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Patrons of the Society

Guy Nelson receiving his certificate from the CASCA President, Chris Wilson

Don Brooks receiving his certificate from the CASCA President, Chris Wilson

At its 2015 Annual General Meeting, the CASCA Board announced that they had named Guy Nelson and Don Brooks as Patrons of the Society, in accordance with the provisions in the Society’s By-Laws.

This honorary status recognizes their many years of service as co-chairs of  the Canadian Coalition for Astronomy, in particular the key role they played in representing the interests of the astronomical community to the government as we worked to obtain funding for the Thirty Meter Telescope.

 

 

J. Moffat Dunlap receiving his certificate from the CASCA Past President, Peter Martin

David M. Dunlap receiving his certificate from the CASCA Past President, Peter Martin

In May of 2009 the CASCA Board announced that they had named David Dunlap and Moffat Dunlap as Patrons of the Society, in accordance with the provisions in the Society’s By-Laws.

This honorary status recognizes the vision of David M. and J. Moffat Dunlap which has led to the creation of the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics, renewing the legacy begun by their grandparents Jessie Donalda and David A. Dunlap in the establishment of the David Dunlap Observatory.

 

Pekka Sinervo receiving his certificate from the CASCA President, Peter Martin

Michael Jolliffe receiving his certificate from the CASCA President, Peter Martin

At its 2007 Annual General Meeting, the CASCA Board announced that they had named Michael Jolliffe and Pekka Sinervo as Patrons of the Society, in accordance with the provisions in the Society’s By-Laws.

This honorary status recognizes the extraordinary commitments of time, effort and imagination which these two individuals have provided on behalf of the astronomy community through their service to the Canadian Coalition for Astronomy.

No More Academic Pipelines: Rethinking Inclusion in Astronomy

By / par Hilding Neilson (David A. Dunlap Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto)
(Cassiopeia – Autumn / l’automne 2021)

One of the goals for academia and astronomy, specifically, is to build greater inclusion for Indigenous peoples. This is clearly illustrated in the Long Range Plan 2020. While the goal is clearly discussion, it is not obvious what inclusion of Indigenous people would be and how it might occur. In this brief article, I will discuss what Indigenous inclusion could be and how the astronomy community in Canada can approach the process. This discussion is based solely on my own experiences in academia as a Mi’kmaw astronomer.

There is a popular metaphor for discussing the lack of inclusion of people (women, BIPOC, etc.) that is one of a leaky pipeline. In this metaphor, the pipeline is usually the academic path and the leaks are people that fall out of the system for various non-academic causes. It has been recognized that the metaphor is problematic for many Indigenous peoples because of the politics of physical pipelines on Indigenous lands. Across Turtle Island, Indigenous peoples have been burdened by the growth and demand for pipelines carrying bitumen, oil, and natural gas. This burden is done on purpose because pipelines do leak and engineering these pipelines is designed to have acceptable losses through leaks that will pollute and damage the land and water. This is why we see companies try to build pipelines across Indigenous Nations instead of across Settler communities.

Even though the leaky pipeline analogy is offensive, it is also an apt analogy to describe issues with inclusion in the academy, in science, and in astronomy. It is just not apt in the way most people use it. A pipeline carries material that was ripped from the land, transported thousands of kilometres. The material that leaks pollutes the land and water along the path of the pipeline. Whatever makes it to the other end of the pipeline is burned for the benefit of those with money and power. That is the issue of the pipeline: it is not built to support the material transported but to assimilate the content in ways to support the consumer and the capitalist. This pipeline describes inclusion in academia and it supports those in power instead of diverse people.

This analogy also illustrates the challenges for inclusion of Indigenous peoples because it is built on assimilation and colonization. Astronomy can continue focus on inclusion in this way and it is entirely possible that the number of Indigenous people in academia could grow. But, from experience, this system requires a lot of sacrifice and contributes harm to Indigenous peoples in the field, especially when being Indigenous is inconvenient for those in power.

