Report from the LCRIC

By / par Sharon Morsink (LCRIC chair)
(Cassiopeia – Summer / été 2022)

The Long Range Plan Community Recommendations Implementation Committee (LCRIC) has been meeting weekly from March – May this spring and is now taking a summer recess. We thank Chris Wilson (LCRIC Chair June 2021 – May 2022) and LCRIC members Shantanu Basu, Michael Reid, Etienne Artigau, and Hilding Neilson for their work on this committee over the last year. Brenda Matthews, Laurie Rousseau-Nepton, and Sharon Morsink (LCRIC Chair June 2022 – May M023) will be continuing to work on this committee over the next year along with new LCRIC members.

In the months since the vernal equinox, LCRIC has written and released to the CASCA community a document on Land and Consent, in response to Recommendation #1 of the Long Range Plan (LRP2020). We thank the CASCA members who gave us thoughtful comments and feedback at the CASCA AGM or privately. We will release a final revision of this document in Autumn 2022 and look forward to working with the CASCA Board on issues related to Land and Consent in astronomy.

We have made excellent progress on developing terms for the creation of an Indigenous Engagement Committee, in response to Recommendation #46 of LRP2020. We are interested in consulting with the new President’s Indigenous Advisory Circle to get their input before presenting plans for a new committee to the CASCA Board.

On March 31, 2022, we hosted a webinar titled « Including Indigenous Voices in Astronomy Education ». This webinar included panelists Jason Bazylack (Professor of Engineering at University of Toronto), Samantha Lawler (Assistant Professor of Physics at University of Regina), Ismael Moumen (Researcher at Universite Laval/CFHT), and Laurie Rousseau-Nepton (Resident Astronomer at CFHT). The panelists discussed their work on bringing Indigenous perspectives to their classrooms, outreach with Indigenous communities, and facilitating an inclusive environment. We hope that the CASCA community who were able to attend this webinar found it educational!

Over the last 3 months, we have met with the Sustainability Committee and the Graduate Student Committee to discuss their concerns and LRP2020 recommendations related to these specific committees. In the coming months, we plan to meet again with the Postdoc, Equity and Inclusivity, and Education and Public Outreach Committees to discuss progress on LRP2020 recommendations.

Over the next few months, we will be carefully examining progress on the LRP2020 recommendations in collaboration with the Ground-based Astronomy Committee, the Joint Committee on Space Astronomy, and the CASCA Board to make sure that all recommendations receive attention, and that we have a detailed plan and timeline for acting on the LRP2020 recommendations.

The LCRIC recognizes that transparency and consultation are very important as our community moves forward to implement the recommendations of the LRP. We will be seeking input from a diversity of perspectives, recognizing that astronomy and astronomers exist in a broader societal context. We welcome feedback and comments at any time, via email to the LCRIC chair. Communications will be kept confidential if requested.

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By / par Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Summer / été 2022)

TMT Canada Information Session

Just over 50 people attended the CATAC webinar discussion on May 12, 2022. The slides that CATAC presented are available here. Some of the key points of information include:

  • Description of the anticipated steps and milestones in the NSF Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) process. Once the NSF accepts the project, it enters the MREFC queue and a well-defined process of reviews and studies is initiated. This process hasn’t started yet.
  • The earliest likely first light for TMT is 2032, if the project enters the MREFC queue now. This timeline relative to ELT is still competitive, but further delays will push first light farther into the future, as there is little scope for accelerating construction.
  • We are still awaiting publication of the decision on the appeal to the rescinding of the construction permit on the alternative site, in the Canary Islands.
  • TMT partners are signatories to a Master Agreement, which cannot be changed without unanimous approval from all members. A single member cannot withdraw from the agreement without significant financial compensation to the others.

This was followed by a presentation by the Project Manager, Fengchuan Liu. Highlights include:

  • A summary of the recent full system, PDR-level design review by non-advocate reviewers. The review was successful, with notable identified strengths including the technical readiness of the project and the solid cost estimates and risk assessments. The panel identified the broader impacts program as a major risk – this team has already been rebuilt as recommended by the review.
  • The design is very mature, with 82% of the project in either Final Design or Fabrication stage.
  • A thorough and frank description of dialogue and outreach activities underway in Hawaii. In particular, acknowledgement that past astronomy outreach has mostly been with a subset of the community, typically already well assimilated to western culture. Efforts are underway to also engage much more broadly. Hawaiian communities have appreciated any efforts related to the protection and restoration of the Mauna Kea environment, and to education opportunities that are accessible by all (including K-12 and community colleges).

Recent News

Bob Kirschner is the new Executive Director of TIO, succeeding Ed Stone who retired May 15, 2022. For more information, see here.

Site Update

The Hawaii State Legislature passed a bill which creates a new Authority to manage the Mauna Kea lands. The bill passed with a large majority, and now awaits the Governor’s approval to become law. The full text of the approved bill can be found here. There will be a transition period of up to five years before the new Authority takes over fully from the University of Hawaii; no leases can be renewed or issued during that time. The impact of this new law on TMT and the other observatories on the mountain remains to be seen. However, the bill does include a statement that “the support of astronomy…is a policy of the State”.

CATAC Membership

Kristine Spekkens and David Lafreniere ended their terms on CATAC in May 2022. Their advice to CATAC over the years has been outstanding and essential, and we are very grateful for their service. We are currently awaiting replacements to be nominated by CASCA and ACURA.

