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Labrador connections

Here, Perry Michelin, right, a local hunter and member of the Labrador Heritage Society, gives a guided tour to Dr. Frederick White, left, associate dean of Arts, Research and Graduate Programs, and Mike Clair, associate director, Public Policy, with the Harris Centre. By Jeff Green

With more than 70 active projects taking place throughout Central Labrador, Memorial is making a big impact – and strong links – with communities in the heart of this province’s Big Land.

That was one of the messages that hit home earlier this month during a special one-day conference and workshop held by the Harris Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Community groups, government officials, aboriginal organizations, local municipal leaders and artists came to hear about the type of work Memorial is doing in Labrador and to help identify new opportunities for social and economic development.

It was all part of a public meeting the Harris Centre held in co-ordination with the Central Labrador Economic Development Board. Similar meetings are being conducted in eastern, western and central parts of the island.

During the workshop, held on May 14, people heard about some of the current Memorial activities in the region and then broke into small groups to discuss how Memorial could collaborate with the region and zero in on key areas of growth.

Participants focused on areas such as health care, northern research and education, natural resources, as well as cultural tourism, talking about everything from the development of organic farms to expanding the forestry sector to promoting Aboriginal products and art to distance education.

Dr. Rob Greenwood, director of the Harris Centre, said the workshop was a great brainstorming session, helping map out not only Memorial’s work in the area but also how its experts and researchers could help certain sectors grow.

“We had great participation from Memorial faculty, staff and students, who worked with community representatives to make the most of current Memorial activities in the zone and to identify new opportunities for collaboration,” he noted.

Dr. Greenwood said an action report from the workshop will be compiled and staff from the Harris Centre will travel back to Central Labrador to discuss priorities for the zone.

“These regional workshops are just the start of a process to build on current activities. We work with community stakeholders, businesspeople, college representatives and others, to develop specific projects in partnership with Memorial faculty, staff and students,” he added. “This is a very practical, managed process that aims to maximize the enormous benefits of Memorial teaching, research and outreach in the zone.”

Meanwhile, the public workshop wasn’t the only event the Harris Centre held while in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. A public forum was also held examining aboriginal governance in Labrador. It included presentations by Dr. Larry Felt, a sociology professor at Memorial, as well as Dr. David Natcher, the former Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Studies at Memorial who is now based in Saskatchewan. Peter Penashue, deputy grand chief of the Innu Nation, and Ernie McLean, the deputy mayor of North West River, also took part in the presentation.