Instead of assimilation and colonization as inclusion, we should work towards a system of inclusion that centers Indigeneity instead centering Settlers and Settler needs. We have seen examples of the latter in the past few years from how the discussion of the Thirty-Meter Telescope has evolved and the inappropriate responses of a number of Canadian Astronomers (see article here) to incidents at the annual meeting of CASCA (see here). Just these two examples show that there is a lot of work to do to build an inclusive environment. So far the Canadian Astronomical Society has done no work beyond inviting speakers to discuss Truth and Reconciliation and Residential Schools and then promptly moving on and forgetting. Spending an hour listening is not action and is not inclusion. Inclusion involves change and action. To that end, I would like to suggest a model for inclusion of Indigeneity in astronomy.

This model for inclusion is built around three themes: Land, Knowledges, and Persons. These three themes should be considered together and not isolation. Being inclusive of Persons requires actions that create space for Indigenous people in academia and in STEM. This is consistent with the traditional view of inclusion in academia. Being inclusive of Knowledges is about creating stuff for Indigenous astronomy stories and methods in research and education in an equitable way and being inclusive of Land requires understanding where we live and work and our relationships on colonized lands.

These three themes cannot be considered in isolation. Being inclusive of Persons while ignoring Land and Knowledges is assimilation and being inclusive of Knowledges while ignoring Land and Persons is simply appropriation. Both issues are widely understood to be harmful and clearly the Astronomy community should avoid these issues, but it does not always do so. For instance, job advertisements and interviews risk focusing too much on only being inclusive of Persons. In my experience, I have been invited to interview because the committee wanted to be inclusive of Persons, and then arguably rejected because they did not want to be inclusive of Land and Knowledges.

Being inclusive of Land is a more challenging discussion, especially with the Canadian obsession with Land Acknowledgements. However, being inclusive of Land while ignoring Persons and Knowledges is erasure and dispossession. One example of this is seen in the history of place names. Across Canada names are largely based on english and french terms, Settlers who considered important, and names to honour Europeans places such as London, New Berlin,New Paris, etc. All of these names are designed to erase Indigeneity from the land. Even Indigenous names such as Toronto are built on erasure and the superficial reminder that it based on the Haudenosaunee word Tkaronto. One might argue Land Acknowledgements to counter this narrative and are inclusive, but simply noting we work on traditional homeland of certain nations is not change and is simply a tool to assuage Settler guilt. This is especially true if the Land Acknowledgements do not come with commitments for learning, inclusion and decolonizing. The issue of being inclusive of Land becomes more challenging when we ignore Indigenous Knowledges and Person because that inclusive become Colonization.

In the end, Indigenous inclusion is about building relationships with all three aspects: Land, Persons, and Knowledges. This is not an easy thing for academics and astronomers to do, given how much we have benefited from centuries of colonization, assimilation and appropriation and how much we continue to do so. We continue to benefit through the infrastructure and telescopes we build, through the patronage of donors, through the appropriation of the language of colonization in the fight against bright satellites. We continue to benefit when agencies such as NSERC focus on demographics through the Dimensions program or when PromoScience panels fund Settlers to deliver science content to Indigenous communities. We need new models for Indigenous Inclusion.

The Long Range Plan 2020 recommends the formation of two committees that greatly impact Indigenous inclusion: one for Indigenous people and one on land usage. It might be noted that the committee on land usage is important for both Indigenous lands and non-Indigenous lands, most if not all of the ground-based facilities discussed in the LRP report are on Indigenous lands. These committees will have significant influence on the future of astronomy in Canada and on Indigenous inclusion in astronomy. These committees will almost certainly have very little Indigenous representation since there are so few Indigenous people in Canadian astronomy and committee service is voluntary. As such all change will depend on the goodwill and intentions of settlers and based on experiences in the past few years that goodwill is varies significantly across Canadian astronomy and is very conditional on the interests of astronomers. For instance, will Canadian astronomy place Indigenous rights and inclusion over the desire for the Thirty-Meter Telescope on Maunakea as there is no clear consent?