Michael Balogh (University of Waterloo), Chair, mbalogh@uwaterloo.ca
Bob Abraham (University of Toronto; TIO SAC)
Stefi Baum (University of Manitoba)
Laura Ferrarese (NRC)
Harvey Richer (UBC)
Kim Venn (University of Victoria)
Luc Simard (Director General of NRC-HAA, non-voting, ex-officio)
Don Brooks (Executive Director of ACURA, non-voting, ex-officio)
Christine Wilson (Acting CASCA President, non-voting, ex-officio)
Stan Metchev (TIO SAC, non-voting, ex-officio)
Tim Davidge (TIO SAC Canadian co-chair; NRC, observer)
Greg Fahlman (NRC, observer)

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2022)

TMT Canada Information Session

In advance of the CASCA AGM, CATAC will be hosting a community Webinar to provide an update on TMT. This will take place on Thursday, May 12 at 3pm EDT. A registration link will be circulated shortly to the CASCA email list; registration is open to CASCA members only. A rough outline of the agenda is:

Time (EDT)
3:00-3:25pm CATAC update on next steps following Astro2020, including the NSF process and the role of the Board and partners during this process
3:25-4:05pm Project Manager Fengchuan Liu will provide an update on TMT, including technology development and the situation in Hawaii
4:05-4:30pm Discussion and questions from participants

The meeting will not be recorded, though some slides may be made available. If you want to attend but cannot make that time, we are considering hosting a second (identical) session the following day, May 13 at 3pm EDT. This will only occur if there is sufficient demand. If you cannot attend on May 12, but can on May 13, send an email to mbalogh@uwaterloo.ca to register your interest.

Recent News

We are pleased to announce that David Andersen (NRC) is the new science instrumentation group leader. He takes over from Eric Chisolm (another Canadian), who has taken a senior leadership position with Amazon’s Center for Quantum Computing (CQC).

Fengchuan Liu transitioned from acting Project Manager to Project Manager in November 2021. He is resident in Hilo, Hawaii and over the past year he has had many opportunities to listen and learn from members of the community.

Following the top ranking in the US Decadal report, the next step is for the project to be accepted into the Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction (MREFC) budget, after which it will become an official project of the NSF. The process and timeline from there is described in detail in NSF’s Large Facilities Manual. NSF’s funding for the construction or modification of facilities constitutes a Federal Action that triggers compliance with several statutes, including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) and the Endangered Species Act. Compliance with NEPA includes providing opportunities for public input on issues such as potential environmental impacts and ways to avoid, minimize, and/or mitigate adverse impacts, and will require completion of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

In preparation for this process, the NSF has engaged in informal discussions with various parties, including TIO partners. It should be expected that partnership with the NSF at a significant level may impact many aspects of the project including partner shares, governance, operations and instrumentation planning. As we noted in our last eCass article, CATAC is working closely with GAC as they explore how to fulfil the LRP recommendation to ensure Canada has access to a Very Large Optical Telescope (VLOT), at a level that provides compelling opportunities for Canadian leadership in science, technology and instrumentation.

Site Update

As we noted in our last article, the University of Hawaii bill that is currently before the House of Representatives. This bill would establish the creation of a new body for managing the summit. This body would be made up of ten voting members (three of which serve ex-officio). The bill requires that four of the seven non-ex officio members be Native Hawaiian residents of the county of Hawaii, with a preference for Native Hawaiian residents of the county of Hawaii for all seven non-ex officio members. There would be no representative from the astronomical community on this authority. The bill was passed by the House on March 8, and received by the Senate on March 10. The current status of the bill can be followed here.

Instrumentation

A good description of the first-light and subsequent instrumentation planning for TMT is available on their website. CATAC has been revisiting and revising our recommendations on post-first-light instrumentation, released in 2019. Despite the delay in construction start for TMT, and the progress made by ELT, the planned instrumentation development for TMT is still competitive. WFOS (Wide Field Optical Spectrograph) and MODHIS (high resolution, AO-assisted NIR spectrograph) are first light capabilities that ELT will not have on the current projected timeline. HROS (high resolution optical spectrograph) remains a high priority for the next instrument – and while there is competition from a similar instrument (ANDES, formerly known as HIRES) on ELT, there is still scope for HROS to be deployed on a comparable timescale. Current, Canadian-led work on GIRMOS (for Gemini) and NIRPS (ESO 3.6m) paves the way for future TMT instruments TIRMOS and NIRES-B, respectively. Finally, we note that ELT is deferring development of the Planetary Camera and Spectrograph (PCS), to further develop the science case and technology (see article here). Careful and appropriate phasing of TMT’s Planetary System Instrument (PSI) could therefore enable TMT to achieve some of this exciting science well before the ELT.

While the pace of GMT instrument development appears to be significantly behind that of TMT, that has the potential to change with NSF involvement. Since the US community will have access to both GMT and TMT, this may inform NSF priorities regarding instrumentation on the two telescopes. It is too early to be sure what the implications might be for Canada and the TMT, but it is an issue that CATAC is watching closely.

