Lisa Monchalin’s journey to the top as first Aboriginal woman in Canada with a PhD in Criminology
Proudly graduating from uOttawa on June 3, Lisa Monchalin is the first Aboriginal woman in Canada to hold a PhD in Criminology. During her time at the University of Ottawa, Monchalin's PhD thesis touched on ways to reduce crime affecting urban Aboriginal people in Canadian cities and developed solutions for reducing the high levels of violence and victimization against Canadian Aboriginal people. "This question is so important because it continues to stump many politicians and legislators," says Monchalin. "My background is mixed and my Aboriginal heritage is of Algonquin, Huron and Metis nations. Thus, this study gives governments the opportunity to act on recommendations made by an Aboriginal person specializing in this field, and by someone who has dedicated (and continues to dedicate) time and research in this field," she adds.
When Lisa Monchalin enrolled at the University of Ottawa to complete her PhD in Criminology, she had already been on quite a journey to get here. While growing up, she struggled throughout most of her young life, from elementary school to high school. Bullied from Grades 1 to 8, Monchalin had to switch elementary schools by Grade 8 when the bullying reached a breaking point and finished her studies at a different school. Because of this, she fell behind in school and barely scraped by. High school was no different and Monchalin started to make some bad choices, sometimes getting herself into a lot of trouble at school. Finally, she escaped her past through her love for rowing and received athletic scholarship offers to attend university in the U.S. Despite these scholarship offers, Monchalin still could not get into university right away because her high school grades were too low. After spending a year at community college, Monchalin chose Eastern Michigan University and went there on a full athletic scholarship for rowing. Monchalin says that without a scholarship, she would not have made it to university. After completing her master's degree, she chose to pursue her PhD at the University of Ottawa, also on a scholarship.
Today, Lisa Monchalin wears many hats—she teaches at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in B.C., has published several manuscripts and has even recorded two traditional Aboriginal songs (where she sings and plays the drum) that are now on a compilation CD of Aboriginal music. An accomplished speaker, Monchalin tells her story to others in order to empower them and share her passion for life.
Published: June 2012
Text: Geneviève Joly
Photo: Mélanie Provencher