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New U of A journal discusses urban Aboriginal issues, policies

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By Darlene Chrapko Sweetgrass Writer EDMONTON







The Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta has launched a new academic journal, the first to address emerging issues of Canadian Métis, non-status Indians and urban Aboriginals.

According to editor Chris Andersen, a Métis and associate professor at the U of A, Aboriginal Policy Studies fills a gap by focusing on policies that shape and influence those living off-reserves.  The journal’s aim is to begin to talk about social trends that affect the future of the ever-increasing number of Métis, non-status Indians and urban Aboriginals living in urban areas.

What currently exists is a “mish-mash of policy and programming,” and there is little knowledge about how policy differs from city to city, Andersen said. “More than half of Canada’s Aboriginals live in cities and there’s comparatively little policy or academic attention paid to off-reserve issues.This is going to be a demographic situation that will demand a lot of policy attention over the next couple of generations.”

According to Andersen, 90 per cent of funding goes to on-reserve issues, a policy dating back to the 1950s, when the federal government directed its focus to the reserve within the treaty context and the practices of the Indian Act. As a result of this focus, little attention has been paid to the Métis, non-status, and off-reserve population. Anderson said the journal’s aim is to address this gap through academic discussion of the issues and to share discoveries with people who deliver services. 

To lessen the gap between the academic world and service providers, the journal intends to use plain language. Moreover, 25 per cent of the editorial board includes practitioners with strong policy and practical experience. Each issue will also include one non-academic commentary piece to play off the academic content.

Funded by the Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Aboriginal Policy Studies will be published twice annually in March and October, with the provision for one additional special issue dedicated to a key issue area. Papers presented by members of the editorial board at the journal’s launch have been submitted for consideration for the first issue due out in December. The launch took place at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences annual meeting in Montreal this past May.

As part of the University of Alberta’s open access policy, the online journal will be free. It has garnered strong academic interest as Andersen has received a number of submissions for the second issue. Once vetted by Andersen for relevancy, the articles will be passed on to Aboriginal academics with expertise in the subject area. In a full blind academic review process comments will be sent back to the author for reconsideration and resubmission prior to publication.

The journal has created a place for academics to think and talk through issues and share their findings with those who create policy. According to Andersen, ultimately, the journal’s discussions will “spur discussion about meaningful policies” by helping to define what it means to be an Aboriginal person living in a city.