CATAC Membership

Michael Balogh (University of Waterloo), Chair, mbalogh@uwaterloo.ca
Bob Abraham (University of Toronto; TIO SAC)
Stefi Baum (University of Manitoba)
Laura Ferrarese (NRC)
David Lafrenière (Université de Montréal)
Harvey Richer (UBC)
Kristine Spekkens (Royal Military College of Canada)
Kim Venn (University of Victoria)
Luc Simard (Director General of NRC-HAA, non-voting, ex-officio)
Don Brooks (Executive Director of ACURA, non-voting, ex-officio)
Rob Thacker (Acting CASCA President, non-voting, ex-officio)
Stan Metchev (TIO SAC, non-voting, ex-officio)
Tim Davidge (TIO SAC Canadian co-chair; NRC, observer)
Greg Fahlman (NRC, observer)

Report from the LCRIC

By / par Chris Wilson (LCRIC chair)
(Cassiopeia – Spring / printemps 2022)

The Long Range Plan Community Recommendations Implementation Committee (LCRIC) has continued to meet weekly over the past 3 months. Our primary focus has been on developing draft documents for LRP2020 Recommendation #1 (on Land and Consent) and Recommendation #46 (on an Indigenous Engagement Committee), as well as organizing the second in our series of webinars. We are also beginning to work on an LCRIC-focused session for the 2022 CASCA AGM.

Building on our work at the end of 2021, the LCRIC has held significant internal discussions around LRP2020 Recommendation #1, which focuses on issues of land and consent. We have produced a short document that we have passed along to the CASCA Board for their consideration and feedback.

The LCRIC has also had sustained discussions around LRP Recommendation #46, which envisages establishing a new CASCA committee, an Indigenous Engagement Committee. Among the items we are discussing is the scope of this committee, how it should interact with other existing CASCA committees, what types of persons would be appropriate and useful members of this committee, and how to fund the committee’s activities. We aim to develop a draft document with some ideas that we will share with the CASCA Board in the next 3 months.

We have also been working to organize our second webinar, titled “Including Indigenous Voices in Astronomy Education”. This webinar is now scheduled for 4-5:30 pm Eastern Time on Thursday, March 31, 2022 and will be held via zoom. The goal of this webinar is to share with CASCA members ideas and actions that they can use to support Indigenous knowledges, include Indigenist methods, and to be inclusive of Indigenous students in their classes. Panelists include: Jason Bazylack, Samantha Lawler, Ismael Moumen, and Laurie Rousseau-Nepton. There will be time for audience members to ask questions of the panelists. All participants are expected to follow the event’s Code of Conduct and pre-registration is required. An announcement of this webinar was circulated on the CASCA email exploder in mid-March.

Looking ahead, over the next 3 months, LCRIC is planning to meet with the Sustainability Committee and the Graduate Student Committee to discuss LRP2020 recommendations in their areas of interest. Finally, we will continue our initial work on an implementation timeline for the LRP2020 societal recommendations, with a focus on goals over the next 1 to 3 years.

The LCRIC recognizes that transparency and consultation are very important as our community moves forward to implement the recommendations of the LRP. We will be seeking input from a diversity of perspectives, recognizing that astronomy and astronomers exist with a broader societal context. We welcome feedback and comments at any time, via the Public Discussion page or by email to one of the LCRIC members. Communications will be kept confidential if requested.

Report from the LRPIC

By / par Chris Wilson (Chair, LRPIC)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2021)

The Long Range Plan Community Recommendations Implementation Committee (LCRIC) has continued to meet weekly over the fall. In October 2021 we added two additional members: Hilding Neilson from the University of Toronto and Laurie Rousseau-Nepton from CFHT.

The main activity of LCRIC in the past 3 months has been organizing and holding an on-line webinar on “Building Indigenous inclusion in Canadian astronomy in the next decade” on November 10, 2021. For the benefit of members who were not able to attend, or who were able to attend but wish to review the discussion, we provide a description of the questions and answers in a companion article in this issue. Additional LCRIC activities in the past 3 months include:

  1. Planning for 3 webinars focused on specific Indigenous-facing recommendations from LRP2020. The planned topics for these webinars are (a) Including Indigenous Voices in Astronomy Education; (b) improving inclusion in Canadian astronomy, for both Indigenous and other racialized members; (c) land and consent, likely focusing on the specific topic of the SKA. The LCRIC has fairly detailed plans for these webinars, and is working to finalize the set of panelists for the first one. We were hoping to hold these webinars in fall 2021, but clearly it will now be winter 2022. The goal is to hold one webinar each month in the first quarter of 2022.
  2. A meeting with 3 representatives from CFHT in October to inform them of LCRIC’s plans and so that LCRIC could learn about current issues and relevant activities at CFHT and to some extent in Hawai`i more broadly.
  3. A meeting with the CASCA Education and Public Outreach committee in November to discuss their plans for the Westar lectureship and other EPO-facing recommendations of LRP2020.
  4. A meeting with the CASCA Postdoc Committee in November to discuss their priorities for the postdoc-facing recommendations of LRP2020.
  5. Writing a Confidentiality Agreement to govern LCRIC interactions, which has been signed by each committee member.
  6. Writing a Code of Conduct for LCRIC.

Over the next 3 months, the LCRIC plans to organize and host the 3 webinars described in item (1) above. A second major activity will be continuing our discussion of the key LRP2020 recommendation on land and consent (recommendation #1), with the goal of having some initial ideas that can be presented to the CASCA membership at the May 2022 AGM. We will also be meeting with additional CASCA committees, such as the Sustainability Committee, to discuss LRP2020 recommendations in their area of interest in the coming months. Finally, we will begin working on an implementation timeline for the LRP2020 societal recommendations.

