Candice Loring standing at Okanagan Lake in West Kelowna. (Athena Bonneau photo)

Candice Loring standing at Okanagan Lake in West Kelowna. (Athena Bonneau photo)

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

  • Jul. 11, 2020 11:30 a.m.

By Athena Bonneau, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Discourse

In May 2019, Candice Loring was at the late Dr. Gregory Younging’s funeral. A member of Opaskwayak Cree Nation, he was not only a professor at the Indigenous Studies Program at the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBCO), but a publisher of Theytus Books, the oldest Indigenous publishing house in Canada.

“I was sitting in the audience and, you know, remembering being a student and all of my aspirations of working towards the betterment of Indigenous people,” says Loring.

In that moment, Loring felt inspired to go back to the university to work with Indigenous students and professors.

“I just didn’t feel like I was really fulfilling that in my career at the time, and I left my job that week after his funeral,” she says.

Loring then phoned up Mitacs, a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs. She called to see if the job she had been offered the winter before was still available. At the time she had declined because she felt fulfilled, that feeling had since changed.

“I followed this opportunity out of passion,” she says.

In August 2019, Loring was officially offered the first Indigenous-specific position with Mitacs. She is now the organization’s director of business development and Indigenous community engagement.

“Indigenous communities are my focus, and working with Indigenous-owned businesses and organizations or communities working with their economic development corporations,” Loring says.

When it comes to the Indigenous projects, Mitacs wants to ensure that the organization is not repeating historical wrongs.

In order to accomplish this, “the research is community-led and driven by the community or the Indigenous organization,” she says.

In fact, adds Loring, “We have an extensive network of highly skilled research students. I can bring students in from our national network across Canada.”

One of Mitacs’ internships alone is $15,000 and is four to six months long. The nonprofit funds 55 per cent and the partner organization funds 45 per cent. The research student spends half of their time with the partner organization and the other half with their academic supervisor.

“Some of the projects we do are pretty incredible,” Loring says.

This year, one of those projects comes from Melissa Tremblay. She’s a Metis woman who completed her PhD at the University of Alberta, where she is currently an assistant professor of educational psychology. Tremblay developed Successful Families, a supportive housing program designed for young mothers to stay together with their children in safer environments. It has already shown a positive impact. So much so that Tremblay went on to win Mitacs’ first award in the Indigenous categories, for outstanding innovation.

When an Indigenous community or business has a research or innovation need they can turn to Loring and Mitacs.

For instance, an Indigenous community recently reached out to Mitacs because one of their lakes has been contaminated and they need support.

“Then we would be bringing in doctors who specialize in marine biology and then figure out how we can get the contaminants out of that lake,” Lorings says.

The different opportunities Mitacs can offer is driven by the people if Indigenous communities have a need and are asking for something to be done, Mitacs will provide guidance.

“It’s an industry, organizational pull model in which the research is done through the lens of that partner organization,” Loring says.

For Loring, working to support Indigenous students and communities is meaningful.

A mother of two, Loring is a member of the Gitwangak band from the Gitxsan Nation, located in Kitwanga, B.C. She grew up in a small community with low socioeconomic status and dropped out of high school in Grade 10.

“My mom being a single mom, my sisters both struggled with addiction, drug addiction. My father was an alcoholic and there were a lot of things in my life that definitely influenced me to not try,” she says.

University became an unattainable dream for Loring. She started her family at the young age of 23, and knew she wanted to be a role model for children, encouraging them to never give up trying. Though it took her time to find that resolve.

“I talked about losing hope or losing that dream at some point, that I didn’t think I could achieve anything I wanted to,” she says.

Loring returned to school through the Aboriginal Access Studies program at UBCO in January 2012.

“I found myself in a colonial institution at UBCO, truly finding myself as an Indigenous person and learning about colonization of the mind, and understanding why I felt so disconnected to my community, into my culture,” Loring says.

Now, she says, “I wake up every day feeling blessed and grateful that I have this opportunity and to continue to help businesses with their economic stimulus through COVID-19 and post-COVID-19.”

“I surely believe everyone is one choice away from changing the rest of their life.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

IndigenousUBC

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A suspect has been arrested in connection with fires at Drinkwater Elementary (pictured) and École Mount Prevost. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Arson suspect arrested after fires at Cowichan Valley schools

Drinkwater Elementary and Mount Prevost schools hit within a week

Danielle Groenendijk raised more than twice her goal for Parkinson’s Canada. (Photo submitted)
VIU volleyball athlete doubles fundraising goal for Parkinson’s

Daily runs over 30 days by Groenendijk add up to 254 kilometres

Seven streets in downtown Duncan, including Station Street, will soon have new native names added to their signage. (Submitted graphic)
New street signs in Duncan in English and Hul’q’umi’num

Seven streets to get additional native names on signs

Possible COVID-19 exposures may have occurred at Alexander Elementary School on Jan. 13, 14 and 15. (Google Maps)
Alexander Elementary in Duncan announces possible COVID-19 exposures

Exposures may have occurred on Jan. 13, 14 and 15

North Cowichan to add three more off-leash dog areas in the new year. (File photo)
North Cowichan adds three new off-leash areas

Trial program runs through 2021, but not the summer months

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Nanaimo RCMP are seeking the public’s help after a man allegedly assaulted a clerk at James General Store on Victoria Road on Jan. 18. (Submitted photo)
Suspect screams at customer then assaults store clerk in Nanaimo

RCMP asking for information about Jan. 18 incident at James General Store

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Two Nanaimo care-home residents have died during COVID-19 outbreak

Death reported Monday was the second related to Chartwell Malaspina outbreak, says Island Health

Rod Bitten of Union Bay won $500,000 in the Lotto Max draw on Jan. 15. Photo supplied
Vancouver Island electrician gets shocking surprise with $500K Extra win

Rod Bitten has been hard at work with home renovations, which is… Continue reading

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Oyster River Fire Rescue members were called out to a suspicious fire in Black Creek. Two vehicles parked at a private residence were destroyed by fire. Photo courtesy Oyster River Fire Rescue
Suspicious fire destroys two vehicles at Vancouver Island residence

Oyster River Fire Rescue personnel were dispatched to a fire at a… Continue reading

Members of the BC RCMP Explosive Disposal Unit (EDU) is on route to Drummond Park opposite of Fulford Habour on Saltspring Island after the discovery of a suspicious cylindrical-shaped device. (Google/Screencap)
Bomb disposal unit en route to Salt Spring Island after suspicious device found in park

Police say a resident discovered the device Wednesday morning in Drummond Park opposite BC Ferries terminal

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

Most Read