What are some ways to build Indigenous Inclusion? I suggest here three concepts:

  1. Develop protocols for consent of land usage that centers Indigenous rights and methods for issues of usage and environmental impact. As part of those protocols, if consent is not readily available then accept that and cease fighting Indigenous peoples.
  2. Invite and equitably fund Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers to share and lead outreach and education initiatives in astronomy and science. We need to build and nurture relationships with committees and support Indigenous-centered learning over our traditional Western methods.
  3. Fund and equitably support Indigenous scholars to teach and conduct research in Canadian Physics and Astronomy departments that center and uplift Indigenous methods and concepts. I am not aware of any institution in Canada that currently does this, but I am aware of numerous that either center Settler educators in teaching Indigenous knowledges or just treat Indigenous Scholars inequitably.

These are just three quick ideas and is not meant to be complete in any way. There are more recommendation in various Long Range Plan Community Papers and US Decadal Survey papers. Furthermore, as relationships grow then recommendations and needs will also evolve so actions are truly limited to location and time. But, it is time for Canadian Astronomy to take steps of action along with continuing to listen. I do not believe that the Canadian Astronomy community as a whole is capable of taking ethical and inclusive actions to support Indigenous peoples today, but we are capable of changes that will make CASCA and Canadian Astronomy more inclusive in time for the next Long Range Plan, but we have to start now. The time for only listening is over.

e-News: May/June 2015

 

ITEMS OF INTEREST POSTED ON THE CASCA WEBPAGES IN MAY AND JUNE 2015:

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President’s Report

Wison

By Chris Wilson, CASCA president
(Cassiopeia – Summer 2015)

Hi, everyone,

The undeniable highlight of the past 3 months was the announcement by the Federal government on April 6, 2015 that it would fund Canada’s share of construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT). TMT construction funding appeared as a line item in the Federal budget that was released on April 21, 2015, with funding for the past year and the next five years set out in some detail. TMT also merited its own two pages in the budget document.

This announcement was the culmination of at least seven years of activity by many players, including the Coalition for Canadian Astronomy, university presidents, ACURA, CASCA, individual astronomers, and the general public. I want to take this opportunity to summarize the activities that I personally was involved in or was aware of over the past year that helped us achieve such a successful conclusion.

Over the summer of 2014, a number of Canadian astronomers wrote to Minister Holder. Some also met with their individual MPs and/or with their University President or Vice-President Research. These efforts resulted in some initial discussion of the TMT at the U15 meeting of university presidents in August. Also in August, the Coalition made Pre-Budget Submission on the TMT. In July there was also a very good article by Ivan Semeniuk on the TMT in the Globe & Mail that generated some follow-up media interest on radio and television. In September the Coalition sent copies of the TMT two-pager and brochure to all MPs.

The TMT Planning Team held monthly telecons over the summer and early fall of 2014 and was heavily involved in the outreach to Holder and the preparation of the pre-budget submission. However, as the lobbying became more confidential, political, and requiring rapid responses, more and more of the work and discussion was done by the Coalition co-Chairs (Don Brooks, Guy Nelson, and myself) along with ACURA Executive Director Ernie Seaquist, our TSA lobbyist Duncan Rayner, and TMT Canadian Project Scientist Ray Carlberg. Also in the fall I believe there were parallel discussions and lobbying efforts going on among key university presidents. However, I have only indirect knowledge of these efforts and likely the details are known only to the presidents involved. So I will not say anything further except that the strong support by key university presidents and their willingness to interact with government on our behalf was certainly an essential part of the effort that resulted in a successful outcome on TMT.

On October 20, 2014, the three Coalition co-Chairs traveled to Ottawa for meetings with staff in the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Finance, and the Privy Council Office. Those meetings were very professional and cordial, and my impression was that the level of interest in the TMT project was highest in Finance and the PCO, despite the fact that they did not have as much history with the TMT as did Industry. In late October/early November, Industry co-chair Guy Nelson participated in a large Canadian delegation trip to China; although we did not manage to get TMT into any of the announcements during that trip, he made valuable contacts among staff members, including in the Prime Minister’s office, which were likely very useful later on. The coalition followed up with a letter to all MPs in November.