The LCRIC recognizes that transparency and consultation are very important as our community moves forward to implement the recommendations of the LRP. We will be seeking input from a diversity of perspectives, recognizing that astronomy and astronomers exist with a broader societal context. We welcome feedback and comments at any time, via the Public Discussion page or by email to one of the LCRIC members. Communications will be kept confidential if requested.

Building Indigenous Inclusion in Canadian Astronomy in the Next Decade

The on-line webinar on “Building Indigenous inclusion in Canadian astronomy in the next decade” was held on November 10, 2021. The webinar featured 4 panelists: Rob Thacker (CASCA), Luc Simard (HAA-NRC), Kim Venn (ACURA), and Norm Murray (CITA). (The CITA Director Juna Kollmeier was unable to attend because of a conflict with a previously scheduled SDSS-V review.) The moderator was Hilding Neilson and Chris Wilson acted as an administrative chair. Questions for the panelists were prepared in advance by LCRIC members and the first two questions were shared with the panelists in advance of the webinar. Questions were also solicited from the CASCA membership using Slido, both in advance and during the webinar. Approximately 150 people attended the webinar. Following the panel, LCRIC invited the panelists to submit a written summary of key bullet points from the webinar discussion. CASCA Acting President Rob Thacker provided his thoughts on questions 1 and 2, a subset of which is quoted verbatim here.

For the benefit of members who were not able to attend, or who were able to attend but wish to review the discussion, we provide a description of the questions and answers here. Each panelist gave a combined response to Questions 1 and 2 at the beginning of the webinar; for these two questions, the CITA response was written by Juna Kollmeier and read by Norm Murray. To allow for more questions to be asked, the later questions were sometimes posed only to a subset of the panelists. Excepting the direct quotation for Questions 1 and 2, the following is a summary of panelists’ remarks written by Chris Wilson and reviewed by LCRIC.

Questions 1 and 2: In your personal opinion, what would Indigenous inclusion look like for your organization? How does your organization specifically benefit from ongoing [effects of] colonization?

Rob Thacker: In my own experience highlighting the importance of a personal commitment to inclusion, and ultimately respect, is perhaps the most impactful thing you can do – many other actions flow from that, not least of which is a true understanding of the impact of ‘gatekeeping’. That said, such a commitment is easily said or thought, but not easily done.

We can also learn better approaches to relating and interacting with others. Relational practice has moved from health care to general education (although it is taking time to be fully adopted therein) and presents many important approaches to engaging, listening, shared decision-making and accountability. As a process for building inclusion, especially with Indigenous communities, the fundamental point of the approach is to achieve solutions of benefit to all.

I also want to highlight that judgment without understanding, especially around Indigenous Knowledges, is disrespectful and damaging. I also acknowledge my past failures here. More recently I have come to learn that the verb emphasis of many Indigenous languages creates a profoundly different way of viewing the world, which has been generalized as a perspective of processes rather than objects. Because much of my public engagement as a scientist highlights science as a process of investigation, something beyond a collection of knowledge, I have found these perspectives highly valuable. There is clearly a lot of room for thought and discussion about how we do science.

While Indigenous inclusion is important, in the context of Indigenization it might be considered the minimum bar. If we measure change solely in terms of statistics we miss culture, and that is where the biggest changes are needed to truly address reconciliation, or ‘Reconciliation Indigenization’ as it has been called. Extending research and learning beyond Eurocentric thinking is needed to do this, but since universities are places of learning such expansion of boundaries should be a valued endeavour.

Lastly, it is important to consider how our field has inherently benefited from colonialism. The lens of colonialism tends to focus most obviously on land, as have many of our community discussions in astronomy, but “Big Astronomy” exists within the international scientific community. That has been made possible by education systems that centre western epistemology and thus inevitably contribute to Indigenous erasure. In Canada the Residential Schools system took that to the level of cultural genocide.

Juna Kollmeier (read by Norm Murray): What is important is to work to ensure that people are not excluded from any of our activities at CITA, such as training, workshops, and outreach. There are many routes to losing individuals from STEM training, both implicit and explicit. A particularly important factor is high poverty rates in Indigenous communities, with 40% of Indigenous children living in poverty. CITA regards the education of rural and poor children, specifically in adequate mathematical foundations, to be the largest barrier to Indigenous inclusion in theoretical astrophysics. CITA plans, in consultation with Indigenous scholars and leaders, to work on culturally sensitive, accessible activities at the entrance to the STEM pipeline to improve Indigenous inclusion in STEM careers. Regarding the second question, all publicly funded institutions benefit from the colonial legacy of the crown. CITA strives for a sustainable and just future as we collectively confront and heal from the atrocities of the past.

Kim Venn: ACURA takes decolonization and reconciliation extremely seriously. This is the most important thing in science and engineering right now. ACURA represents 20 universities with enormous resources and ACURA is working to collect resources and best practices to share with the community. ACURA’s goal is to be able to share this list of resources by the end of 2022. One example is the University of Manitoba Wawatay program for support for Indigenous students in science, which is really exemplary. At the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary, there is an Indigenous STEAM effort, where A refers to areas like Art, Architecture, Agriculture etc. where Indigenous peoples have demonstrated innovation and success already, and bringing that into the science curriculum.

