to the Yukon in November to begin her research.
The Trudeau scholarships were established in 2003 and are awarded to doctoral students studying human rights and dignity, responsible citizenship, Canada in the world, and people and their natural environment.