In November the Coalition was requested to come to Ottawa for a meeting with the Prime Minister’s Office; although we were not able to settle on a November meeting date, we did have a meeting with the PMO December 16, 2014. In late November, I wrote personally to the Prime Minister about the TMT as CASCA President, as it occurred to me that he might not have been reached individually by any of the other letters.

In January 2015, a very good and positive story on the TMT appeared in the Toronto Star, highlighting that we were approaching a now or never decision for Canada’s participation and saying that the TMT is something Canada should be doing. The Coalition sent an email-blast to all MPs in late January with the links to the Star article. There was a similar article about Canada’s potential role in the TMT in Nature in March. In late March we received a request for some more information on the TMT from a staff member in the PMO. On March 31, 2015, the Coalition had its first firm indication that we were going to have a positive outcome on the TMT, and after several hectic days, by April 6 most of us, including representatives from the RASC and other amateur communities, were in Vancouver to hear the Prime Minister announce Canada’s commitment to the TMT. At the request of the government, I also attended the 2015 Budget Stakeholders Lock-Up in Ottawa on April 21, presumably to be available to answer any media questions afterwards. In the event there was no media interest in the TMT that day, the news-worthy event having probably been the earlier announcement on April 6.

With hindsight, the December 16th meeting with the PMO was a real turning point. We were scheduled to meet with two mid-level staff members, but at the last minute a very high-level and well-connected staff member joined the meeting and asked a lot of very focused and interested questions. He said very positive things, such as the TMT is exactly the type of project that a federal government should be doing, because it can’t be left to the private sector, an individual university, and so on. This person likely played a key role in moving the TMT through the process. I happened to see him after the Budget Lock-Up and was able to say thank you in person.

So that is a brief history of the TMT efforts in Canada over the past year. We had a little celebration at the CASCA Banquet in Hamilton where a number of individuals were thanked publicly and invited to speak, and we had a wonderful set of TMT cupcakes (see photos elsewhere in this issue) for people to enjoy. In addition, the CASCA Board formally recognized Don Brooks and Guy Nelson as Patrons of the society, in recognition of their hard work on are behalf as coalition co-chairs over many years.

While TMT was obviously the big news story of the past three months, there have been other important activities going as well. The Mid Term Review panel has been very active. A series of three town hall meetings were held in Montreal, Toronto, and Victoria from March 24-26, 2015. On April 20, the MTR panel held a face-to-face meeting at the Toronto Airport Sheraton to review the results from the town halls and to come up with a preliminary list of recommendations. These preliminary recommendations were presented to the community at the CASCA Annual General meeting in a special one-hour session on May 27, 2015. The MTR panel will focus on writing the report over the summer, with the release of the final report planned for late fall, 2015.

The 2015 CASCA annual meeting was held in Hamilton, Ontario from May 24-27 hosted by McMaster University. The graduate student workshop this year focused on Statistics in Astronomy and was led by Dr. Eric Feigelson (Penn State Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics). By all accounts this was a big success. The main meeting featured a variety of interesting contributed and invited talks as well as a number of lunch sessions focussing on particular telescopes, including a very well attended information session on the SKA on Monday. The CASCA Board and student awards for the best poster by a graduate student were both one by Alexandre Fortier from Université de Montréal for his poster “On the Origin of DQ White Dwarfs”. The CASCA Board award for best student talk was won by Paolo Turri from the University of Victoria for his talk “Precision photometry from the ground: observations of the double subgiant branch of NGC 1851 using GeMS MCAO”, while the CASCA student award for best student talk was won by Nicholas MacDonald from Boston University for his talk “One Epoch at a Time: Discovering Jet Structure in Blazars through Radio Map Stacking”.