Luc Simard: It starts with recognizing that we need help. This very important point was made in the LRP2020 White Paper (“Indigenizing Canadian Astronomy”). It’s about creating spaces (in the workforce, the people; the sites) that can go beyond astronomy, for example, activities on the site of the observatory involving wildfire management, the protection and propagation of species that are important to Indigenous communities for food and medicine, for example. It can be as simple as having Indigenous schools coming and holding nature classes on the sites. Creating Indigenous and Western signs, Indigenous knowledge in outreach activities, and in the research that we do ourselves. We need to listen and learn from the elders of Indigenous communities to be considerate of the feelings, the interests, and the needs of Indigenous people. We are relying on the Indigenous communities to tell us what matters to them most and where we can start. One thing that I heard recently is that it is time go from Reconciliation to ReconciliAction. This is how we will build trust and understanding through long-term relationships.

In terms of the second question, the lands in Penticton and Victoria are what allow world class research in astronomy to take place. NRC-HAA is seeking to establish and maintain long-term relationships with the local Indigenous communities, to listen and learn with the full respect and care that these lands deserve. The Canadian astronomical community also benefits from our international partnerships that operate telescopes in Hawai`i and Chile and those places are also highly significant.

Question 3: What are the goals of your institution regarding indigenous inclusion for the next 5 years? How do you see these goals in relation to the Calls to Action of the TRC? What are your strategies? and How do you define success?

Rob Thacker: From CASCA’s perspective, we are prioritizing recommendation #1 in the LRP, on developing a set of guidelines for how we approach development of facilities and all the relationships around Indigenous lands and Indigenous communities. In terms of the bigger picture, as CASCA President, I have made the decision to establish a President’s Advisory Circle for CASCA. I have learned so much from being allowed to be part of circles with elders, and I felt providing this as a gift to the CASCA President is something that is very important to understanding these issues at the top level. We can’t silo Indigenous aspects into a single committee: understanding our relationships with Indigenous communities requires effort from all of us. CASCA is also working to improve and expand the Westar lectureship program. Finally, we need to come up with an implementation plan with timelines for various recommendations and activities.

Luc Simard: It’s been made very clear to us that trust must be earned through concrete actions. For example, we are discussing how restore the identity of the site in Victoria via W̱SÁNEĆ names and W̱SÁNEĆ teachings in public outreach activities. We had the honour to host elders a couple of weeks ago for discussions. The hope is that soon, as you walk around the site, you will see the Indigenous identity shining through, through these different actions. We are also looking at training opportunities for students and other members of the community; there is a great diversity of training opportunities.

Norm Murray: At CITA, we need to do more homework on talking with Indigenous groups, learning what they are looking for, what they are interested in. We know what our expertise is, we don’t know what their needs or interests are. We will be trying to reach out to people across Canada from Indigenous communities to establish relationships and start conversations, because CITA is a national organization.

Question 4: How does the concept of consent from Indigenous communities/Nations come into play with the interest of astronomers for facilities, instrumentation, etc.? Historically, how has your organization attempted to seek consent and/or partnerships for projects where appropriate?

Kim Venn: I’m addressing this in terms of ACURA, which currently has two large projects, the TMT and the SKA. The concept of consent will be different for different communities. It starts with conversations, although we have to recognize that too much conversation can be seen as harassment. Regarding TMT, we know that there is both strong opposition from Native Hawaiians, as well as some strong support from Native Hawaiians. Our formal position is that this conversation is still going on. If it continues to the point where the community says that there is no consensus, ACURA stands by its statement at the 2020 CASCA AGM back in May. With the U.S. decadal survey Astro2020 coming out last week, the U.S. is now having conversations about this as well. The TMT is calling for “community healing” and with the NSF involved, there is now a timeline for discussions with the federal government that can involve community healing. As a member of TMT, Canada has been asking for this and pushing for it within the TMT project for some time now. Native Hawaiians have invited the TMT Board members, community members, project office members to ho`oponopono, to participate in peace, and we are respecting that request and that process.

Luc Simard: Regarding SKA, we have contacted the host countries to find out more about the process that the project is following in Australia (where there is work on a land use agreement) and in South Africa (where there is an MOU). The realities are very different in both places. But it goes farther than that: local communities have an impact, say, for example, on the array configuration in Australia. It’s a relationship that has an impact through consultation and decision making. We’ve done our best to assess that the SKA meets the spirit of LRP2020 recommendation #1.

For a completely new facility, it is important to learn about the local context and the needs of the local community. Within Canada itself there is a diversity of solutions that have been put in place. Consent starts from a place of respect, building trust, to discussion of the guiding principles. For the SKA, the first thing they did was discuss guiding principles, and produced a document called “Standing Strong”, which will guide other future facilities that Australia may be involved in.

Question 5: From a historical perspective, how has your organization been inclusive of Indigenous peoples and have there been any failures by your organization to be inclusive?

Rob Thacker: CASCA was established in 1971 and there has been significant evolution. One historical example was development on Maunakea, where CASCA was involved in the development and initial discussions of the CFHT. Our understanding of the nature and impact of colonialism has evolved over the years (Maunakea is again an example). This is a challenging question to answer, there absolutely have been wrongs, such as the Residential Schools. We still are subject to the criticism that we are being reactive rather than proactive in how we approach inclusion.

