Building a Social Policy Framework for the Health and Well-being of Mi’kmaq Communities


Nominated Principal Investigator: Dr. Fred Wien

CIHR Open Operating Grant

This project involves the 13 Mi’kmaq communities of Nova Scotia, who are faced with adhering to new federal policy requiring them to administer social assistance and related programs exactly as it is done by the Province. Yet social, economic and cultural conditions on reserve are quite different than they are in the average Nova Scotian community. The Mi’kmaq leadership has signalled its intention to negotiate a self-government agreement that would restore the ability of the Mi’kmaq communities to determine their own social policies.

If the Mi’kmaq are to determine their own social policies, it is imperative to clarify what such an approach would look like. This research project undertakes the historical and contemporary research required to meet this objective. This research project partners with the Kwilmu’kw Maw-klusuaqn/Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative (KMK/MRI) to undertake the historical and contemporary research required to meet this objective, along the following lines:

  • Historical research on the factors that have contributed to high levels of social assistance in Mi’kmaq communities and how governments have responded to this need
  • An analysis of quantitative (secondary) data to determine the characteristics of the social assistance population and the links to health and well-being outcomes
  • Qualitative interviews and focus groups, primarily on reserve, with social assistance recipients, service providers, Band staff and the elected leadership
  • Examining Mi’kmaq traditions in providing social and family support as derived from literature, language, stories, songs and ceremonies, and from discussions with elders
  • Examining promising practices, through review of documentation and qualitative interviews, from other jurisdictions in Canada and the United States where First Nations or American Indian tribes have developed their own social policy framework.