By Professor Clare Bradford
In July 2009 I received an email from my colleague Mavis Reimer, at the University of Winnipeg, headed ‘We have to talk’. I anticipated that Mavis wanted to sound me out about a research project or publication. But this email was different. Mavis told me that the University of Winnipeg had successfully nominated me as a Visiting (International) Trudeau Fellow, and that the Trudeau Foundation was offering me $225,000 and eight months at the University of Winnipeg in 2010. It didn’t take me long to say yes.
The Trudeau Foundation was established in 2001 as a memorial to Pierre Elliott Trudeau, with an endowment from the Government of Canada and private sector donations (www.trudeaufoundation.ca). Each year the Foundation awards five Fellowships to scholars who have achieved distinction for their research in areas of most significance to Pierre Trudeau: human rights and dignity; responsible citizenship; Canada’s engagement in international affairs; environmental issues. Fellows include the sociologist Will Kymlicka, the ethno-musicologist Beverley Diamond, and Constance Backhouse from the field of feminist legal studies. The Foundation also funds 15 Scholars (PhD students) annually and 10 Mentors, drawn from academic, professional and government fields, who are matched with Trudeau Scholars. All are unsolicited awards, which is why until I received Mavis’s email I had no knowledge that I had been nominated. Unlike grants awarded by bodies such as the ARC and SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada), Trudeau Fellowships are not linked with specific projects. Instead, Fellows are free to use their Trudeau funds for any initiatives and projects they choose.
My Fellowship was the first awarded to a non-Canadian scholar (Visiting Fellow). The University of Winnipeg nominated me because of my research record, especially in the area of Indigeneity and children’s literature, and because I had developed strong networks with colleagues at the University by working with them on a SSHRC-funded project. Mavis Reimer holds a Canada Research Chair in the Culture of Childhood and heads up the Centre for Research in Young People’s Texts and Cultures, where I was located during my period of residency. The University of Winnipeg serves a student population of almost 10,000 and has strong connections with the downtown area where it is located. Its President, Lloyd Axworthy, was Foreign Affairs Minister in the Trudeau Government and his commitment to social justice and community engagement is evident in the University’s programmes in Human Rights and Global Studies, and Aboriginal Governance.
My introduction to the Trudeau ‘family’ took place at the Trudeau Summer Institute in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in May 2010, where I presented a workshop on Indigenous narratives with Trudeau Mentor Maria Campbell. This was a great privilege because Maria is a prominent Aboriginal writer, playwright and teacher whose 1973 book Halfbreed was a pivotal text for its depiction of Aboriginal experience, widely taught in Canadian high schools and universities.
Apart from public and university lectures at the University of Winnipeg, I received invitations to present lectures and papers across Canada: at the Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities in Montreal, the Annual Critical Race and Anti-Colonial Studies Conference at University of Alberta, Edmonton, and my Trudeau Fellowship lecture, ‘What children’s literature tells us’, at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. In all I delivered eight lectures and seminars during my stay in Winnipeg. Although the Fellowship does not require any teaching I also developed and taught an MA course, ‘Romancing the Middle Ages’.
With Trudeau funding and a SHHRC grant, I convened an invited symposium, ‘Girls, Texts, Cultures’, bringing together scholars from Australia (including two of my Deakin colleagues), Canada, UK and USA from the disciplinary fields of literary studies, psychology, games studies, sociology, gender studies and international studies. My intention was to spearhead interdisciplinary dialogue, since many scholars carry out research on girls, their experience and how they are represented in contemporary cultures, without an awareness of developments in other fields. This was a highly successful and generative event, and will result in an essay collection to be published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press.
In line with my longstanding interest in Indigenous textuality for children, I developed a collaborative project with the Louis Riel Institute in Winnipeg. This ongoing project gathers traditional stories from Métis storytellers, investigates the cultural purposes and forms of these stories, and develops strategies for passing the stories on to Manitoba children and families. The project has taught me much about Métis culture and language, forged through the history of personal and cultural associations between Aboriginal inhabitants and European settlers, especially French and Scottish fur-traders.
The experience of living in the Canadian prairies has enriched me personally too. As an isolated city with an extreme temperature range (from 30 to -40ªC), Winnipeg has an active arts and cultural life. From my apartment window I delighted in watching the Assiniboine River change from water to ice – and I enjoyed the exhilarating experience of snowmobiling around Falcon Lake.
Professor Clare Bradford is the Director of Centre for Memory, Imagination and Invention:
Previous article on Professor Clare Bradford's research:
Sandra Kingston | Media Coordinator | Deakin University
221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Victoria 3120
Tel: +61 3 9246 8221 | Mobile: 0422 005 485