Norm Murray: People don’t always live up to their ideals; sometimes they’re not even aware of problems with things they are involved in. We have limited time and bandwidth, it’s a question of how you want to spend your time and energy on the planet. My first step would be to talk to other astronomers of an Indigenous background, because they would know more about what has gone on. I personally can’t say with any confidence what we have or have not done well.

Question 6 (from the chat): why are there so few Indigenous faculty members?

Kim Venn: Astro2020 summarized it beautifully for the U.S.: “… racial and ethnic diversity among astronomy faculty remains abysmal”. We don’t have those statistics for Canada but we can look around us and see a similar situation. Poverty rates in our Indigenous communities are also abysmal. The history is horrifying the more we learn. It’s reflected not just in astronomy, but also in universities and throughout the educational system. I see 153 people on this call, which is a significant number of people who are interested and hopefully committed to changing this situation, to reaching out and doing something. This guides ACURA’s approach to sharing resources, because a lot of us don’t know how to start. A very simple thing would be to have a Canadian AISES (American Indigenous Science and Engineering Society) chapter at your university, which provides support for Indigenous students in science and engineering. We also need a protocol for reaching out to Indigenous communities so that we are not burdening them with our lack of knowledge.

Question 7: what training is available for people who want to start?

Kim Venn: The University of Alberta has an on-line Coursera class called “Indigenous Canada” that is easy to take and very informative.

Rob Thacker: A member of the audience asked a question about “how do we engage? You have to rely on things happening in an organic way. It is easier to start making connections through people who are already involved in projects with communities, allowing you to be introduced. And learning from Indigenous elders who are invited to the university for open and free discussion: we need two-eared hearing, in addition to two-eyed seeing.

(Summary by Chris Wilson, LCRIC chair, with written contributions from Rob Thacker to questions 1 and 2 and review by members of the LCRIC)

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hiver 2021)

Recent News

The US Decadal report, released in November, clearly recognized the scientific excellence and importance of the US Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) Program, and TMT in particular. Furthermore, it lays out clear steps and milestones that the project must achieve in the next few years. Specifically, the report notes that “it will be necessary for NSF to commence with an external review with a target completion in 2023, in order to evaluate the financial and programmatic viability of both proposed U.S. ELT projects”. If states further that a decision for US federal investment should be predicated on several things, including final site selection and agreed-upon commitments from partners “for all of the necessary capital and operations money, pending only NSF investment”. This is certainly a challenge for TMT, but the clarity is very welcome, and the viability of the project is going to come rapidly into focus over the next two years.

CATAC is aware that if NSF becomes a TMT partner, this will have an impact on Canada’s share and opportunity for scientific and technological leadership. All avenues must be explored to maintain a significant share in the telescope, to fulfil our own Long Range Plan recommendation that “this participation be at a level that provides compelling opportunities for Canadian leadership in science, technology and instrumentation”. Astro2020 provides a clear roadmap and timeline that will help all partners, including Canada, to secure the resources necessary to satisfy their own ambitions. CATAC has begun working closely with GAC as they explore how to fulfil the LRP recommendation to ensure Canada has access to a VLOT in case of delays to, or failure of, TMT.

Site Update

The University of Hawaii released a draft plan for Mauna Kea in September, and held a period of open consultation after its release. Among other things, the draft calls for the number of astronomical sites at the summit to be reduced from fourteen to nine. The Caltech Submillimeter Observatory and Hōkū Keʻa decommissioning process is already underway, and the VLBA antenna will be decommissioned prior to 2033. A process is outlined to identify the remaining two facilities by the end of 2025. The sites of the decommissioned facilities will not be available for future astronomy use. The site on ORM remains a viable alternative for TMT, and CATAC reiterates that it remains scientifically acceptable.

The Maunakea legislative working group established by the Hawaii House of Representatives has been active through most of the year. Their mandate is to propose a new management structure for the mountain. There is information, including meeting notes, available on their web page. Their report is anticipated for late December 2021 or early 2022.

The site on Roque de los Muchachos Observatory (ORM) in La Palma remains a viable alternative for TMT, and CATAC reiterates that it remains scientifically acceptable. However, in August of this year, an appeal by environmental group Ben Magec to annul the land concession for TMT was successful. This decision has been appealed to a higher court.

TMT Science Forum

Canada was looking forward to hosting the next TMT Science Forum, in Vancouver in 2022. Due to the continued travel uncertainty associated with the pandemic, as well as the delay of Astro2020 and the imminent launch of JWST, it was decided to postpone this event until 2023.

CATAC Membership

Michael Balogh (University of Waterloo), Chair, mbalogh@uwaterloo.ca
Bob Abraham (University of Toronto; TIO SAC)
Stefi Baum (University of Manitoba)
Laura Ferrarese (NRC)
David Lafrenière (Université de Montréal)
Harvey Richer (UBC)
Kristine Spekkens (Royal Military College of Canada)
Luc Simard (Director General of NRC-HAA, non-voting, ex-officio)
Don Brooks (Executive Director of ACURA, non-voting, ex-officio)
Rob Thacker (Acting CASCA President, non-voting, ex-officio)
Kim Venn (TIO Governing Board, non-voting, ex-officio)
Stan Metchev (TIO SAC, non-voting, ex-officio)
Tim Davidge (TIO SAC Canadian co-chair; NRC, observer)
Greg Fahlman (NRC, observer)

Sustainability Committee: Time to Rethink Rebooting Speaker Travel for Colloquia

By / par Chris Matzner (University of Toronto)
(Cassiopeia – Winter / hivers 2021)

Virtual colloquia, almost unheard-of before the pandemic, are now familiar necessities. As with all the other pandemic restrictions, most departments have developed plans to do away with them as soon as they can. But this would be a mistake. Now is the perfect time, instead, to take stock of what is gained and lost in the practice of hosting visitors, and to take leadership in optimizing their scientific benefits while minimizing their costs.

