Community-University Engagement: Case Study of a Partnership on Coast Salish Territory in British Columbia

Margaret (Mali) Bain


In the context of expanding community engagement efforts by universities and growing awareness of the past and current impacts of settler-colonialism in Canada, this study explores one Indigenous-settler, community-university partnership. Building on a framework of community-university engagement and decolonization, this case study explores a partnership between Fraser Valley Aboriginal Children and Family Services Society (Xyolhemeylh) and the Division of Health Care Communication at the University of British Columbia (UBC-DHCC). This partnership, called the “Community as Teacher” program, began in 2006 and engages groups of UBC health professional students in three-day cultural summer camps.  This qualitative case study draws on analysis of program documents and interviews with Xyolhemeylh and UBC-DHCC participants. The findings of the study are framed within “Four Rs”—relevance, risk-taking, respect, and relationship-building—which extend existing frameworks of Indigenous community-university engagement (Butin, 2010; Kirkness & Barnhardt, 1991). Committed to a foundation of mutual relevance to their missions, both community and university partners undertook risk-taking, based on their respective contexts, in establishing and investing in the relationship. Respect, expressed as working “in a good way,” likewise formed the basis for interpersonal relationship-building. By outlining the findings in relation to these four themes, this study provides a potential framework for practitioners and researchers in Indigenous-university partnerships


community engagement, decolonization, community-university engagement, Community as Teacher, relationship-building

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