What costs, you ask? There’s a lot more to this than the expense of flights, hotel, and meals. Of particular importance are the environmental costs of air travel, and the drastic stakes involved. Consider that:

  • a single Vancouver-Toronto round trip flight emits 1.3 tons CO2, more than an average person emits in an entire year in any of the 66 least-emitting countries.
  • flights, unlike other travel, are nearly impossible to decarbonize.
  • Canada has committed to drastically reduce (by 40-45%) greenhouse gas emissions in the next eight years.
  • the stakes of climate disruption are devastating. Severe impacts are already felt around the world, including Canada, where extremes of wildfires, heat, floods, and melting were all experienced in just this calendar year. In fact the health of every young person alive today is at risk on multiple fronts, from direct effects of heat waves, smoke inhalation and tick-borne diseases – to indirect ones such as the breakdown of the entire Atlantic meridional circulation and the undermining of food security for billions.
  • these consequences are deeply inequitable, with those least responsible, and those most disadvantaged by the history of colonialism and racism, most directly in harm’s way.
  • these risks, consequences, and inequities compound with each gram of greenhouse gas (GHG) emitted.

With these weighty points in mind, how can we bring back the opportunity for spontaneous interactions while doing our utmost to limit air travel? Luckily, this question has been considered before. To quote the 2020 Long Range Plan:

In light of the crisis, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from our various professional activities must be understood as significant research costs, to be ethically justified, budgeted, and rationed. This can only be done with support and engagement on all levels, by individuals, research institutions, universities, and funding agencies. …

An increased rate of remote participation … even after the pandemic has been resolved … would increase equitable access to those who may have restrictions on travel due to financial, family or other reasons. …

We recommend that organizers of astronomy-related events carefully consider the frequency, timing, and locations of these activities, with the goal of minimizing air travel.

We offer these practical recommendations:

  • For in-person talks, establish a schedule to limit the number of flights – or even better, tally each department’s GHG emissions – in harmony with Canada’s national commitments. Monitor, record, and publicise these plans as well as the details of physical visits, i.e., their emissions and durations.
  • For the limited number of speakers who travel, encourage alternative modes of transportation like trains. Require visits long enough to glean the full benefit of interaction and collaboration – at least a few days, during which interactions between the visitor and local researchers are planned and maximized.
  • Normalize virtual visits and formally recognize that they are just as prestigious as physical visits. Commit to retaining some colloquia as virtual events, and to improving online talks and visits, rather than reverting to the old way of in-person presentations only. Invest funds saved by not having to pay for travel to establish a robust and powerful remote presentation system. Take full advantage of the benefits and opportunities of virtual talks, such as the ability to draw from a worldwide pool of speakers, the vastly reduced costs, and the mitigation of inequities that arise from speakers’ access to childcare, vaccines, teaching relief, and funding.
  • Coordinate visitors with nearby institutions and manage their time well, to maximize the scientific impact and career benefits per flight mile.
  • If invited to give a colloquium in person, ask if a virtual one is an option, or to visit for a longer period.

We trust our concerns will resonate with your own, and look forward to joining you in a virtual colloquium sometime soon!

Further reading:

Sincerely,

The CASCA Sustainability Committee:

Chris Matzner (U.Toronto, Chair)
Julie Bolduc-Duval (Dunlap Inst.),
Mike Chen (Queen’s),
Dennis Crabtree (NRC/DAO),
Vincent Hénault-Brunet (Saint Mary’s),
Marten van Kerkwijk* (U. Toronto),
Roland Kothes (NRC/DRAO),
Martine Lokken (CITA/U.Toronto),
Nadine Manset (CFHT),
Peter Martin* (CITA),
Mubdi Rahman (Sidrat Research),
Joel Roediger (NRC/DAO)
*affiliates

Report from the LCRIC

By Chris Wilson (LCRIC chair)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2021)

The Long Range Plan Community Recommendations Implementation Committee (LCRIC) has continued to meet weekly over the summer. We also participated in a joint meeting with Luc Simard, Gilles Joncas, Greg Sivakoff, Kristine Spekkens, and Michael Rupen, who are some of the Canadian leaders in the SKA project. We heard a presentation from Luc Simard about how the SKA project approached the process of gaining consent from local communities in Australia and South Africa.

The LCRIC held several discussions, including one with Rob Thacker and Hilding Neilson, regarding the plans and scope for an Indigenous-focused panel discussion with leaders in the Canadian astronomical community. The current plan is for this panel discussion to take place in November.

The LCRIC continued to work on plans for community consultation and education through a series of three webinars (called “Town Halls” in our previous report) to take place this fall. The first of these webinars, with a tentative title “Including Indigenous approaches in astronomy education”, will be held in October. The goal of this webinar will be to educate CASCA members on some specific actions that they can take to embrace Indigenous approaches to astronomy education in their classes. The second webinar will focus on the theme of inclusion and the third webinar will focus on the theme of land and consent.

The LCRIC is beginning work to identify concrete actions from the LRP2020 recommendations concerning Indigeneity that we can recommend to astronomical organizations such as ACURA and the CASCA Board. We will also be meeting with additional CASCA committees, such as the EPO committee, to discuss LRP2020 recommendations in their area of interest in the coming months.

The LCRIC recognizes that transparency and consultation are very important as our community moves forward to implement the recommendations of the LRP. We will be seeking input from a diversity of perspectives, recognizing that astronomy and astronomers exist with a broader societal context. We welcome feedback and comments at any time, via the Public Discussion page or by email to one of the LCRIC members. Communications will be kept confidential if requested.

CATAC Update on the Thirty Meter Telescope

By / par Michael Balogh (CATAC Chair)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2021)

Recent News

The future of the TMT project is strongly linked with the recommendations of the anticipated US Decadal Review (Astro2020). Should the US-Extremely Large Telescope (US-ELTP) program be the top-ranked priority in that review, there will be an opportunity for the US National Science Foundation (NSF) to become formally involved. The Project has been preparing for the Preliminary Design Review that would follow – this would be a thorough review of all aspects of the Project. The delay to the release of Astro2020 means this Review, and subsequent activities, are correspondingly delayed. The current estimate for publication of Astro2020 is Fall 2021.

On Aug 23, the TMT International Observatory (TIO) was informed that its land concession on La Palma had been cancelled by the Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Canarias. This was the result of an appeal by an environmental group called Ben Magec, who had also successfully appealed the first land concession in 2019. This outcome was not anticipated, and appeals to the ruling are being considered.

TMT Science Forum

The next TMT Science forum is being planned for June 26-29, 2022 at UBC in Vancouver. However, with the delay to the release of Astro2020, and the remaining uncertainty around travel restrictions in the near future, the possibility of delaying this meeting until 2023 is being considered.

CATAC Membership

Michael Balogh (University of Waterloo), Chair, mbalogh@uwaterloo.ca
Bob Abraham (University of Toronto; TIO SAC)
Stefi Baum (University of Manitoba)
Laura Ferrarese (NRC)
David Lafrenière (Université de Montréal)
Harvey Richer (UBC)
Kristine Spekkens (Royal Military College of Canada)
Luc Simard (Director General of NRC-HAA, non-voting, ex-officio)
Don Brooks (Executive Director of ACURA, non-voting, ex-officio)
Rob Thacker (Acting CASCA President, non-voting, ex-officio)
Kim Venn (TIO Governing Board, non-voting, ex-officio)
Stan Metchev (TIO SAC, non-voting, ex-officio)
Tim Davidge (TIO SAC Canadian co-chair; NRC, observer)
Greg Fahlman (NRC, observer)

Report from the LCRIC

par Chris Wilson (LCRIC chair)
(Cassiopeia – été 2021)

The CASCA Board has created a new committee, the LRP Community Recommendations Implementation Committee (LCRIC for short) to oversee and co-ordinate the societal-level recommendations of LRP2020. The initial members of the committee are Etienne Artigau (CASCA Board rep), Shantanu Basu, Brenda Matthews (LRP2020 rep), Sharon Morsink, Mike Reid, and Chris Wilson (chair).

The LCRIC’s mandate and full terms of reference are available in the Committees area of the CASCA website. In brief, the LCRIC will (1) identify those recommendations for which LCRIC will be responsible for implementing; (2) develop a coherent and achievable plan to implement the community recommendations in LRP2020, including goal timelines, need for additional resources etc.; and (3) work closely with the CASCA Board to help implement and monitor the plan. This work will be done in collaboration with other CASCA committees and may involve the use of subcommittees and/or working groups. The LCRIC will also seek external advice to provide additional expertise.

The CASCA Board has asked that the LCRIC include Recommendation #1 (Develop guiding principles for telescope sites) and #46 (Create Indigenous engagement committee) among our top priorities for the coming year. The LCRIC has been meeting weekly since the CASCA AGM in May 2021 to discuss some of the issues and steps involved around these recommendations. We have also held a joint meeting with the CASCA Board and CASCA’s Equity & Inclusivity Committee (EIC) to begin discussion of some of the LRP2020 recommendations where the EIC committee will play an important role. We plan to meet with other CASCA committees over the next 3 months.

The LCRIC will invite community participation in the process of consultation and implementation of LRP2020’s recommendations. We are planning to hold a series of town halls with the CASCA community to discuss specific topics in more depth. The first of these town halls will focus on the theme of inclusion of astronomers from underrepresented groups. The second town hall will focus on the theme of training and outreach, with a particular focus on Indigenous members and communities (e.g. Recommendation #46). The third town hall will focus on the theme of land and consent, which is one of the key aspects of Recommendation #1. We will be engaging with key stakeholders in the coming weeks.

The LCRIC recognizes that transparency and consultation are very important as our community moves forward to implement the recommendations of the LRP. We will be seeking input from a diversity of perspectives, recognizing that astronomy and astronomers exist with a broader societal context. We also recognize that the CASCA community will need continuous engagement to make progress on many of the most complicated and challenging aspects of LRP2020. We welcome feedback and comments at any time, via the Public Discussion page or by email to one of the LCRIC members. Communications will be kept confidential if requested.